Along with Cheez Whiz, canned frosting, fast-food burgers and fries, and donuts, Pop-Tarts would be right there at the top of The Junkiest Junk Food Master List if such a list existed. As the editor in charge of food coverage for Westchester Magazine, it’s unusual for me to write about a national food brand that’s full of highly processed, artificial ingredients (high fructose corn syrup and Yellow 6 anyone?). However, I have to admit that I lived on Pop-Tarts (along with Maruchan Ramen Noodles, pizza, and Hershey’s bars) in college, so I’d be a complete hypocrite if I didn’t admit to enjoying these back in the day.
Photo by John Bruno Turiano
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This taste test was between the Kellogg’s Pop-Tarts (an industry behemoth selling 2 billion a year, Pop-Tarts’ Facebook page has almost 5 million likes), Trader Joe’s Organic Frosted Toaster Pastries (“made without artificial flavors, preservatives, or synthetic colors”), and Nature’s Path Organic Frosted Toaster Pastries (“made with real organic fruit”) sold at Whole Foods Market locations. Frosted strawberry is the bestselling Pop-Tart flavor (frosted brown sugar cinnamon is the runner-up), so despite today being National Blueberry Popover Day, we went with the red berry instead. Could “healthy” Pop-Tarts alternatives give the classic a run for its money?
The warmed pastries were tasted by 12 staff members (including two admittedly proud Pop-Tart aficionados) and rated in four categories (visual appeal, exterior taste, filling taste, and overall taste) from 1 to 5 (20 would be a perfect score).
8 per box; $2.69
A slight majority was drawn to the classic imitation sugar fix, writing comments like “sweet like candy—tastes good” and “what a toaster pastry should taste like: artificial and sweet!” A few detractors chimed in “the sprinkles on top looked like bright radiation markers” and “looked fun but didn’t taste like anything.” One taster summed it up: “It’s classic for a reason!”
Nature’s Path Organic Frosted Toaster Pastries
6 per box; $4.99
A close runner-up, a number of tasters found it “looked the most natural” and that the filling tasted “authentic” and “like real strawberry.” Some thought its taste was “too muted” and they “couldn’t distinguish the flavor.”
Trader Joe’s Organic Frosted Toaster Pastries
6 per box; $2.49
Sorry Trader Joe’s—this was the majority of tasters’ least favorite. Negative comments called out the “dry” pastry crust that was “too crumbly.”