When I first set eyes on Trader Joe’s Almond Butter, my heart did a little leap. After all, the last time Trader Joe’s unveiled a new butter, it was an epochal, life-changing event. History had prepared me for another smash hit. Unfortunately, history was setting me up for a fall. This new almond butter is a very average spread with little to recommend it.
Both new almond butters are the “stir” variety, with a thick layer of oil on top that needs to be mixed in before using. This is, as always, the tell tale sign of the “natural” nut butter. Trader Joes’ creamy and crunchy almond butters follow in this proud, healthy tradition. Salt has been added, but only 60 mg which is rock bottom by commercial standards, and sugar is at a minimum, with only 2 grams per serving. Of course, that means it lacks that tongue pleasing tingle that you get with additive laden, less healthy butters, but a little mouth-plastering blandness has ever been the price for healthful eating.
All of that’s fine by me. In both taste and nutrition it’s about the same as the natural, stir peanut butters that Trader Joe’s offers, but that is exactly my problem – there’s no meaningful difference netween these almond butters and their peanut counterparts. Even in taste, we’re only talking about a very subtle change to the underlying nuttiness of the spread, one that you might be able to identify in a side-by-side taste test but which, when incorporated into a sandwich etc, is practically interchangeable with a natural peanut butter.
If there’s something I’m missing here, please clue me in to it. Frankly, I don’t see the appeal or rationale for almond butter. There are, I’m aware, people with peanut allergies. Is that the whole market almond butter was made for? At the risk of sounding intolerant, I think we can all agree that these “people” should simply acclimate to life in the margins of society. Suck it up, peanut allergienes!
I really, really do not understand almond butter. Yes, we can make our nut butters out of things other than peanuts, and we can make car tires out of wood and books that are 25 feet tall. We can do a lot of things – but a lot of things don’t make sense to do. It’s not like we’re talking about hazelnut butter here, which brings a totally new and delicious taste to the table. Now, I’m always a proponent of a broad selection and innovation in the food market – but only to the extent that it makes sense, and almond butter doesn’t make sense to me. It’s like laboring tirelessly to create Hydrox cookies, then trying to sell them for more than Oreos.
Aside from aiding the peanut sensitive, there really doesn’t seem to be a good reason for almond butter to exist. Jokes aside, I am glad that it exists for that reason at least. My heart really does go out to people who suffer from peanut allergies. I can only imagine the nightmare of living in a world where the peanut, one of the most widely used foodstuffs, has the power to incapacitate and/or kill you. Peanuts are tiny. They could be anywhere. Not to mention that they’re often incorporated with absolute stealth into a bewilderingly huge assortment of food product, and the only tip off is a tiny line of small type hidden under the bar code. That’s like living in a war zone where all the enemies are invisible, but give you a quick “Heads up!” before opening fire.
Ulitmately, I feel about Trader Joe’s Almond Butter about the same way I feel about their sunflower seed butter – good on them for giving us more options, but there’s nothing compelling about the product, unless it be the brief, sad thrill of the blandest form of rebellion conceivable. “Forget what those mainstream losers are doing – I’m putting almond butter on my sandwich.”
No sir, it doesn’t make sense to me at all. You can leave me with Better’n Peanut Butter for my PB alternative.
Would I Recommend It: No, unless you have peanut allergies.
Would I Buy It Again: Never.
Final Synopsis: 90% identical to peanut butter, only more expensive.
Let’s talk wonder.
As a fully-functional adult, I assumed my soul had been successfully numbed to the tingle of effervescent wonder I experienced as a child. It was much to my surprise then that I found myself gob-smacked, properly gob-smacked, when I walked into the Wonka Candy Company’s flagship store in downtown Los Angeles the other night and discovered a glittering, whimsical showroom torn straight from the pages of childhood fantasy.
Elaborately waistcoated chocolateurs glided about between ornate candy displays, curtains of heavy purple velvet, and delicate confections that looked more like art than candy. Clearly a well researched decree from the marketing department had lead a team of skilled Imagineers, or even Visioneers, to design room said room for the explicit purpose of actually induce levity in adults. Well done, corporate America. However, what most stirred the rusty ventricles of my full-grown, deadened heart were the glass globes displaying prototype chocolate bars representing the furthermost edge of whimsical chocolate research. Amid the glittering confections and novelties sat the Peanut Butter and Jelly Chocolate Bar – an innovation that struck me as being as brilliant as it was outré.
“The market will never be persuaded to adopt it!” I declared to the world at large, so stunned was I by the audacity of the thing, so sure I would never see it in any normal store.
Reader, you might well imagine my surprise when just this last week, as I meandered through my local TJ’s, my roving eye chanced to fall upon Trader Joe’s own Peanut Butter and Jelly Milk Chocolate bar. Shocked? I practically dumped in my pants.
So I bought one. And how was it? It was…good. Kind of. The thing about this particular chocolate bar, whimsy aside, is that there’s not a whole lot of alchemy going on. The bar doesn’t synergize into something more than the sum of it’s parts – it’s exactly the sum of it’s parts and no more. The milk chocolate tastes like milk chocolate, the peanut butter tastes like peanut butter, and the raspberry jelly tastes like reasperry jelly. End of story.
The bar is well put together certainly. The peanut butter and jelly are layered in discrete, unmingled layers just beneath a thin sheath of chocolate. Both condiments run the whole length of the bar in equal proportion ensuring each bite delivers an equal mix of all three ingredients. And while that’s good, it’s still not great.
Part of the issue is that the PB&J, in being kept so totally unmixed, taste just like the PB&J you had in so many sandwiches as a youngster. Now peanut butter is good and jelly is a fine condiment as well – but have you sat down to a peanut butter and jelly sandwich lately? Make yourself one today. Use some Jif peanut butter and some Welch’s raspberry jelly. Take a bite, tell me what you think. Not bad, right? But not exactly great either. Not something you’re going to rave about.
It’s a noble feat, delivering such a whimsical chocolate bar to store shelves, but not a resoundingly successful one. The bar is passably good, but uninspired. Trader Joe’s does great chocolate, they do some great peanut butter and peanut butter replacements. Perhaps if this bar had been formulated with some more exquisite ingredients it would be more than just a novelty candy bar.
Perhaps it’s my deadened adult heart. Perhaps it’s that the child in me to that once so loved PB&J sandwiches has been defeated by spreadsheets and traffic jams. Or perhaps I have grown up and moved onto bigger and better things. In either case, this whimsical bar doesn’t justify a second purchase.
Would I Recommend It: If you’re curious go ahead, but keep your hopes low.
Would I Buy It Again: No sir, I wouldn’t.
Final Synopsis: Might as well spread some Jiff and Welch’s on a Hershey bar.
The effrontery of an outrageous title has rarely stung so. Better’n peanut butter? I would double italicize that if modern technology allowed it. Let’s ask ourselves, what could possibly be better than peanut butter? Aside, of course, from Cookie Butter, Mango, really good, small-batch organic peanut butters, the love of a good woman, etc.
Okay, so a lot of things are better. But those aren’t fair comparisons. They are the kings of their own circle. Better’n Peanut Butter is putting itself up against the heavy weights of the mass produced big brands – the “PB” in PBn’J. That’s some beloved stuff right there. I mean, seriously, people belove the hell out of their Skippy and Jif. This is what we’re all grew up with for Christ’s sake, talk about locked-in phenomenon, talk about nostalgia value. If you’re going up against that, and you’re coming out the gate with the cocky strut of a name “Better’n Peanut Butter”, you’d better be able to back up that claim.
And guess what, they can. Better’n Peanut Butter is incredibly delicious, delicious in that eye opening sort of way that makes you regret all those years wasted. I can’t say how they’ve done it. My best guess is that an Arthur C. Clarkian Monolith descended among the peanut butter and evolved it to a higher level, or perhaps the lazy bastards at Jif never bothered to try adding tapioca syrup to the crap they’ve been peddling.
Other strange and intriguing ingredients that set this wondrous emollient apart are dehydrated cane juice, rice syrup, and annatto. Do these ingredients put you off of this product? Do you think you will never leave a brand like Skippy that is basically nothing but peanuts, sugar and oil? Than there is no hope for you in this big crazy world. Did I mention that Better’n Peanut Butter has 85% less fat, 40% less calories than leading brands, is all natural and preservative free? Because it does.
There’s nothing else I can really say at this point and, in fact, the will to do so is fading. I believe I will help myself to some more of that luscious creamy spread.
Would I Recommend It: Dear god, yes.
Would I But It Again: I’ll never stop buying it.
Final Synopsis: Peanut butter that’s better than peanut butter. ’nuff said.