World of Grains Oatmeal Raisin Snacks

By: Mars Incorporated

Suggested Retail Price: $3.99 for a carton of four single-serve packs

Taste: 3stars

Marketing: 3stars

Mars Incorporated—maker of some of the most fun and least healthy products in the universe of snack foods—appears to be atoning for past sins with a new whole-grain snack called World of Grains. Billed as a cookie with a conscience, the snacks come in five varieties; I was only able to obtain the Oatmeal Raisin, so take this review with a grain of unprocessed natural sea salt.

One 130-calorie package of seven or eight cookies contains 12 grams of whole grains, combining millet, wheat, and amaranth, among others. Someone at World of Grains must have realized how ponderously wholesome things were getting and thought: “Let’s bake these snacks into some kind of fun shape!” After clowns, fighter jets, kittens, and Joe Pantoliano were all vetoed, it’s clear that the exhausted committee settled on a dour leaf shape as a matter of last resort.

All this comes together to produce what is arguably the least fun cookie ever created for the consumer market, a hardtacklike product that outdulls both Almond Windmill Cookies and Pepperidge Farm Chessmen (which, in their defense, are described as “whimsical” on their webpage).

Personally, I think the cookies are tremendously fun, because they help me imagine that I am being held prisoner on an island somewhere, perhaps by a little-known tribe of voluptuous, surprisingly culturally literate Amazons. The cookies are my ration for the day, before I sweet-talk my way out of the cell and get invited to the big barbecued pork/fried plantain naked hip-hop luau. Those with less prison-centered inner narratives, however, may find the combination of slightly overbaked-tasting whole grains and healthy dried fruit to be oppressively wholesome for a snack, much less a dessert.

That said, the cookies work fine as tea biscuits. Under the protective sponsorship of a hot, caffeinated beverage, they actually comport themselves with a dignity and genteel deliciousness that is wholly appropriate to teatime. And you don’t even have to be atoning for something in order to enjoy them.

Tropicana Pure

By: Tropicana

Suggested Retail Price: $4.49 for a 1-liter bottle

Taste: 5stars

Marketing: 4stars

Tropicana, having already fairly firmly established itself as the king of middlebrow orange juice, is now aiming toward the higher end of the beverage market. Its vehicle of choice: a new brand called Tropicana Pure, a collection of fancy-ass juice blends including Pomegranate Blueberry, Peach Papaya Mango, and Raspberry Açaí.

Ignoring the pretentious website (where the drinks are described as “purely stunning”), the proof is in the bottle. And the bottle contains shockingly good juice, particularly for a national concern producing on a mass-market level. The Pomegranate Blueberry is a terrific balance of the two tastes. The pom flavor is neither syrup-sweet nor astringent, and is refreshing without too much acid. The blueberry note is just an afterthought: clearly present, but gracefully playing a supporting role.

Peach Papaya Mango is also far better than one would expect. In a typical juice blend, peach juice can be thick and cloying, but here the peach shines through without eclipsing the papaya and mango flavors, which are also (astonishingly!) discernible.

The Raspberry Açaí is less successful but still relatively decent: The texture is a bit watery, and the flavor retiring. That said, both the raspberry and the mysterious, slightly pungent note that I assume is the elusive açaí berry are both present.

Saving the arguably best for last, the Valencia variety (made from milder Valencia oranges) is a mellow, more naturally sweet version of standard grocery store orange juice—you can almost taste a hint of the nuanced flavor that typifies grapefruit, although this isn’t a blend. It’s 100 percent pasteurized, not-from-concentrate Valencia orange juice.

If this is the future of grocery store juice, the future looks pretty damned bright.

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