Consumer Reports' top celebrity food products

September 18, 2011

"The catch with celebrity foods is they can come with a high price tag. They can be two or three times as much as a garden-variety brand," said Kim Kleman of Consumer Reports.

Consumer Reports taste-tested celebrity brands to see if they're worth their A-list prices.

They sized up sauces, salad dressings, and soups from famous chefs like Wolfgang Puck, restaurants like Rao's, and Hollywood stars like the late Paul Newman.

Emeril's and Newman's Own pasta sauces both list tomato purée as the first ingredient, which is simply water and tomato paste. Ragu, which is less expensive, lists that ingredient as well.

"About half of the celebrity products we tested were no better than cheaper mainstream brands, although a few rated excellent," said Kleman.

They assigned excellent ratings to both Mario Batali's Marinara and Giada De Laurentiis' Tomato Basil.

Batali's costs $8, but De Laurentiis' was ranked a best buy at just $3 from Target.

Among the soups, they say Wolfgang Puck's Tomato Basil Bisque is the standout, but a bit pricy at $3.50.

No celebrity salad dressings rated excellent. In fact, Consumer Reports says you could probably make a better and less expensive one yourself at home.

Speaking of recipes, how much are the celebrity chefs really getting their hands in the pot?

Lidia Bastianch oversees the production of her marinara sauce.

"I'm there when they make the batch and add the herbs," she says.

DeLaurentiis says she develops her products with others.

"I personally test them several times to make sure they are delicious," she adds.

Puck is so hands on, he says all of his products are created in the kitchen of his restaurant Spago in Los Angeles, where they are tweaked to perfection before hitting the retail market.

Consumer Reports also gave an "excellent" rating a celebrity wine, the 2007 Greg Norman Estates Shiraz as well as the Barefoot Contessa's Outrageous Brownie Mix.

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