3/15/2009 update: A few days after publishing this post I was contacted by a PR person for the company that makes one of the brands. I’d like to make it clear that my point in the post was not to promote brand A or B but to emphasize the importance of reading labels and the ingredient lists on the products we buy and to remind myself as well as to encourage other people to know more about our food so we can make better choices at the grocery store.
This puffed rice and corn treat/snack has become a recent favorite treat for my son. I’m not sure it really qualifies as a snack. Maybe a munch? In any case, I don’t know where he has seen it and/or ate it for the first time, but one day, out of the blue, while we were grocery shopping, he asked for Pirate’s Booty. “Pirate whaaat?”, I asked. “Pirate booty”, he said. “Pirate whhhhat?”, I asked again… I had no idea what it was. We looked for it and found it at the snacks isle. I read the label quickly and thought it wasn’t so bad, and I bought it for him. No need to say how very excited he was.
Yesterday I was terribly busy but had to go grocery shopping. Since I wasn’t sure I’ll have time to go to the usual store where I shop, I stopped for a quick purchase at another one which is smaller and closer to my home to pick up a few things. Both stores claim to have a good selection of organic, free-range, better quality food compared to the other chains, but the smaller store – let’s call it store A – is perceived to be cheaper. (I don’t know if that’s true or not since they mostly carry different brands).
On my way to the cashier I noticed a product similar to the Booty one. It had a different name but it looked the same. Later I opened it in the car and ate a few puffs and thought that it tasted pretty much the same. Back at home, I read the ingredient list (It’s just something that I do from time to time. Am I crazy?) and I got curious about whether it’s the same product or not.
In the afternoon I had a chance to go to the regular store – let’s call it store B – with the kids to complete my shopping. I looked for the pirate booty package as well. I read the label on the back. It was different. Shorter. I knew I had to do some serious research. At home, I had to compare. This is what I found:
|Brand||Pirate A||Pirate B||Comparison|
|Price||$1.99||$2.59||A costs 60 cents less|
|Weight||7 oz.||4 oz.||A is bigger by 75%|
|Ingredients list||Enriched corn meal (corn meal, ferrous sulfate, cornstarch, tricalcium, phosfate, thiamine, mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), vegetable oil (contains: corn, canola, sunflower), aged cheddar cheese (cultured milk, salt, enzymes), whey, buttermilk, maltodextrin, salt, natural flavors, disodium phosfate, lactic acid, canola oil, citric acid, spice.||Corn meal, rice, sunflower, expeller pressed canola/corn oil, aged cheddar cheese (cultured milk, salt, enzymes), whey, and buttermilk||A has a longer list of ingredients with many words I don’t know|
Also, I asked my husband to arrange a blind taste testing of the 2 brands. With my eyes closed I could tell from the first bite which one was brand A and which one was brand B. There was a difference. One of them had an artificial and somewhat metallic flavor, and compared to the second one tasted pretty horrible. Guess which one tasted better? (Answer: Pirate B)
And besides, I don’t know about you, but me… As I get older, I like things to be simple. I like short lists of ingredients. I like to know (preferably) all of the words in those lists. Bizarre words in my food scare me. Now all I can think about is should I give Pirate A to my children to eat? Or, should I throw Pirate A into the trash? Am I being too paranoid about the quality of food?
What would you do?