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Taste Test: Trader Joe’s S’Mores Frozen Sandwiches

Taste Test: Trader Joe’s S’Mores Frozen Sandwiches

S’mores, by definition, are a hot treat, the perfect vessel for a marshmallow that’s been freshly roasted over a campfire; tucked into two graham cracker squares along with a square of melty chocolate, it’s nothing short of one of life’s greatest simple pleasures. But what happens when you try to take that goodness and convert it into ice cream sandwich form? The results could be earth-shattering, but they unfortunately aren’t in the case of the ones that Trader Joe’s sells.

These "frozen sandwiches," which come four to a box, claim to be "graham crackers with marshmallow-chocolate swirl gelato and milk chocolate flakes." Sounds great, but the results were a little different. Our taste testers couldn’t identify any of that classic s'mores flavor, largely because the marshmallow flavor was absent (and we know they’re not Ben & Jerry’s, but a hit of real marshmallow swirled in would have been nice, too). And while the cookie looked the part, it didn’t taste much like a real graham cracker, oddly enough. The chocolate pieces were nice, though, but the whole sandwich didn’t taste anything like a s’more.

The texture also left something to be desired. It melted almost instantly, and the cookie became sticky and fell apart as soon as it was picked up. The gelato also wasn’t creamy at all, and had more of an icy texture before it dissolved into a watery mess. Also, the term "ice cream" is nowhere to be found, leading us to believe that the laws allowing use of the word "gelato" instead are a little more lenient.

The classic ice cream sandwich, with its vanilla ice cream inside and chocolate cookie outside, is usually enough to satisfy, and this will do just fine as a replacement. But if you’re looking for a s’mores-eating experience translated into ice cream sandwich form, you’re going to have to look elsewhere.

Each sandwich contains 250 calories, 8 grams of fat, 43 grams of carbohydrates, and 23 grams of sugar.

Click here for all our Trader Joe's product reviews.


I tried 18 of Trader Joe's award-winning foods, and would buy at least 14 of them again

Every year I look forward to Trader Joe's Customer Choice Awards, which reveals shoppers' favorite products and helps me discover some must-try chain staples.

Items like Mandarin orange chicken have reigned supreme for years while others like plantain chips recently earned a title. So I hit up my local Trader Joe's and bought as many award-winning foods as I could to see which ones deserved their hype.

Read on to find out which of these 18 fan-favorite Trader Joe's items I'd buy again, and which I would skip.


Your FREE Thanksgiving Candy Corn is right here!

Your free Thanksgiving Candy Corn is inside this package!

In the depths of the pandemic, somebody at the Brach’s Candy Company had an interesting idea: make a candy corn assortment that included all the flavors of Thanksgiving, right down to the stuffing and green beans. Soon after, a higher-up had an even better idea: “no way we’re doing that”. But apparently a few packages had already been produced and shipped, creating a rarity on the order of the double-struck Lincoln penny.

I know this because I was browsing at Walgreens, where the Brach’s website will send you if you click “where to buy”, and a clerk approached me and said, “I bet I know what you’re looking for.” She guessed Thanksgiving Candy Corn and said they hadn’t gotten any but she had seen the product somewhere in the Wilton Mall, maybe at Target or Walmart.

A search at those stores turned up empty, though I could get “Autumn Assortment” and “Pumpkin” as well as “Classic” candy corn. So I resorted to a back channel and got my own supply, though at a price that was certainly higher than retail. And I want to share it with you.

Here’s how it works: send a stamped self addressed envelope and a note with your email address to: Burnt My Fingers, 158 Lake Ave, Saratoga Springs NY 12866. I will promptly mail it back with a baggy containing two each of the six flavors:

Roast Turkey
Green Beans
Stuffing
Cranberry Sauce
Ginger Glazed Carrots
Sweet Potato Pie

Along with a legend to pick out which is which. (Gloves will be worn while packaging as a safety precaution.)

One first class stamp on a standard (not square) envelope will probably do it, though you might want to add a second as insurance since this will be a slightly lumpy package. And be sure to include your email, because at noon November 1 Eastern time, 9 am Pacific, we will get on a Zoom call and taste them together in real time and compare notes.

That’s right, on Day of the Dead while the kids are nursing their Halloween candy hangovers we’ll be having our own ghoulish treat. Will it be delightful or revolting? Will we be able to choke down all six flavors? We’ll know soon enough! But don’t wait to mail your SASE because you know how the post office right now…. we have 8 days to make the 2-way journey which is just barely enough. If you want FREE Thanksgiving Candy Corn, do it now! (And be sure to include your email for the Zoom invite.)

P.S. If my supply of candy corn runs out I’ll mail you a facsimile of my brisket recipe, which was acquired in a chain letter project similar to this one many years ago. Also, this is for US readers only since we’re dependent on our postal service.


Who's making Trader Joe's food? A look at where generics might come from

Why does Trader Joe's boxed macaroni and cheese taste like Annie's? Probably because the well-known name brand makes the product for the national supermarket chain&mdashat least according to rumors.

Trader Joe's doesn't have a factory where it makes its own products, and instead sources them from well-known brands and sells them under the Trader Joe's sub-brands at a discount.

The privately held grocery chain based in Monrovia, Calif., closely guards this information and is notoriously secretive about its relationships because it wants its customers to develop loyalty to its own brand. The big brands don't want consumers to have this information because Trader Joe's sells their products at discounted prices. If you were Frito-Lay, you wouldn't want people to know they can buy the same bag of Stacy's pita chips for a couple dollars less at Trader Joe's.

Trader Joe's can keep its prices down because it doesn't spend big marketing dollars on advertising beyond its own Fearless Flyer, nor does it have a complex coupon program. And buying directly from the manufacturers keeps costs low.

Consumers are often making guesses about Trader Joe's brand relationships based on packaging, ingredient lists and taste. Is Gordon Biersch making Trader Joe's beer? Is Strauss Family Creamery providing the European Style Organic Plain Whole Milk Yogurt? Is Trader Joe's buying its canned tomatoes from Muir Glenn?

We reached out to Trader Joe's to answer these questions and they never got back to us. We also spoke with a few of the big brands and all told us they couldn't discuss this matter with the media.


The Green Goddess dip didn't quite live up to its name

Trader Joe's Green Goddess dip tasted too much like parsley.

Savanna Swain-Wilson for Insider

Unlike Trader Joe's seemingly is, I'm personally not a big fan of parsley. And unfortunately for me, that herb had a major presence in the Green Goddess dip.

Although I also detected nuances of savory onion and sour red-wine vinegar, for the most part, this dip tasted like a parsley-and-basil flavored mayonnaise.

I barely tasted the avocado.

Savanna Swain-Wilson for Insider

I couldn't even tell that there was anything resembling avocado in it .

It seemed like the fruit's sole purpose was to green-ify the dip, which I consider cheating since I know the namesake dressing relies on a mix of herbs beyond just parsley and basil to achieve that pretty forest color.

VERDICT: Iɽ much rather spend $3.99 on a tub of sour cream and a ranch packet or a spread that I could actually taste the avocado. I definitely won't be buying this one again.


The Best Bottled Barbecue Sauce | Taste Test

Have you ever been full from barbecue sauce, not actual barbecue? Yeah, we hadn't either—until this tasting. It was a strange feeling, and not one we recommend, but necessary in order to find our favorite brand of barbecue sauce.

We tried 16 nationally available brands, in search for one that had the right amount of tang, smokiness, and lingering heat, without being pancake syrup sweet.

If you've been reading Josh Bousel's Sauced column lately, you know that making it from scratch isn't all that hard. Throw a few cupboard staples together in a pot, stir, wait a bit, and bam, you've churned out barbecue sauce. But for many of us, it ends up being whatever we pick up at the grocery store, and thankfully there are some decent ones out there.

We divvied up the sauces into two styles: the spicy, vinegary variety, and the sweeter, thicker Kansas City style sauces. For the full break-down on sauce styles, feel free to peruse our complete guide to regional barbecue styles and sauces. For the purposes of our storebought tasting, the two categories covered them all.

What Makes a Good Barbecue Sauce?

We consulted our resident expert Josh (our Grilling and Sauced columnist) on what to look for:

  • Texture: They can be anywhere from thin and runny to molasses-thick. There's no right or wrong with thickness and texture, according to Josh, but it can help define the best use for the sauce.
  • Aroma: The smell can make or break a sauce. You can have a perfectly cooked rib or pulled pork, but top it with an off-smelling sauce, and the whole thing becomes an unfortunate experience.
  • Flavor: For the Kansas City-style sauces, we expected sweeter and thicker, but still needed the balance of tang and heat. For the more vinegar-based sauces, we were looking for the acidic tang, but thickened and slightly sweetened with tomato paste, and peppery heat to round it out.

We scored the sauces on a scale of 1 (worst) to 10 (best).

The Winners

Best Kansas City-Style (Tie: 5.7): Bull's-Eye

We've all squirted Bulls-Eye onto our plates at some backyard barbecue at some point, right? It immediately tasted familiar, and probably earned some nostalgia points for that. There's some acidity, some smokiness, some heat, and a generous amount of molasses sweetness. Too sweet for some palates, though. Overall it's a little artificial tasting, in a standard chain BBQ restaurant kind of way, but y'know, it's really not that bad. Labeled "the bold choice" for barbecue—and compared to the others it sure packed a bold wallop—Bull's Eye can be found it just about every supermarket, and comes in nine varieties. (We tried "Original.")

Best Kansas City-Style (Tie: 5.7): TJ's Bold & Smoky

This is a touch less sweet than the Bulls-Eye brand. Vinegary, tangy, and some sweetness to be sure, but with enough bitterness to keep it balanced. We really liked the smooth texture—it wasn't gloppy or runny. It could use a little more heat but had a pleasant balance nonetheless. We liked it much better than Trader Joe's other available barbecue sauce: Trader Joe's All-Natural Sauce (more on why below).

Best Vinegar-Based Sauce (5.2): Stubb's

You might be familiar with the Stubbs story. A man named Christopher B. Stubblefield, nicknamed "Stubb," opened a barbecue joint in Lubbock, Texas, back in 1968, which doubled as a live music hotspot. In the 1980s, Stubb relocated his restaurant-cum-venue to Austin (which is still open today) and in 1992, gained some national fame after an appearance on Late Night with David Letterman. He went on to start a line of barbecue sauces and rubs, now available at many supermarkets. Stubb's smiling, cowboy hat-wearing face (he died in 1995, rest his soul) is still on every bottle with this quote: "Ladies and gentlemen, I'm a cook."

Alright, now onto the sauce! There's a lot of tomato and vinegar happening here, but it's not ketchupy sweet as with many others. More of a deeper tomato paste. This fades into tangyness, and the smoky spice lingers. The Stubbles man sure put some bite into this one. There are visible specks of black pepper and garlic, too.

The Rest of the Kansas City-Style Sauces

Sweet Baby Ray's (5.5)

The spice hits immediately with this one, then progressively gets stronger. It's balanced with both a sweet and sour background. Though not particularly unique in flavor profile, it's what we've always thought of as "barbecue sauce," at least in the world of supermarket varieties. If you want something to have that ubiquitous "barbecue" flavor (and hey, we're not judging) then this one's for you.

KC Masterpiece (5.5)

Lots of dark molasses with a hint of maple. Thick and sweet to be sure, but not enough tang or heat. "Reminiscent of hoisin sauce," said one taster. Though it wasn't all that special, it scored pretty well because it was familiar for many of us, much like Bulls-Eye.

Guy Fieri (5.25)

And here you thought he just had his own signature line of shades! Fieri is a pretty busy guy (har har). Of his four sauces available, we tried the Kansas City barbecue sauce. It's pretty one-dimensional with a black pepper kick (you'll see the black flecks in there) and a heavy hand of molasses. "Not a lotta complexity," said one taster.

Trader Joe's All-Natural (4.67)

As noted above, if you're at TJ's and shopping for barbecue sauce, this isn't the one. You want the Kansas City style sauce, which tied for first place in this category. This product, on the other hand, is trying to burn your mouth off. Don't get us wrong, we like a good mouth sizzle when it belongs there, but not so much for 'cue sauces. It was the only woah-there-turn-down-the-heat sauce of the 16 brands. Hot with an ashy, acidic flavor. "Dirty tasting," said one taster.

Jack Daniel's Original No.7 (4.67)

Like the Budweiser sauce (see below), this also gets booze into the mix. Very smoky and sweet, almost beefy, but you won't really detect the whiskey. Unless you count the burnt finish. "Tastes like a candle," said one taster. "Christmas eve with the fireplace burning the cold house!" said another.

Very ketchupy with a slight fruitiness. No smoke, acid, or heat to balance it all out, though. Not very complex.

"The most generic tasting," said one taster. It's sticky and candy-sweet with no heat. Closer to a salad dressing (coincidentally enough we had no idea it was Kraft in the blind tasting!) than a barbecue sauce.

Too ketchupy and gloppy. Vaguely plum-flavored, but more reminiscent of sticky plum sauce than the actual drupe fruit. Thick and too overpowered by the fruity sweetness.

Budweiser (3.2)

Wait, Budweiser makes a. barbecue sauce? And there's beer in it? Yes and yes. Speckled with dehydrated onion and garlic flecks, it's pretty funky, but not in a good way. Vinegary and spicy up front with an off-putting aftertaste. "Tastes like stale beer mixed with Italian dressing," said one taster. Eekers. We'll just stick to drinking Budweiser, thanks.

Annie's Natural (3.17)

Tomatoey, lemony, celery-y. Very vegetal, and way too much dried spice. Not what we want when we want barbecue sauce. Needs more vinegar bite. Needs less tomato paste action. Needs to probably stay away from our grill.

The Rest of the Vinegar-Based Sauces

Lip Lickin' (4.8)

Barbecue sauces sure love the word "lick." Well, this is the second brand with it in the title (see Salt Lick below). Of the two, we'd rather lick this one. It's big on vinegar. Tart, peppery, and tangy. The texture is thin, not gloppedy thick, which was appreciated. While we liked the not-too-sweet factor, it could have used a smokier edge.

Salt Lick (3.17)

"Out here in Driftwood, Texas since 1967," the label says. The barbecue joint is still there, too, right outside of Austin. The "lick" part in this case comes from the deer who used to lick the salt and minerals off the ranch's large rocks. Well, we weren't so much of the licking deer types with this sauce. It tasted more like honey mustard than barbecue sauce, and looked like it too. "Not what I think of as barbecue sauce," agreed tasters about this mustard-based sauce. Sweet and sour (check, check) but not smoky or spiced.

Bone Suckin (3.17)

This reminded us of Asian sauces like hot and sour or even duck sauce. Uh, should we dip an egg roll in here? "All I taste is sweet," said one taster. There's vinegar hiding in there somewhere, but it's mostly a sweet takeover.

Or, Make the Sauce from Scratch!

Note: We originally conducted this bottle barbecue sauce taste test way back in 2011, and it's taken us two years to recover from the dreaded Sauce Bloat. But in the spirit of Barbecue Week 2013, we're revisiting this particular adventure in condiments. Enjoy! — The Mgmt.


Who Makes Trader Joe’s Food?

Eighty percent of Trader Joe’s products are sold under the company’s private label, but TJ’s doesn’t make them.

When you see that Trader Joe’s packaging, the item is actually produced by a third-party supplier whose identity is kept secret from the consumer, and who also makes other, name-brand products. Sometimes the manufacturer tweaks the product a little for Trader Joe’s audience, but usually the food is kept remarkably similar to the original product, even down to copy and photography on the box. In some cases, TJ’s sells both its own version and the rumored producer’s. But the grocery-store giant’s versions are always astronomically cheaper. Although it’s impossible to confirm who’s producing the goods, you can make a pretty good guess. Doing so has become sport on the Internet (see comments at the bottom of the page). CHOW tasted some of Trader Joe’s private-label products against the real-world versions rumored to be the source. Here’s our take on who’s behind the TJ’s label.


Cha Siu Bao Chinese Style Pork Buns

$3.49
No, they'll never replace the cha siu bao at your favorite dim sum place. But for a quick heat-and-eat snack at home, TJ's pork buns are an admirable stand-in, popping out of the microwave with a properly soft, bready exterior filled with sweet and savory pork. Freezer Meal Frenzy agrees, saying, "Once that pork hits your taste buds, all your worries just sort of melt away."


Have I met a veggie burger I didn't like? Definitely. Are there plenty of great-tasting veggie burgers worth buying again and again? Absolutely. Check out the table below and see which ones sound like they would interest you.

1. Amy's Chicago Veggie Burger

Ingredients: The first 10 ingredients on the label are organic mushrooms, organic onions, organic brown rice, filtered water, organic celery, organic carrots, organic oats, wheat gluten, organic bulgur wheat, and cheddar cheese.

Nutritionfacts: One burger has 160 calories, 10 grams protein, 5 grams fat, 1.5 grams saturated fat, 5 mg cholesterol, 20 grams carbohydrate, 3 grams fiber, and 390 mg sodium. It contains 30% of the Daily Value for vitamin A, 4% for vitamin C, 8% calcium, and10% iron.

Continued

Comments:I liked this burger best when it wasn't by itself but was on a toasted bun with condiments. The taste is halfway between a beef burger and a veggie burger.

2. Amy's All American Veggie Burger

First 10 ingredients: Organic onions, organic mushrooms, filtered water, wheat gluten, textured soy protein concentrate, organic bulgur wheat, organic celery, organic carrots, organic walnuts, and organic oats.

Nutrition facts: 1 burger = 120 calories, 10 grams protein, 3 grams fat, 0 gram saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 15 g carbohydrate, 3 grams fiber, and 390 mg sodium. It contains 15% of the recommended Daily Value for vitamin A, 6% vitamin C, 4% calcium, and 10% iron.

Comments: This veggie burger had a pleasant texture and taste and would go nicely with several different condiments or toppings.

3. Boca Garden Vegetable Meatless Burgers

Ingredients: First 10 ingredients are water, organic textured soy flour, organic zucchini, organic red bell peppers, organic textured wheat, gluten, wheat gluten, contains less than 2% of organic soy protein concentrate, red bell pepper puree, organic expeller pressed canola oil, and konjac gum.

Continued

Nutrition facts: 1 burger = 130 calories, 15 grams protein, 3 grams fat, 0 gram saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 9 grams carbohydrate, 4 grams fiber, 400 mg sodium 0% Daily Value for vitamin A, 0% vitamin C, 10% calcium, and 10% iron.

Comments: This veggie burger has a mild flavor that works well with stronger flavored toppings and condiments, like stone-ground mustard or spicy BBQ sauce.

4. Dr. Praeger's California Veggie Burgers

First 10 ingredients: Carrots, onion, string beans, soybeans, zucchini, oat bran, peas, spinach, expeller pressed canola oil, and broccoli.

Nutrition facts: 1 burger = 110 calories, 5 grams protein, 4.5 grams fat, less than 0.5 grams saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 13 grams carbohydrate, 4 grams fiber, 250 mg sodium 50% DV vitamin A, 6% vitamin C, 4% calcium, and 14% iron.

Comments: Nice veggie flavors if you can get past the burger being green (I did).

5. Gardenburger Original

First 10 ingredients: Cooked brown rice, vegetables (mushrooms, onions), water, rolled oats, bulgur wheat (hydrated), cheddar cheese, wheat fiber, mozzarella cheese, and nonfat milk.

Continued

Nutrition facts:1 burger = 100 calories, 5 grams protein, 3.5 grams fat, 1 gram saturated fat, 5 mg cholesterol, 14 grams carbohydrate, 5 grams fiber, 420 mg sodium 4% DV vitamin A, 2% vitamin C, 2% calcium, and 4% iron.

Comments: This is still Gardenburger's top-selling burger for a reason. It has the same great flavor and texture that helped define veggie burgers years ago.

6. Gardenburger Black Bean Chipotle

First 10 ingredients: Cooked brown rice, soy protein concentrate-hydrated, onions, black beans, corn, Anaheim chilies, soy fiber, high oleic canola oil, red bell peppers, and isolated soy protein.

Nutrition facts:1 burger = 80 calories, 5 grams fiber, 2.5 grams fat, 0 gram saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 13 grams carbohydrate, 5 grams fiber, 250 mg sodium 6% DV vitamin A, 8% vitamin C, 2% calcium, and 6% iron.

Comments: Really nice flavor if you're looking for a veggie burger with a kick. This is one of Gardenburger's most popular new flavors.

7. Gardenburger Portabella

Continued

First 10 ingredients: Cooked brown rice, mushrooms, onions, mozzarella cheese, soy protein concentrate-hydrated, rolled oats, oat fiber, spinach, salt, and wild rice,

Nutrition facts:1 burger = 90 calories, 5 grams protein, 2.5 grams fat, 1 gram saturated fat, 5 mg cholesterol, 15 grams carbohydrate, 5 grams fiber, 360 mg sodium 6% DV vitamin A, 2% vitamin C, 6% calcium, and 4% iron.

Comments: Not for everyone. Though I love portabella mushrooms, I prefer the original Gardenburger to this one.

8. Morning Star Garden Veggie Patties

First 10 ingredients: Vegetables (mushrooms, water chestnuts, onions, carrots, green bell peppers, red bell peppers, black olives), textured vegetable protein, egg whites, cooked brown rice, rolled oats, and corn oil.

Nutrition facts:1 burger = 110 calories, 10 grams protein, 3.5 grams fat, 0.5 gram saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 9 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams fiber, 350 mg sodium 4% DV vitamin A, 0% vitamin C, 4% calcium, and 4% iron.

Comments: Tastes pretty good -- especially on a bun with some tasty condiments.

Continued

9. Vegetable Masala Burger (Trader Joe's)

First 10 ingredients: Potatoes, canola oil, carrots, green beans, water, bread crumbs, bell peppers, onions, corn, and salt.

Nutrition facts: 1 burger = 120 calories, 2 grams protein, 8 grams fat, 1 gram saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 12 grams carbohydrate, 1 gram fiber, 360 mg sodium 8% DV vitamin A, 15% vitamin C, 2% calcium, and 4% iron.

Comments: Nice Indian flavor with "hot" spices, slightly oily texture. Serve this burger with high-fiber bread or bun to increase the fiber for the meal.


Sunday, December 13, 2015

Special report: Milanos versus Crispy Cookies--the jury verdict

Editor's note: You may have heard last week that Pepperidge Farm is suing Trader Joe's for trademark infringement. See here and here for details.

Using our exclusive time machine, we here at Exploring Trader Joe's have traveled to the future to obtain a copy of the verdict form from the ensuing trial, with questions written by the judge and answered by the jury. We present it here in the public interest.


Does the defendant's product name duplicate that of the plaintiff's product?

No. They are not even both called "cookies." The only word in common is chocolate. We find that the word chocolate is not covered by the plaintiff's trademark.


Does the defendant's packaging duplicate that of the plaintiff's product?

No. They are both sold in bags. So what? The bags are not made of the same material, and are only approximately of the same size. No reasonable consumer could mistake one for the other.


Is the defendant's use of a photograph of a fluted paper cup on its product's packaging meant to suggest "Pepperidge Farm cookies" to the average consumer?

Yes, without question. We base this conclusion on (1) the fact that the Trader Joe's cookies are not even packaged with such a paper cup, so there can be no other purpose to showing one on the package, and (2) everybody knows that Pepperidge Farm's Milanos and other cookies are so packaged. Therefore, the Trader Joe's photograph, labeled as a "serving suggestion," means that Trader Joe's is telling its customers, in effect, "Buy our cookies. Then buy some Milanos. Throw away the Milanos, put the Crispy Cookies in the Milanos paper cup, and serve them that way."


Do the defendant's cookies physically resemble those made the plaintiff?

No--or, more precisely, only in the broadest possible terms. They are both pale-colored cookies, longer in one dimension than the other, sandwiching a layer of chocolate. But that's about it. The plaintiff's claim that the defendant's product is "mimicking an overall oval shape" is absolutely refuted by the photographic evidence submitted by the defendant:

We the jury respectfully suggest that counsel for the plaintiff review a grade-school math textbook and re-acquaint themselves with the definitions of "oval" and "rectangle."

As the picture shows, the two products are also distinguished by differences in color, with the Milano being both more uniform and more yellow, while the Crispy Cookie is closer to white, with distinctly browned edges.

Furthermore, we note that even in profile the two products are readily distinguishable, as shown by the photograph we ourselves took during jury deliberations:


The chocolate layer in the defendant's product is so much thicker that anybody could tell them apart at a glance, from any angle of viewing.


Does the defendant's product duplicate the taste and texture of the plaintiff's product?

Again, only vaguely. The Milano is more of a traditional shortbread, more floury than sweet, while the opposite is true of the Crispy Cookie. The latter is crunchy the former more powdery and delicate. But what most readily separates them is the prominence of the chocolate. In the Trader Joe's cookie, it is thicker, richer, creamier, and generally more pronounced than in the Pepperidge Farm cookie. In other words, the chocolate is the selling point for TJ's the cookie is the selling point for the PF.

We note, incidentally, that exactly one-half of the jurors expressed an overall preference for the defendant's product, and one-half for the plaintiff's. The difference split cleanly between those with a stronger versus weaker general liking for chocolate and sweetness, which are both more prominent in the Trader Joe's product. We conclude that this variety in preference proves that the two products are indeed substantially different, despite some superficial similarities.

With the indulgence of the court, the half of the jury that prefers the Trader Joe's product would like to put into the record a small gloat, by noting that the TJ's product is only $2.79 for 7.5 ounces of cookies, while the Pepperidge Farm product is $3.69 (according to the evidence presented at trial) for a measly 6 ounces of cookies. This half of the jury adds, respectfully, neener neener neener.


Did the defendant intentionally attempt to imitate the plaintiff's product?

No, not as that question is worded. We believe that the defendant did, in fact, note the commercial success of the plaintiff's product, and set about to come up with one that would be comparable, but not identical one that would appeal to consumers who had already found that they liked Milanos. However, in creating its cookie, Trader Joe's introduced sufficient elements of distinction in the name, packaging, appearance, texture, and taste to make it a substantially different product overall. No reasonable consumer could mistake one for the other, after having been exposed to both.


What is your final verdict?

We unanimously find for the defendant.