Your first impression, when you hear about Trader Joe’s new Peanut Butter and Jelly with Nonfat Greek Yogurt, might be “That sounds gross.”
I’m proud to say that I’ve based this blog on the idea that sometimes even the most bizarre or outlandish sounding food products – even partially popped popcorn kernels or a red wine and milk chocolate drink, can astound and delight an eater who approaches the world with an open mind. Not this time though. Trader Joe’s new Peanut Butter and Jelly with Nonfat Greek Yogurt looks and smells and tastes terrible. Just really awful.
Yeah, I know that probably doesn’t strike you as an astounding verdict or anything, so before I start systematically eviscerating this poor, hapless product I thought I’d take a moment to find some praise for it – faint though it may be.
Kudos – kudos I say! – to Trader Joe’s for not giving a good goddamn what anybody else in the world thinks. There was zero demand for a no fat, peanut butter and strawberry jelly flavored greek yogurt. Exactly zero people were standing around demanding this mash up of a soggy sandwich and a tasteless dairy culture, but someone at Trader Joe’s was sure as hell going to give it to us any way.
“Who the hell cares!” someone at TJ’s is probably bellowing even now, chomping on a cigar butt and gesticulating forcefully, “I said make some goddamn peanut butter and jelly flavored greek yogurt, and stock it on every store shelf nationwide!”
“Sir, the PB&J greek yogurt is a complete flop! No one is buying it!”, no doubt come the cries.
Anyone can play it safe. It’s the bold innovators who deserve the acclaim. Long may you thrive, Trader Joe’s!
That said, this yogurt is really dreadful. I really wanted to like it, even in the face of the atrocious sounding name, if for no other reason than the packaging is kind of cute. Sadly, the contents don’t live up to even this promise. Peanut butter and greek yogurt have similar textures, I had reasoned, maybe it’ll be rich and creamy and sweet and – nope. Nope, none of that. It’s not even peanut butter colored – just sort of a dismal gray.
Well, I thought, maybe the strawberry jelly is sort of included as a fruit-on-the-bottom type sweet surprise that – nope. Nope, no jelly on the bottom. Instead, the peanut butter and jelly flavors have blended into each other, along with the tart, plain greek yogurt. Shockingly, the ingredient label shows that real strawberries have actually gone into this. Shocking, I say, because they are impossible to discern in this undifferentiated gray mass – neither in texture nor taste.
The PB&J sandwich is an American classic. This yogurt tastes nothing like it – only the vaguest elements of peanut butter are detectable, and only the faintest taste of strawberries shows up. If you have ever soaked a PB&J sandwich in skim milk until it started to fall apart, then tried to eat it, that is pretty much exactly like what you are getting here. All you really end up tasting is a blur of tartness, muddled with hard to place indistinct flavors. It may only be $0.99, but even that is asking too much when Trader Joe’s offers such a wide range of far tastier nonfat greek yogurts.
I remember figuring out that mushing together everything in my lunch bag was a bad idea back in Elementary school. Trader Joe’s has done an excellent job of reminding me why.
Would I Recommend It: Nope.
Would I Buy It Again: Not unless I feel like wasting food.
Final Synopsis: Theoretically, a peanut butter and jelly infused greek yogurt. Practically, a gross, gray glob.
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.