Monday, June 3, 2013

Peanut Butter Pop-Tarts!

The most inevitable thing in history is finally here, but could it ever possibly live it up to its own hype?

When I say “Pop-Tart,” you probably think of about forty five million different flavors. That’s probably because, at last glance, there are indeed about forty five million different permutations of The Kellogg Company’s much-beloved toaster pastries out there, from oatmeal-laced offerings to products that are supposed to taste like the physical manifestation of spooky. There is a Pop-Tart, it seems, for all occasions and moods -- you can break into a box of Christmas-themed pastries, nibble on a breakfast item that tastes like an ice cream sandwich, and if you’re really adventurous, even devour a bar of Spider-Man himself. Alike the Brave New World imaged by Huxley (and also, Iron Maiden), ours is one more or less dictated by the almighty Tart. 

Deep down, I was also kind of knew that Kellogg would wind up making a peanut-butter flavored Pop-Tart someday, but that still didn’t keep me from being surprised when I saw the display at the local grocery store for the first time. And making the already sweet package even more tantalizing, not only had they forged a peanut-butter filled pastry, they even managed to unveil an all new, peanut-butter-loaded pastry that was ALSO marinated in several shades of chocolate. You know, that reminds me of a certain, extraordinarily popular candy item, but for the life of me, I just can’t figure out which one.


As you can see here, we’re dealing with not just one, but TWO separate kinds of “Gone Nutty!” branded Pop-Tarts. Both brands boast of containing “REAL Peanut Butter,” which is probably a plus, because that fake-ass peanut butter you always find laying around? Goddamn, do I hate it.

The light orange packaging, as you no doubt see, gives the product a very classy, baking-soda-esque appearance -- not that the package is more or less the same, size and weight of a medium box of Arm and Hammer, or anything like that. The nutritional information is pretty similar, although the chocolate permutation -- not surprisingly -- has a couple of more caloric atoms and fat cells in it.

The back of the packaging for both products are fairly similar, with the sole exception being that the regular peanut butter offering champions itself as a “BAM” (with a lingering, superfluous line of lower case m’s following it”) while the chocolate special edition hails itself as a “WHAM,” (also tailed by a needless trail of lower case m’s.)

Both packages, in a stroke of marketing adequacy, reference each other, although some of the font and wording differs. Odds are, if you picked up one, oblivious to the existence of its Pop-Tart yin or yang, you’d probably look at this and go “wow, I think I might want to try that other thing they’re telling me about here.” A revolutionary -- and rather ballsy -- advertising technique, without question.

One of the really small things I dug about the packaging was that the instructions panel actually featured two separate brands of Pop-Tart. Most companies would’ve just placed a monochrome pop-tart etching on there, and nobody would’ve really cared, and they probably could’ve saved a few dimes on color inkjet costs, too. But not Kellogg. Oh, god no. This is a company that is all about giving consumers what they want, and what consumers want, I suppose, is miniature, hue-correct facsimiles of the Pop-Tarts they purchase on the instructions of the Pop-Tarts they just purchased. Toaster Strudels don’t do that, because deep down, Pillsbury just doesn’t care about you that much.

The first major surprise you’ll encounter when you open up either box is that the wrappers are actually GILDED. That’s right, that time-honored, aluminum-silver-astronaut packaging has been discarded for a glorious golden wrapper, perhaps a subtle allusion to the famed golden ticket from the Willy Wonka films (except in this case, the actual internal foodstuffs themselves are the proverbial boletos de oro.)

Thanks to that damned Atlanta sol, however, it’s not like you could TELL that these things are supposed to be copper colored or anything. Just take my word for it, though: if you buy peanut butter Pop-Tarts, you’ll probably get a gilded wrapper or two. And if there’s some sort of unannounced contest going on in which the individual that uncovers a golden wrapper wins some sort of fabulous prize, well….shit, then.

As for the pasties themselves, when you put them side by side, you’ll likely notice a couple of aesthetic differences. First off, the standard peanut butter Pop-Tart is completely nude on the outside -- no frosting, no glaze, no nothing. However, the pastries are sprinkled with a couple of super shimmering speckles of sugar, and the entire thing is more or less covered in a thick coat of powdered dust, which, although invisible in the picture below, is quite observable when you’re actually holding one in your hand. Clearly, the chocolate and peanut butter permutation is a different pastry hue (it’s the veritable Ricardo Tubbs to the standard peanut butter Tart’s James “Sonny” Crockett, really) and unlike its’ lighter-grained kin, IS shellacked with your standard, liberal smattering of solid-as-a-rock choco-frosting.

So, yes, one of the new “Gone Nutty!” peanut-butter filled Pop-Tarts resembles a giant, pregnant saltine, while the other looks like an oversized graham cracker with melted black stuff atop it. Of course, these new offerings LOOK delicious, but does the actual taste live up to the marketing hullabaloo?

Well, both yes and no. Indeed, the new Tarts are very yummy, but to be honest, they’re not really all that different, in taste or texture, than your normal Pop-Tart offerings. The peanut butter taste is both palpable with your tongue, eyes and fingers (be forewarned, if you eat one of these things, your hands will reek for the remainder of the day), but the biggest problem with the new products is that the peanut butter taste just isn’t STRONG enough. Now, I’m no rocket scientist, and the biochemical make up of peanut butter, mixed with pastry shell and searing toaster heat, may be a hazard of some kind, but there has to be some sort of mechanism for Kellogg to pound MORE peanut butter into the pastry packets than what’s on display here.

Not that I need to tell you long time Tart enthusiasts this, but there’s definitely a gustatory difference depending on whether or not you heat these babies up or eat ‘em straight out the box. Eating them cold, I have to say that there wasn’t much of a difference between the two products…even though one was twenty four thousand percent more chocolate than the other, I’m convinced that if you blindfolded me and force fed me one of each, I wouldn’t be able to tell you which was which. Toasted Tarts, clearly, are the way to go here: not only does it seem to activate the chocolate ions inside the darker variation, it also makes your entire kitchen smell like a gingerbread house for 24 hours.

So, at the end of the day, are these newfangled PB Tarts the food of the gods we’ve been clamoring for since the demise of Dunkaroos? Well, they’re OK, but the peanut butter to pastry ratio needs some tinkering, and despite what you’d think, the textural and flavor-ial differences between both products are pretty limited. They’ll do you good while they last, but odds are, they ain’t the peanut butter breakfast snacks you’ve been praying to the gods of sugar for, sadly.


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