Though often shadowed by its disc-shaped rival, the hot dog is popping up on an increasing number of restaurant menus. An upgrade from the classic mustard, ketchup and relish combo, offerings such as Prairie Dog’s Micho’s Sonoran Dog and Butcher and the Boar’s Berkshire Pork & Cheddar are all the rage.
We dusted off the grill and hit the stores with one question in mind: which premium hot dog brand is best?
We purchased four brands of natural-casing, all-beef hot dogs. Our taste testers blindly sampled each and were asked to rate the brands in regards to flavor, appearance and juiciness. Packaging was reviewed once each brand was revealed.
The contenders (price: low to high)
Price: $4.99/12 oz. = $0.42/oz.
Taste and appearance: Buttery and salty flavor; crisp on the outside and juicy on the inside.
Packaging: We like the heritage from the font and monogram of the Schweigert logo. We also noted that this was the only package to include a product photo. While we agree with their choice to do so, we think that the product in the photo doesn’t look much different from the product in the package. We’d like to see a little more juiciness in the photo for added appetite appeal.
Cher-Make Authentic Wisconsin
Price: $5.49/12 oz. = $0.46/oz.
Taste and appearance: Natural, woodsy flavor; meaty texture; pale appearance.
Packaging: We found that the brand on the Cher-Make label is difficult to determine, as “Authentic Wisconsin” is at the top of the label, and the Cher-Make logo is equal in size and side-by-side with the Wisconsin logo. This was also the only package to use black backing instead of clear, which doesn’t allow for as full of a product view as the others with clear backing.
Price: $5.99/13 oz. = $0.46/oz.
Taste and appearance: Sweet, smoky, complex flavor; robust red interior; less juicy.
Packaging: We like the retro feel of the Ambassador label and the playfulness of the hot dog mascot. We’d like to see the label simplified to just red, white and black to really own that retro feel.
Price: $6.99/14 oz. = $0.50/oz.
Taste and appearance: Standard, salty taste; wrinkled appearance; greasy mouthfeel.
Packaging: The font and color choices for the Boar’s Head label give it a sophisticated feel. The package stands out among the rest as appearing most “straight from the butcher” with the bundled-style wrapping. However, we noticed that it was also the most difficult to open.
So, which brand of hot dogs are we grilling up this summer?
Schweigert! We loved the meaty, juicy flavor and the golden brown color. The slightly crisp, yet tender bite was a homerun in our books!
Working at a food marketing agency, we all often find packaging to be a main factor in our purchasing decisions. But aside from communicating branding and product information, this hot dog packaging becomes secondary to seeing the color and quality of the hot dogs themselves, though not completely irrelevant. The bundled-style packaging of Boar’s Head, for example, stands out from the others and lends itself to a sophisticated “straight from the butcher” feel. For the flat-style packaging, the clear backing for Schweigert and Ambassador allows the consumer to see much more of the product than the black backing on the Cher-Make hot dogs.