Saturday, July 21, 2012

Chocolate Syrup

Finally a fun analysis (not great for the waistline though) - we tested chocolate syrup! Only two contenders this time around, thankfully (or not?): Hershey's Genuine Chocolate Flavor Syrup and Great Value Chocolate Flavored Syrup. Here are our results:

Price: As with the Great Value peanuts reviewed last weekthe generic chocolate syrup bottle contained less than the brand name version (24 oz. vs. 26 oz.), so once again the savings weren't quite as high as what they appeared to be when just looking at the price. We're not sure if the Hershey's syrup bottle always contains more than the generc bottle, since the Hershey's bottle says it contains an "extra" 2 ounces, but in our shopping experience it seems that products with "extra" or "bonus" labels usually don't change sizes (so it looks like you're getting a great deal, when actually there is no deal, if that's the size the packaging will always be from now on!). After figuring out how much the cost was per ounce, we found the generic chocolate syrup cost about 20% less than the brand name version.

Ingredients: The ingredients in these were exactly the same... which made us wonder if this was one of those situations where the exact same product is just being packaged under different labels (we hear that this happens but are not sure how to confirm it...any ideas??)

Hershey's: high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, water, cocoa, sugar; contains 2% or less of potassium sorbate (preservative), salt, mono- and diglycerides, xanthan gum, polysorbate 60, vanillin, artificial flavor.

Great Value: high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, water, cocoa processed with alkali, sugar, contains 2% or less of: potassium sorbate (preservative), salt, mono- and diglycerides, xanthan gum, polysorbate 60, vanillin (artificial flavor).

Calories/Nutritional Information: Both chocolate syrups contained 100 calories per serving, with 0 grams of fat, 15 mg of sodium and 24 grams of carbohydrates per serving. 

Appearance: The appearance of the chocolate syrups was identical. They were the same color and appeared to have the same thickness and consistency.
Texture/the chew test: Both syrups were equally syrupy - they felt equally sticky/runny when we tested them, both right out of the fridge and at room temperature. We also did a chocolate milk test, and both seemed to mix into the milk equally well.

Taste: We could not tell a difference on taste between these either, both straight and when mixed into the milk... honestly, we think they must be the exact same thing!

Bottom line: We're going to stick with the Great Value chocolate syrup for our future chocolate syrup needs. We just couldn't find a difference between these, and the 20% savings (which would be 25% if the Hershey's bottle ever loses its "extra" two ounces) is worth the switch.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Peanut Butter Time!

The contenders

Are you a fan of peanut butter? If so this post is for you! We compared what we believe are the four main types of peanut butter available at Wal-Mart: Great Value, Peter Pan, Jif, and Skippy. In all cases we tested the regular (not low-fat or low sodium or natural) creamy-type peanut butter. BTW, while we have some peanut butter fans in our household, we will be giving two of these jars away (we'll reveal which two below!) because the jars have "best if used by dates" and we're afraid we will not be able to eat it all before then. A person can only eat so much peanut butter!

Price: We were in luck this time - each of these peanut butters came in a 28 ounce size. We are aware of course that two of the jars in the picture above are not the 28 ounce size, but we compared the prices of the 28 ounce jar for each type of peanut butter. We bought smaller jars when we could because we just didn't need that much peanut butter! Our biggest surprise was when we found that the Great Value and Jif brands cost exactly the same, each of which cost 7% less than the Peter Pan peanut butter and 9% less than the most expensive Skippy peanut butter. The savings this time were not as great as they have been with other items we've compared, but every little bit counts in this economy, right?

Ingredients: Peanut butter contains basically four ingredients: peanuts, sugar, vegetable oil and salt. A few of the brands added some other things though, too:

Great Value: peanuts, sugar, hydrogenated vegetable oil (rapeseed, cottonseed, soybean), dextrose, salt, molasses, monoglycerides.

Jif (the label says Jif is the "#1 Choice of Choosy Moms"): roasted peanuts and sugar, contains 2% or less of: molasses, fully hydrogenated vegetable oils (rapeseed and soybean), mono and diglycerides, salt.

Peter Pan: roasted peanuts, sugar, less than 2% of: hydrogenated vegetable oils (cottonseed and rapeseed), salt, partially hydrogenated cottonseed oil.

Skippy: roasted peanuts, sugar, hydrogenated vegetable oils (cottonseed, soybean and rapeseed) to prevent separation, salt (the least amount of ingredients, and they are all things that we recognize - always a plus!).

We once again are curious how easy/difficult it is to make your own peanut butter (and if it's worth it) - anyone tried it?

Calories/Nutritional Information: The Great Value peanut butter had the least amount of calories and fat per serving, at 180 calories and 15 grams of fat, 130 mg of sodium, 8 grams of carbohydrates, and 7 grams of protein. Jif and Skippy each had slightly more calories and fat per serving, at 190 calories and 16 grams of fat. These also had slightly more sodium per serving, at 140 mg for Jif and 150 mg for Skippy. Jif contained the same amount of carbohydrates and protein per serving as the generic, and Skippy had one additional gram of carbohydrates and the same amount of protein per serving as the generic. Peter Pan had the most calories and fat per serving at 210 calories and 17 grams of fat, 140 mg of sodium, slightly less (6 grams) carbohydrates than the others, and slightly more protein per serving at 8 grams.

Appearance: The peanut butters ranged from Jif being the lightest to Peter Pan being the darkest in color. Also the Great Value peanut butter had a more solid, uniform color compared to the other three, which all had more "speckles" of peanut in them.

Color comparison - Jif vs. Peter Pan

See the speckles in the Peter Pan peanut butter vs. lack of peanut speckles in the generic?
 Texture/the chew test: The Jif peanut butter felt a little thicker than the others, while the Skippy, Peter Pan and Great Value peanut butters all seemed a little creamier. The Great Value peanut butter had the most oily texture.

Taste: This was our most fun taste test to date. We pulled in some guest taste testers for this one since there were so many different kinds of peanut butter and found that everyone had different opinions on which peanut butter they thought was best. We did agree to some basic taste results, though: 1) the Great Value peanut butter has the least peanuty and most oily taste (in fact a few of us were shocked by the oily-ness of the GV peanut butter after trying all the others), and had a somewhat unpleasant after taste; 2) the Skippy peanut butter tasted sweeter than the others; 3) the Peter Pan peanut butter was the least sweet, and had a more salty roasted peanut taste; and 4) Jif seemed to be in between Skippy and Peter Pan in terms of roasted peanut flavor and sweetness (sweeter than Peter Pan but not as sweet as Skippy, and more roasted peanut flavor than Skippy but less than Peter Pan).

Bottom line: Although our guest taste testers each had their own favorite, we would generally recommend Jif, since it was the cheapest (same price as the generic) and still had a good flavor, balancing sweetness and roasted peanut taste. Oh and as for the jars we're giving away - the Great Value peanut butter is being donated to our breakroom at the office and the Peter Pan peanut butter will go to one of our guest tasters, because it was her favorite and took her back to her childhood. Enjoy KJ!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Pass the Peanuts Please!

As you can see we've already been digging in to these!

We also mentioned a few posts back that we'd be reviewing peanuts, which are a big hit in our household right now. Dry Roasted, lightly salted peanuts, to be exact. This was another case where we thought "peanuts are peanuts, so they can't be that different... right?" Well we were wrong! When it comes to dry roasted peanuts, there were some distinct differences between the Great Value Dry Roasted Peanuts and the Planters Lightly Salted Dry Roasted Peanuts, even though they are basically just peanuts.

Price: At first glance, the Great Value peanuts appear to be significantly cheaper than the Planters peanuts, but that's because, once again, the generic package contained less than the brand name version (14 oz. vs. 16 oz.). We're finding this is pretty common, that the Great Value version contains less per package than its name brand counterpart. So after figuring out how much the cost was per ounce, we found the generic cost 15% less than the brand name version (btw, is it "brand name" or "name brand"? We just realized we've been using these interchangeably on this blog and are not sure which is correct... if either!).

Ingredients: Of course these both included peanuts and salt, but we were surprised by all the extra flavorings included in the Great Value peanuts (did you know onion powder and garlic powder are used to flavor peanuts? Also do people really care if their peanuts are a certain color?):

Planters: peanuts, sea salt, maltodextrin, cornstarch, corn syrup solids

Great Value: peanuts, sea salt, sugar, corn starch, maltodextrin, torula yeast, corn syrup solids, paprika (color), hydrolyzed soy protein, natural smoke flavor, onion powder, spices, garlic powder (what do they mean by "spices," by the way??)

Calories/Nutritional Information: The name brand and generic peanuts had almost the same amount of  fat and calories, with the name brand coming out with 10 more calories and 1 additional gram of fat per serving. The sodium count was the big difference, with the generic peanuts containing over twice the amount of sodium (170 mg) per serving as the name brand peanuts (80 mg). The name brand peanuts also had slightly more potassium, slightly fewer carbohydrates, and 1 g more protein than the generic peanuts per serving.

Appearance: the generic peanuts had a lot more crumbs/powder in the bottom of the container, which makes sense because they have a lot more stuff sprinkled on them (see ingredients above). You can tell by looking at the generic version (first photo below) that the peanuts are coated with spices and flavorings (and paprika, for color!). The Planters peanuts look "cleaner," or more like just plain peanuts.
Great Value

Generic vs. brand name

Texture/the chew test: these felt the same while chewing them - after all, when it comes down to it, a peanut is a peanut!

Taste: The Planters peanuts had a more "pure" fresh roasted taste - they tasted closer to regular peanuts, or more "clean," if that makes sense, and were less salty than the generic. The Great Value peanuts, on the other hand, had more taste, due to the various flavors that have been added to them.

Bottom line: if you base your choice on taste, it comes down to personal preference as to what you're looking for in your dry roasted peanuts (more like plain roasted peanuts or more flavorful?). However, you should definitely take into account the extra sodium in the generic (over double that of the brand name version) if you are watching your salt intake.