Alongside brown sauce, crumpets and McVitie’s digestives, a humble tin of baked beans is part of the make-up of our nation’s culinary identity – yet a recent study by HelloFresh found that a third of us don’t know the type of bean used to make the saucy staple (it’s haricot, for anyone not in the know).
That won’t stop us spooning them on to buttered toast, into jacket potatoes and (don’t judge) straight from the tin – and with beans being low in saturated fat, high in protein and one of our five a day, there’s no reason not to – save for the age-old saying, “the more you eat, the more you…”.
But does beans always mean Heinz? They may sell an impressive 1.5 million tins every day in the UK, but with a growing number of other brands offering alternatives, many of which are lower in sugar and use organic ingredients, competition is hotting up.
We pitched six of the big bean brands against each other to find out which reigns supreme.
Mr Organic baked beans
£1.20 for 400g, Abel & Cole
As soon as the ring pull peels back, it’s clear these won’t be our winners. The beans sit under a layer of watery orange liquid, which lacks real flavour. The beans have an unusual grainy texture; a disappointing experience. 5/10
Clearspring BioKitchen baked beans
£1.79 for 350g, Ocado
These biodynamic beans come with an impressively small list of ingredients. Sadly, this is where their virtues end. Though they have a more “home-made” look, with a deep red, fibrous sauce, the taste is acrid and gritty. 6/10
Whole Earth organic baked beans
£1.29 for 420g, Planet Organic
Quite gloopy in consistency, and a rusty brown colour, in a sauce of organic plum tomatoes. The taste, however, is slightly bitter – almost citrusy – as if they have been left in the can a little too long. 6/10
70p for 300g, widely available
It’s hard to knock a national treasure, but on close inspection these beans are rather sweet and one-dimensional, the sauce a bit cloying. None the less, they remain a classic vehicle for cheese, chorizo, and almost anything you fancy. 7/10
Biona organic baked beans
£1.25 for 400g, Ocado
Though the sauce is rather runny, these beans are a pleasant surprise. Higher in sugar than some others, but pleasantly spiced. These would go very well on a jacket potato with a substantial covering of grated cheddar. 9/10
Branston baked beans
65p for 410g, Tesco
Almost identical in looks to Heinz, if perhaps a little deeper in colour. But the flavour sets these far apart. Sugary, spicy, and with noticeably more bite to the bean, these are good enough to convert even the most staunch Heinz acolyte. 9/10