Everyone loves a fun taste test! Especially me because, you know, food is awesome. I employed the opinions of my husband, Matt, for this test as well and we sought out to determine whether the generic/store brands of baked cheese snack crackers are just as good as the leading brand, Cheez-It.
Methodology: I set up a blind taste test so that we could remove any bias from our thoughts when trying each cracker. I'm including the brand information as well as its corresponding number in the taste test, but just so there's no confusion, we did not know which brand each cracker was when we were tasting and rating each one.
Early Notes: When comparing nutrition labels for each brand, they are fairly similar in calorie and fat content, with sodium content being the one that varied the most. Great Value (Walmart) and Kroger brand are the cheapest of the five brands that we tried, and Annie's Organic is the most expensive.
The ingredients lists had similarities but the most general statement I can make about them is that all of them, Annie's excluded, contained lots of...schtuff. But will the superior ingredients and price tag of the organic brand also come through with the best flavor? Let's find out!
#1: Baker's Harvest Cheese Crackers (Dollar Tree)
Ingredients: Enriched flour (wheat flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamin mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), high oleic canola and/or soybean oil (with tbhq and citric acid for freshness), cheddar cheese (milk, salt, cheese cultures, enzymes, annatto (color)), enzyme modified skim milk cheddar cheese product (pasteurized skim milk, whey and milk protein concentrate, cheese cultures, salt, enzymes), contains 2% or less of: salt, paprika, natural flavor, leavening (yeast, baking soda), yeast extract, color (paprika oleoresin, annatto extract, turmeric extract), enzymes
Erin: The appearance is convincing, nice crunch and structure. Cheese flavor hits you late but is good once it's there - bit salty.
Matt: Smells like wax paper, but tastes okay other than a slight aftertaste.
#2: Kroger So Cheesy! Baked Cheese Bits
Ingredients: ENRICHED FLOUR (WHEAT FLOUR, NIACIN, REDUCED IRON, THIAMINE MONO NITRATE (VITAMIN B1), RIBOFLAVIN (VITAMIN B2), FOLIC ACID), CANOLA AND/OR SOYBEAN AND/OR PALM OIL (WITH TBHQ FOR FRESHNESS), CHEDDAR CHEESE AND CHEESE MADE FROM SKIM MILK (SKIM MILK, WHEY, MILK PROTEIN CONCENTRATE, CHEESE CULTURES, SALT, ENZYMES, ANNATTO EXTRACT FOR COLOR), CONTAINS 2% OR LESS OF: SALT, PAPRIKA, YEAST EXTRACT, YEAST, PAPRIKA OLEORESIN AND ANNATTO AND TURMERIC EXTRACTS FOR COLOR, BAKING SODA, NATURAL FLAVOR.
Erin: Lots of large pieces of visible salt, squares are baked up pretty thick. Good crunch but could definitely use a little more cheese flavor - good salt balance.
Matt: Shaped well, not many broken pieces. Cheese flavor is there but takes a while to hit your taste buds.
Ingredients: Enriched flour (wheat flour, niacin, reduced iron, vitamin B1 [thiamin mononitrate], vitamin B2 [riboflavin], folic acid), vegetable oil (soybean and palm oil with TBHQ for freshness), cheese made with skim milk (skim milk, whey protein, salt, cheese cultures, enzymes, annatto extract color).Contains 2% or less of salt, paprika, yeast, paprika extract color, soy lecithin.
Erin: Perfect cheese flavor, nice crunch and toasty flavor, no aftertaste and the right amount of salt.
Matt: Looks more toasted than the others. Cheese tastes like a sharper cheddar and the flavor hits you right away.
#4: Great Value Cheddar Cheese Crackers (Walmart)
Ingredients: ENRICHED WHEAT FLOUR (WHEAT FLOUR, NIACIN, REDUCED IRON, THIAMINE MONONITRATE, RIBOFLAVIN, FOLIC ACID), SOYBEAN OIL, CHEDDAR CHEESE (MILK, SALT, CHEESE CULTURES, ENZYMES, ANNATTO), SALT, CHEDDAR CHEESE (MILK, CULTURES, SALT, ENZYMES), PAPRIKA, PAPRIKA OLEORESIN, YEAST WITH ASCORBIC ACID, MALTED BARLEY FLOUR.
Erin: Looks papery and thin, like it'd just fall apart. It kind of disintegrates in my mouth and tastes like literally nothing.
Matt: I think this one has the best appearance but it has almost no flavor.
#5. Annie's Organic Cheddar Squares
Ingredients: Organic Wheat Flour, Expeller-Pressed Sunflower Oil, Organic Whole Grain Wheat Flour, Salt, Cheddar Cheese (Pasteurized Milk, Cheese Cultures, Salt, Enzymes), Yeast, Organic Paprika, Cultured Whole Milk, Nonfat Dry Milk, Onion Powder, Celery Seed Powder, Annatto Extract (for Color), Mixed Tocopherols (Vitamin E ) to Protect Flavor.
Erin: This one looks darkest, most toasted, and the most sturdy. Flavor is vile - tastes like cheese that's on the verge of going bad.
Matt: Evenly toasted with a good color, but tastes like pure cardboard.
So in an unremarkable reveal, we both agreed that the leading brand, Cheez-It, took the crown for the best baked cheese crackers. It has, by far, the best and most "real" cheesy flavor of all of the brands and strikes a good balance with the salt content. Surprisingly, though the most expensive organic brand, Annie's, was undeniably the loser of the bunch. There is just something wrong with the cheese flavor in the cracker and they are actually kind of unpleasant to eat. That leaves the Walmart, Kroger, and Dollar Tree brands right in the middle, and of those three, Kroger and Dollar Tree taste the best. In my opinion, if you're trying to balance price with taste, I'd go for the Kroger brand crackers, as they are half as expensive as the leading brand but is still a totally decent snack.
Gotta tell ya, I was totally hoping that an underdog store brand would dethrone the leading brand as the superior product, but alas, this time the name brand wins out.
Blogtober Giveaway #2!
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