Sunday, November 22, 2020

Toast'Ems Brown Sugar and Cinnamon Pop-Ups (Dollar Tree/Various)

Fun fact: this was actually the original toaster pastry.

It seems as though I’ve reviewed quite a few toaster pastries over the last month or so—moreso within that timeframe than the entire decade preceding it (which is kind of an interesting factoid); well, let’s just continue that trend, shall we? Today, we’ll be taking a look at a private label version of toaster pastries that are sold at Dollar Tree stores nationwide (as well as other retailers). They’re called Toast’Ems, and they have a fascinating history that I’ll force you to read through to discover, for once.

Getting down to the pastries themselves, one thing I feel is worth mentioning—mainly because I chastised another brand for the practice—is that, even though the box appears to be the exact same size as the box for the “national brand” product, there are actually two fewer pastries in here. Obviously, some costs have to be cut to hit the dollar price point, but it’s kind of a shady practice to give it the exact same size; obviously, I know that’s the point, but it’s rather shady nonetheless.

There's that all-too-familiar wrapper!

Regardless of the missing pastries, this still serves up some solid value. The reason I harped on the other brand’s missing pastries, is because that box was already more expensive than $1. In fact, if you added in the two missing pastries (based on the average per-pastry cost), it would have taken the cost of the box above even the national brand. Here, it’s more forgivable, because even factoring in the extra two, it still comes in at around $1.33 per 8 ct. box—that’s quite a bit cheaper than the $1.99 retail price of the national brand, and close to the price of Aldi’s 8 ct. boxes.

As I always mention in reviews of Dollar Tree food products, I still get nervous to try them: I’ve been burned by quite a few things that just don’t quite match up to what they promise. True, I could probably say the same about the rest of the store, but I think if I were to break it down, I’ve been far more disappointed by their food products than any other single category. Hell, I’ve probably been more let down by their food products than the rest of the store combined.

Those feelings are unwarranted, however, because these are fantastic. I’d swear it was made by the national brand, if I didn’t learn that this basically was the national brand years ago (intrigued? Keep reading…). The pastry is nice and soft, as it should be, and features a thin layer of the expected hard frosting on top; the icing only seems to take up about ¾ of the top, which is something I hate to see out of these, since the bites without icing are usually pretty dry, gross, and boring.

Dig that trademarked zig-zag pattern!

Flavorwise, though, and we’re back on track: these are very moist and delicious. The brown sugar flavor comes through in spades, but the cinnamon is definitely noticeable—everything comes together to create an appealing harmony of sweetness that goes down easy. Somewhat surprising to me is how much filling there is in the middle: I feel like this is the area where other off brands tend to skimp; here, there’s a pretty thick layer of the titular combination that somehow never becomes too sweet (at least for me). 

Sadly, this is one of those product that gets falsely perceived as an off-brand, when it was actually the first to market: Back in 1964, production began on a product called Post Country Squares, per an agreement between Schulze and Burch Biscuit Company, and General Foods (aka Post). Supposedly, Post announced the product in advance, giving those greedy slobs at Kellogg’s time to formulate a rip-off; sure enough, they rushed their own version out that same year, overtook the market, and have enjoyed tremendous success with a product that they weren’t even smart enough to create themselves.

You know, the typical American success story.

Overall: 8/10. These are fantastic toaster pastries that, despite being the first one released to market way back in 1964, had their ideas stolen by Kellogg’s, who would go on to virtually rip the idea off verbatim, and make millions doing it (isn’t capitalism grand?) So, in an ironic turn of events, these aren’t private label knockoffs after all, but rather the original toaster pastry! Having tried them, I can see where some people swear by these over the “name brand”, as the pastry is moist and there’s ample amounts of filling in the middle. There does seem to be less icing on the top, which only covers up about ¾ of the surface, but that’s just a minor quibble. In the end, these are fantastic pastries, especially for the price, from a brand that deserves to be more well known. There are many products you should be nervous to try from Dollar Tree; this definitely isn’t one of them.

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