Whether you're a Whole Foods devotee or you're afraid of their "whole paycheck" reputation, there's no denying that the 365 by Whole Foods Market line is attractive for those looking for high quality at a lower price point. The 365 line has invested deeply in its snack food products, offering "knockoffs" of some of the snacks you know by brand name but with their label. So, despite the lower price and Whole Foods' high-quality reputation, are the 365-brand snack foods worth the switch? We tried a wide range of 365-brand snack foods to answer that question as best as possible.
So, what exactly constitutes a snack food? While the term snack can be subjective, we set a few parameters here to set snack foods apart: Something eaten at your desk or on-the-go between meals, nothing overly sloppy or messy, something eaten straight from the package and easily re-sealed, and something that does not require any prep work, i.e., no heating or cooking. It's also important to differentiate between a snack and a snack food: A cheese stick wrapped in sliced turkey and dipped in spicy mustard? A snack. Potato chips? A snack food.
We selected products based on what we've tried before and are popular items in-store and online. We then narrowed it down to the following items to provide a range of sweet and salty snack foods. Based on taste, price, and snackability, here is our definitive ranking of some of the 365-brand snack foods, ranked worst to best.
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Two Bite Cinnamon Rolls
Not all foods are meant to be made into a snack version, and the 365 two-bite cinnamon rolls are a perfect example of that. The texture is relatively crumbly and waxy instead of moist and bouncy and falls apart on that first bite almost immediately. There's not much cinnamon flavor either; the primary flavor is baking soda more than anything else.
The one thing these mini cinnamon rolls are missing more than anything else is any sort of frosting, be it vanilla or cream cheese, ideally to combat the dryness of the roll itself. Despite the great concept of a snack-size cinnamon roll that requires zero prep work, it falls far short of its freshly baked sibling.
Not all snack foods need to be chips, pretzels, and cookies; sometimes, you just want a few chewy gummy treats to hit the spot. That said, the 365 gummy stars are one gummy treat you can move right past. The texture is pretty off-putting; they're overly chewy and mushy, putting any dental fillings in serious jeopardy. The sugar level here is also off the charts — 17 grams per serving, to be exact — and none of that sweetness comes from any of the "fruit" flavors they're supposed to taste like.
The bag comes with three different flavored stars, what seem to be grape, orange, and something similar to fruit punch, but none of them stand out as very tasty or memorable.
Peanut Butter & Jelly Protein Popper
Despite the nutritious content of the 365 peanut butter & jelly protein poppers — there are 10 grams of protein per bag — the combination of the flavors and texture here outweighs any good from what could have serious snacking potential. The flavors are there, although the jelly flavor from pitted dates is certainly more present than the peanut butter. Still, the overly chewy and dense texture is wholly unappealing in fashion with most protein bites like these.
There are other flavor options if peanut butter and jelly isn't your jam (see what we did there?). They are undoubtedly snackworthy, with one serving being all six bites in the bag, but if you're looking for a quick high-protein snack that also tastes good, you can skip over this one.
Chocolate Almond Milk Pudding
Finding a sweet, chocolatey snack that also happens to be nutritious can take a lot of work. While the 365 chocolate almond milk pudding should tick all those boxes, it is missing out on all the elements that make a good chocolate pudding truly memorable: Chocolatey flavor and creamy texture.
The consistency of the pudding is relatively thin instead of that rich, creamy mouthfeel you're looking for, most likely due to the lack of fat you'd usually get from using dairy instead of nut milk. It's also missing out on that deep, luscious chocolate flavor that comes with a perfect pudding, satisfying that need for chocolate in one compact cup. Plus, despite using almond milk, there isn't much nutty flavor. Pass on these.
Chocolate Sandwich Cremes
Oh, how we wish the 365 chocolate sandwich cremes could stand up to their brand-name alternative, but unfortunately, they don't even come close. The cookies have a good snap, which is excellent, but there's no deep chocolate flavor, and they almost have a salty hint, which isn't very appealing in a sweet cookie snack food. There's also not enough cream between the two cookies to have that satisfying contrast of crisp, chocolatey biscuit to sweet, vanilla cream center.
However, it's not all bad; the cream there has a nice vanilla flavor without tasting artificially sweetened. These may satisfy your craving for chocolate in a pinch, but if you're looking for a snack that lives on your weekly shopping list, leave these out.
Almond Butter Filled Pretzel Nuggets
Having a snack that offers both sweet and salty flavors in one bite is so satisfying, and, unfortunately, something as delicious sounding as 365's almond butter-filled pretzel nuggets doesn't deliver on either front. The pretzel is a bit soft and stale and lacking in that hard snap that defines an excellent hard pretzel, and the salt crystals on top don't offer too much salty flavor.
The almond butter inside is pretty underwhelming; it's a rather bland schmear, lacking any nutty or salty taste, and the texture is more grainy than creamy. Go for the peanut butter-filled pretzel nuggets instead, which have a more pronounced peanut flavor in the center.
Spicy Cheddar Popcorn
Bagged popcorn is tough to get quite right, especially when it's flavored, and while 365's spicy cheddar popcorn sounds like an excellent idea in theory, in practice, it falls short. Right off the bat, the smell when opening the bag is pretty off-putting — it smells stale and kind of burnt. Despite reasonably heavy seasoning powder, it's a rather bland popcorn, and there's not nearly enough cheddar cheese flavor to feature it in the product's name.
The "spicy" of it all is strong, but rather than being a flavorful hot, it's just a tongue-burning, mouth-drying hot. The aftertaste also isn't great, and there isn't any of that addictively salty, buttery flavor that a good popcorn has to keep going back for handful after handful.
Roasted Chipotle Salsa
Salsa is an ideal snack – grab a handful of tortilla chips or sliced veggies, and you've got a filling and tasty treat with zero prep work. The idea of roasted chipotle salsa seems incredible, and somewhere else, it certainly is, but it isn't here. 365's roasted chipotle salsa smells excellent. The chipotle scent is right there when you first crack open the jar, but after that first dip with a salty tortilla chip, all that good olfactory work goes away.
It's relatively bland, and the chipotle flavor itself tastes artificial. There is some heat, but it's more vinegar than spice, making the overall flavor unappealing. It also lacks good texture — a good salsa needs that contrast of chunky veggies to make it shine, and this just doesn't have it.
Original Beef Jerky
When the snackiest of us realized that a protein-packed snack was in our best interest, meat jerky had an absolute moment. The 365 grass-fed original beef jerky, while packed with protein (11 grams per serving), is perfectly fine; it's nothing special. The smell is pleasant, which is a feat, considering some jerky bags can emit a truly baffling odor, and the flavor is beefy and smoky without overpowering. It also has a nice texture, tender with good chew, but nothing about this jerky is overly notable.
The organic beef jerky has decent umami from soy sauce and brown sugar and, in a pinch, could satisfy a craving for meaty protein, but overall, this is one of the more underwhelming jerky options on the market. Plus, at about $9 a bag, you're better off opting for something with more flavor, even if it's at a slightly higher price point.
Thai Curry Cashews
A well-flavored nut can be the ideal snack in any situation — just a handful of something salty or sweet and crunchy is all you need to satisfy that snack craving. The sound of the 365 Thai curry cashews sounds incredible, right? Spicy and salty with some zest is quite the combination. However, these particular Thai curry cashews are a disappointment in every sense of the word.
There's no curry flavor here — they're undoubtedly salty, and the roasted cashew flavor is present, but calling this Thai curry flavored should be considered an outright lie. There's no hint of lime zest or herbaceousness from cilantro — just a lot of salt and flavor dust. A sufficient bar nut at best, but these are nothing to gush over.
Vanilla Animal Cookies
If you expect the 365 organic vanilla animal cookies to be as satisfying as their circus-themed brand name counterpart, you're in for a rude awakening. The vanilla flavor here is strong and gives it some real potential, almost like a Nilla wafer, but the texture of this cookie is where it misses the mark entirely.
The snap you get from a proper biscuit cookie isn't here; It has more of a soft, almost stale consistency, which isn't very appealing. The frosting and sprinkle-covered option is a definite improvement if you're looking for a sweet vanilla cookie, but on its own in its naked vanilla biscuit form, these just do not meet the standard.
Organic Variety Fruit Strips
Fruit strips or fruit leather can get a bad rap for being overly sweet and having a gummy, unappealing texture. However, the 365 brand organic fruit strips have managed to put a good name on fruit leather. Not only are they delightfully chewy without being sticky, but they taste like natural fruit.
The individual strips come in four flavors: mango, tropical fruit, strawberry, and berry blend, and each one tastes authentically fruity and juicy, and like actual fruit is used to make them (which it is, there's ⅓ a cup of fruit in each strip) instead of tasting like mostly sugar with just a hint of fruit flavor. They are a bit dense, so just one strip is more than enough to fill your snack craving, and at 79 cents a strip, they're a bargain.
Mango Fruit Bites
Whole Foods is known for its packaged dried fruit, and while the smell in this bag upon opening isn't the most appealing, the taste of the 365 mango fruit bites will make up for it. After all, the ingredients in the bag are pretty simple: dried mango and nothing more. The juicy flavor of a perfectly ripe, sweet mango is there and doesn't have that fake taste that so many dried fruits can have, and because there's no artificial sugar added, nothing is cloying to take away from that natural sweetness.
The chewiness is good without threatening to pull out a filling, but they are dense, so two or three of these are more than enough to hit the spot if you just need a hint of something sweet and fruity.
Organic Original Hummus
The 365 organic original hummus is not the most traditional-tasting hummus, but it gets very high praise regarding the balance of flavors and texture for a packaged, store-brand product. The tahini is present without being too much, and the garlic and salt are perfectly balanced and intensely flavorful—great tahini flavor, perfectly seasoned.
Not only are the flavors in sync with how a good hummus should taste, but the texture is spot on. It's creamy and easy to mix up with your accompanying chips or carrot sticks. It doesn't have any of that unappealing graininess that can sometimes come with hummus that's been sitting in the grocery store's refrigerator section for a while. There are a lot of hummus brands out there these days, but this is an excellent go-to for something simple, classic, and inexpensive.
Himalayan Salt And Apple Cider Vinegar Kettle Chips
Kettle chips are an absolute revelation when it comes to snack foods, and 365's Himalayan salt and apple cider vinegar kettle chips hit the mark when it comes to getting that deeply satisfying crunch that all kettle-cooked chips should have. However, the real selling point of these chips is the Himalayan sea salt and the apple cider vinegar, of which there isn't as much balance as there should be.
The vinegar is there; it's sweet, light, and has just the right tang and bite, but the lack of salt is slightly disappointing. With a better balance of sweet and salty, this particular bag of chips would be stellar, but the fact that they use apple cider vinegar makes these just a bit more special than the norm.
Organic Reduced Fat & Sodium Popcorn
The words "reduced fat and sodium" can sometimes be coded for "tastes like eating air," and while that is common for bagged, pre-popped popcorn, 365's organic reduced fat & sodium popcorn does not fall into that category. Despite being lower in sodium than the organic extra virgin olive oil and sea salt popcorn (85mg of sodium versus 230mg per serving), it still has great flavor. And while most bagged popcorns can be soft and stale, these kernels have good crunch and texture, as if somebody had just popped them in the microwave and sealed them in a bag.
Go ahead and shovel this into your mouth by the handful in the privacy of your home while watching your favorite movie — no judgment from us, and at 140 calories per 3-cup serving, no guilt for you.
Mini Cheese Sandwich Crackers
For itty bitty sandwich crackers, the 365 organic mini cheese sandwich crackers are loaded with addictive flavors that will have you eating them by the handful. The salt level on the crackers is spot on without being too much, and there's just the right amount of crispness in each cracker to provide that satisfying crunch.
However, the most critical element of this snack is the cheese in the middle, and where other brands can miss the mark, the 365 brand knocks it out of the park. That savory, creamy cheese center that breaks up the saltiness from the crackers is delicious, and when it comes to snackability, they hit the mark. One box isn't enough; dedicate an entire shelf in your kitchen pantry for these.
Veggie straws are one of those snacks that you either love or can't stand. If you're a salty and crunchy snack enthusiast who also cares about snacking on something a little on the healthier side, these deliver the one-two knockout punch. Some veggie straws can taste bland and have a stale, almost soft texture, but we found that the 365 original veggie straws are pretty fantastic.
They're light and airy with a good crunch, not too greasy, and have just the right amount of salt to keep you coming back for more without needing a bottle of water at your side. Plus, at 130 calories per serving (a serving size from this bag is about 36 straws), there isn't too much guilt if you want to go to town on the whole bag.
Read the original article on Tasting Table.