November 17, 2003
Comparison Shopping

Prices at my local Giant:

  • Cento All Natural bay leaves: $1.49 for 1/2 ounce or $47.68 / lb.
  • McCormick Gourmet Collection bay leaves: $6.99 for much less than 1/2 ounce or $576.88 / lb.
  • ordinary McCormick bay leaves: $2.99 for much less than 1/2 ounce or $398.67 / lb.

Good thing I stopped by the Ethnic Foods: Italian section and found the Cento bay leaves before I paid for the McCormick ones I already had in my cart. I imagine Giant only sells McCormick bay leaves to (a) a few brand-name snobs, and (b) many who haven't noticed the gigantic (pun semi-intended) difference in price. I wonder whether they make more money on the higher-priced brand than they lose on disgruntled customers who find out the difference too late and decide to shop elsewhere.

I was buying the leaves to illustrate for my students what a laurel crown would be made of, and how it would smell, and to show what kind of tree Daphne turned into. The fact that laurels are evergreens, despite having leaves rather than needles, is easy to prove: the leaves are fairly green even in a sealed jar.

P.S. Should I calculate the prices in Euros / kilo for my foreign readers?

Update: (11/23, 12:38 PM)

I just did the calculations, and McCormick Gourmet Collection bay leaves are considerably cheaper than gold, but around 6 1/2 times more expensive than solid silver ($5.30 / ounce or $84.80 / pound on Friday's commodity markets).

Posted by Dr. Weevil at November 17, 2003 07:53 AM

I go through entirely too much ground cumin - I'm not really up to mortar-and-pestle grinding as my grandmother would have demanded - and McCormick's product is invariably more than twice the price of anyone else's, no matter what store.

Posted by: CGHill on November 17, 2003 08:52 PM

Experienced spice shoppers know ... in regular markets, it's the Mexican spice section. Otherwise (and generally even cheaper) the local (if you're that lucky, and most are these days) Asian/Indian shop. Biiiig bags o'spices for small bags of money.

Posted by: Another Damned Medievalist on November 19, 2003 10:24 AM

Yes. Also, the cumin (and other spices) from the local ethnic store are invariably much fresher than the ones in the supermarket. I had to cut the amount of cumin I use by 3/4 after we started buying the "good stuff".

Posted by: Nick on November 26, 2003 10:24 PM

This is as much question as comment:
There appear to be quite a variety of plants that go under the names of bay and laurel -- the California bay, for example, being entirely unrelated to the Mediterranean laurel.
I've never really tracked all this down, but for historical (and culinary!) accuracy, maybe it is time to hit the books.

Posted by: David on December 1, 2003 01:52 PM