What pancake syrup tops the stack?
Pancakes, waffles, French toast… who doesn’t love the favorites that we deem “breakfast” to start their day? And one factor can make or break these delicacies: syrup! That’s why our team set out to sample some popular national brands to let you know our top pick for your next pancake stack.
1.) Log Cabin ($3.99) Buy
2.) Pearl Milling Company – not ringing a bell? Click Here ($4.29) Buy
3.) Hungry Jack ($4.29) Buy
4.) Mrs. Butterworth’s ($3.79) Buy
Our brand test was judged with the consideration of 3 overriding categories; package design, price, and taste/consistency. We were blindly given samples to rate our favorite syrups on a scale from 1 – 4.
In terms of the packaging, our team discovered that many were initially drawn to Log Cabin and Mrs. Butterworth’s, both of which have uniquely shaped bottles that correlate with their brands. Hungry Jack, displaying the perks of a convenient microwaveable bottle, was determined to be more modern, yet a bit clunky regarding label design. Lastly, Pearl Milling Company, after undergoing a much-needed rebrand, uses a more straightforward label with a logo reflecting their milling history.
All things considered, our team determined Log Cabin to be the most appealing in design, with its brand identity being very cozy, warm and comforting – all of which align with the feeling you get from a tasty stack of pancakes!
Several of us were surprised by the drastic difference of each syrup’s taste. Although not everyone agreed on preference, the majority settled on the distinction of their flavors. Log Cabin and Pearl Milling Company, being very similar in consistency, had a bit of a difference in flavor with many people determining that Log Cabin had a more buttery-smooth taste. Hungry Jack had a difference in consistency, as it was a bit darker and thicker than the rest, with a deeper maple flavor and sweeter after-taste. Mrs. Butterworth’s had the least popular vote, by far, having an overwhelming molasses flavor that a few loved, but others considered to taste more artificial.
By vote, Log Cabin was determined to be the best in flavor, with Hungry Jack as a close second, Pearl Milling Company coming in third, and Mrs. Butterworth’s in last place.
Overall, Log Cabin has our vote for best syrup in terms of flavor and design aesthetic, as well as cost! But don’t just take our word for it… get out there and try it with your breakfast!
How do you salsa?
Salsa falls into a category of its own—it can be a condiment, a dip, and so much more (if you feel otherwise, let us know in the comments!).
Here at IN Food, when we love something we put it to the test. A brand test, that is. Continue reading to find out our pick for the best medium salsa between four brands.
This salsa tasted sweeter than the others. Once Betsy said it tasted like pizza sauce it was hard to not taste pizza, ya know? This salsa rose to the top of Sam and Alyssa’s palates for its thick, chunky, tomato-y texture that tasted as though was made with real vegetables. Sam claims it’s “a great alternative for when I don’t want a spicy salsa.”
Amy’s salsa is standard, simple and doesn’t stand out on shelf. Granted, Amy’s carries a variety of food products and has to meet specific brand guidelines. We appreciate the spice indicator, regardless of how mild this medium salsa was (although none of the salsas we tasted were particularly spicy).
Pace pleasantly surprised us (although it is technically not a salsa). It reportedly tastes better than it looks and is smooth with a good balance of veggie bits. It’s the most bang for your buck salsa we tried and won the majority vote as a favorite.
“Crappy but classic.” – Emily
Emily’s words sum it up, Pace’s packaging is just what you’d expect from an inexpensive salsa.
Mrs. Renfro’s salsa is the smoothest of them all. If you enjoy chunk-less salsa, this pureed blend might be the one for you. It has a mild spice and flavor that’s comparable to hot sauce or taco sauce. Overall, we weren’t too thrilled with this one.
Dustin said “It looks like the 1950s called and they want their salsa back.” Perhaps Mrs. Renfro was trying to go retro? Their packaging is simple and basic. We are not big fans of the solo tomato here, given the many other ingredients that are necessary to make salsa delicious.
This smoky salsa had the best chunkiness. It stood out among the rest for its strong chipotle flavor and little kick of spice. This complex flavor might not be for everyone, but our chipotle-style fans loved it.
Frontera needs to indicate that this salsa is smoky or chipotle-style on its packaging. It can be a hit or miss flavor for people, so it would help manage consumer expectations. Other than that, we think the blue stands out on a shelf.
Pace is our new go-to at the office. It’s simple with a satisfying taste and texture. Matched with its low price point, this salsa can’t be beat.
Which Prosecco Should You Raise a Glass With?
Prosecco is often overlooked. It’s a sparkling wine, but it’s not Champagne. In fact, their differences spark a heated debate in the wine industry. You can learn more about that all in this article by Wine Folly. For the purpose of this brand test, we wanted to determine our favorite Prosecco from a few options we bought at our neighborhood North Loop Wine & Spirits.
Note: All brands were extra dry and priced at $14-17/bottle. We tested on flavor, bubbles and packaging.
“I like them all.” – Alyssa
Maggie thought it was quite bubbly and Sam was not a fan of the aftertaste. Some thought it tasted tart, others found the flavor to be muted. Overall, reviews were all over the board for the flavor of this Prosecco. What we did agree upon, however, was that this was our least favorite packaging. While the bubbles on the packaging are unique, we thought it was poorly executed and tacky-looking. This is not a product any of us would initially grab off the shelf due to its packaging.
The Torresella Prosecco has a mild flavor. When poured, it appears to have the most bubbles. Dustin ranked this one as his second favorite. Their packaging is what you’d expect for a wine. It’s nothing special, but we do appreciate the pop of blue throughout. All in all, we’d give this Prosecco a solid “slightly better than average.”
Lamberti Prosecco has a nice balance of flavor and seems to be the driest of the ones we tried. Its packaging is elegant and timeless. If you’re looking for a Prosecco to give to your significant other’s parents or boss as a gift, this is it.
We were drawn to Stella Prosecco right off the shelves. Who doesn’t love a charming, illustrated Italian scooter? It’s a cute, stylish bottle to bring to a friend’s house. Though we loved the packaging, we weren’t as excited about the flavor. Betsy described it as, “Meh,” which about sums it up. It was enjoyable, but not our favorite.
As an agency, we’d recommend Lamberti for your Prosecco needs! From the packaging to the flavor, this is the one to have in your glass when you toast the new year!
IN Food Marketing & Design
The Brew Review
We love our North Loop home. It’s a quaint hub for fine eateries, dive bars, coffee shops, breweries and much more. To celebrate the official beginning of patio season, we took off early on a Friday to sample delicious brews and ciders from our neck of the woods.
First Round: Number 12 Cider & Inbound Brew Co
Next up: Modist & Fulton
New to the neighborhood, this cidery was a must on our list. As credible food (and beverage) experts, we have to know what’s out there! At Number 12 cider, our team of employees and friends tried a variety of ciders.
Here are our thoughts of the ciders we sampled:
- Black Market Cider: With semi dry notes of currant and a pleasing red berry color, Caroline describes this cider as, “Not too sweet, not too dry. For a cider, I can get on board!”
- Miss Morrissey: It’s light and subtle with an apple flavor. There’s a hint of carbonation and bitterness to it and overall it has a juicy appeal.
- Wickson: We get hints of white wine from the Wickson. It has subtle pineapple notes and tang.
- Trilogy: Not too sweet with a nice apple flavor. We dig it.
- Voyage: This will take you on a fruity flavor trip with a strong apple presence.
- Helix: This dry cider is light and refreshing, a good go-to.
When it comes to the atmosphere, Number 12 cider has it all: a good indoor ambiance with lots of seating, a large patio space, booth seating and a more private upstairs. It’s great for groups, dates and doggos alike with a contemporary vibe that is somehow industrious AND cozy.
Next came Inbound. Home to food trucks, live music and a true industrial vibe, it’s a classic and reliable Minnesota brewery.
Here’s what we thought of the brews:
- Hibiscus Saison: This saison is delectable and an excellent follow-up after visiting Number 12 cider. It has a sunset hue, great notes of hibiscus and is a smidge more bitter than an actual cider (which we like).
- Fruit of the Loop: The Fruit of the Loop is a good IPA packed with a citrus punch (as expected) with a bitter finish.
- Juicy Lucy IPA: “Delicious.” – Maddy
- Kolsch: This beer is SO smooth. We’d rank it up there with beers from across the pond in Germany.
- Cream ale: A beer you can’t go wrong with. It’s easy, light and has a subtle aftertaste.
Inbound is a great brewery for groups. It boasts an open concept with large tables, beautiful windows and cool lighting. On a warm day, you’ll notice the garage doors open for a nice breeze. Plus, it’s pup-friendly which is a win in our book.
No matter where you stop by for a drink, we always recommend being equipped with snacks or getting Von Hanson’s seasoned pretzels.
AB & J, anyone?
Who knew that peanut allergies were on the rise by 21%? Our copywriter, Caroline, for one. Like many others in the world, she is a victim of severe peanut allergies.
So, in her honor (and the fact that we don’t want to rush her to the E.R. anytime soon) grab a hunk of toast—we’re seeking out which almond butter is the best.
Each almond butter was critiqued with texture and flavor in mind.
This nut butter runs a little thinner and grainier compared to the others. It’s a bit oily (which could be good or bad depending on your preference) and isn’t too bland or too sweet.
Smooth and sticky, Justin’s nut butter is on the thicker side of which we sampled. Its flavor was more muted and roasted. Compared to the Grind Your Own almond butter it was creamier, but blander.
“Tastes like sawdust.” -Drew, a loyal peanut butter fan.
Maranatha almond butter was the smoothest of the nut butters and packed a hearty flavor and good balance of nuttiness. However, it was also the sweetest of the nut butters—so depending on your current jive with sugar, this may or may not be the best for you.
Note: it wasn’t too sweet, it just happened to taste the sweetest in comparison.
Grind Your Own
Grinding your own almond butter could be a fun addition to your grocery routine. The result is a smooth and creamy butter with a less prominent nutty flavor (despite knowing for sure how many nuts are in there). This butter was also lighter in color than the others.
“I like peanut butter more.” -Betsy, another loyal peanut butter fan.
What’s the verdict?
If we had to pick one, it would be Maranatha. But, in all honesty, there weren’t enough discrepancies between flavor and texture to have a true winner amongst the almond butters. If our reviews don’t make you feel particularly inclined to buy one, we recommend purchasing based on price at your local grocer!
A non-dairy debate: Which coffee creamer will we stock at IN?
As 9 a.m. approached and the IN team started the workday sans caffeine, our coffee (and tea) drinkers eagerly awaited this brand test. Were we truly interested in comparing creamers? Or simply anxious to have warm, caffeinated beverages in our hands?
Flavor and creaminess. We tested each creamer on its own, and in our hot drink of choice. Bias-free, we blindly sampled French Vanilla, non-dairy creamers.
Then, blissfully caffeinated, we gathered our results.
Looking at the creamer poured in a glass, it has a darker, grayer color compared to the rest and a thinner composition. On its own, Califia pulled ahead as a crowd favorite; having a “not too sweet” vanilla, nutty flavor. In coffee, however, this non-dairy additive lacked the creaminess we hoped for.
- Packaging: Califia’s Better Half packaging is sophisticated. The name, “Better Half” is effective and fits the product. We love everything about it.
- Sugar content: 0g
Nutpods brings a creamy consistency and a nutty, vanilla smoothness to any cup of joe. We wish it had a hint more of vanilla, but this plant-based creamer makes the perfect alternative to the traditional Half & Half.
- Packaging: Cute but feels a little juvenile. Nutpods does a nice job showing the flavor identity in their design with vanilla plant imagery.
- Sugar content: 0g
So Delicious creamer has the most appetizing color and a prominent coconut/vanilla taste (perhaps, a hint of almond extract as well?). Given, the other creamers were unsweetened, this was a bit of a shock to our system. But, we are still pleased with its smooth, creamy texture. If you’re inclined to sweetness, this is the creamer for you.
- Packaging: This packaging seems flat, corporate and could easily get lost on a shelf in the store. It is the only brand we tested that uses product application in their package design with the cup of coffee.
- Sugar content: 4g/tbsp
Ripple grabs our eye in store with its sleek and colorful design. In taste, we weren’t particularly pleased with the peas (Ripple is made from Ripptein™, a pea protein). Compared to the other non-dairy creamers, its consistency was watery and chalky. However, Ripple may be a good choice for those with dietary restrictions—on top of dairy-free, it’s nut-free, soy-free and gluten-free.
- Packaging: So, we definitely understand that their logo is meant to look like a ripple effect of sorts but are worried that with the font they’ve chosen it could be confused for nipple…. We’re just not sure if that’s a good look for a coffee creamer. Overall, we like its unique approach in shape, bottle use and color. It’s bright, snazzy and would stand out on a refrigerator shelf.
- Sugar content: 1g/tbsp
Which creamer will be stocked in our fridge?
Nutpods! A non-dairy creamer with the perfect level of creaminess.
An INsight: Apparently, kids from small towns take shots of creamer in their local Perkins for “fun”.
Battle of the Bubbly: Which sparkling water is best?
Because all is not fair in love and sparkling water
As an ad agency, we took it upon ourselves to answer the be-all, end-all of questions: Which sparkling water is best? Will La Croix continue in our hearts and taste buds as “sparkling water of record”?
We had to get to the bottom of this.
Four notable brands (La Croix, Waterloo, Bubly & Whole Foods 365) were put to the IN Food Taste Test.
Flavor and fizz, as simple as is. This was followed by a discussion about the product’s packaging. For consistency purposes, we blindly sampled the grapefruit flavor of each brand.
Flavor and fizz: Muted, subtle grapefruit taste. It looks bubblier than it actually is.
Packaging: Distinct, well-built brand that has become the standard of sparkling water. We love the vibrant, fun packaging.
Overheard at IN: “They’ve made an empire—iconic.”
Flavor and fizz: Most unique, prominent flavor that doesn’t exactly taste like grapefruit, but is good. Reminds us of Freeze Pops.
Packaging: Waterloo’s packaging stands out with a retro vibe. It’s evident they’re targeting a specific audience that is looking for organic, natural products. We dig it.
Overheard at IN: “Smells like Subway.”
Flavor and fizz: Strong smell, packed with flavor and followed by a nice aftertaste. Bubble level seems average.
Packaging: Bubly’s simple, clean design gives it a modern twist. The font and colors make it feel youthful.
Overheard at IN: “This is the only one that doesn’t taste like crushed up vitamins.”
Whole Foods 365:
Flavor and fizz: A minimal (but nice) flavor that’s not too bubbly.
Packaging: Fun, generic looking package. We like how they used the grapefruit in their design. Looks cheap…we expected more, Whole Foods.
Overheard at IN: “Is this La Croix?”
If we had to decide, our sparkling water of record is: Bubly!
Get grilling: The wurst and best (cheddar) brats to serve this Fourth of July
With the holiday around the corner and a season of backyard barbeques ahead, we were craving a summer staple in the office: brats. And with a fair amount of our office from Wisconsin, we threw in a classic twist. Cheese.
“My favorite brand test yet.”
—Maggie Alt, Account Manager & Wisconsin native, brings her own sauerkraut to the party.
- Johnsonville Beddar with Cheddar
- Teton Cheddar & Mild Jalepeño
- Schweigert Smokey Cheddar
- New Bohemia Mac and Cheese
- Overall taste
For many of us in the office, Johnsonville is our go-to brat. It’s easy to find at any grocery store and always satisfies the “I need a brat” feeling. Compared to other brands, we noticed this brat seemed sweet and had a softer interior. The cheese was there, but it wasn’t as cheesy as the others and had an air of artificiality.
Our brat expert, Maggie, says, “Contrary to prior belief, I can’t always crush six brats in one sitting.” The resealable packaging Johnsonville uses is key and sets itself apart from other brands. Additionally, showing a cooked brat (grill marks included) gives the packaging taste appeal.
This brat surprised us (in a good way) with hints of jalapeño. It had a nice smoky flavor and the ratio of brat, cheese and spice was on point. Each bite remained interesting.
Teton’s packaging immediately stands out through their use of color and straight-forward design. Using “100% grass-fed beef” as a callout reaches an audience of people who care most about the quality of their meat. With this information larger than Teton’s logo, it can be implied that the company cares more about how their brats are made than about brand recognition.
Schweigert’s brats have a smoky, cheddar flavor. The brats’ wrapped casings give it a straight-from-the-butcher appeal. Overall, this brat has a great flavor and nice saltiness.
Schweigert’s packaging reflects a traditional-style that you’d expect from a mom and pop butcher shop. The nutritional information on the front, though promoting ingredient transparency, makes the design feel cluttered. The imagery provides taste appeal, but it gets lost in a dark background.
Local to Minnesota, we were excited to try this brat. In tasting, we noticed a sweetness and greasiness (the kind you want in a brat). We loved the strong prevalence of cheese, but the softer texture, likely due to the cheese, was a bit of a turn-off.
The authenticity and simplicity of New Bohemia’s packaging draws us in. Like Schweigert, the packaging offers a style that seems like it’s straight from the butcher shop across the street. We suppose in this case, as a local brand, it sort of is.
The winner of ‘Best Brat’ in the IN Food Taste Test was the Teton Cheddar & Mild Jalapeño. Distinguished by a smoky flavor and zing of jalapeño, this brat left a mark on our palates. It’s flavor, firm casing, and seasoning kept each bite engaging and delicious.
Where’s the beef? Which veggie burger are we INto?
With the rise of plant-based diets AND an absurd amount of veggie-burgers stowed away in our freezer, it’s fitting for us food-honchos to sample a few veggie-based burgers and let you know which is on our menu this season.
Four types of veggie burgers are going head-to-head (or, should we say, stem-to-stem), critiqued on texture, flavor, and bonus points for packaging with extra pizzazz.
*All veggie burgers were cooked in the oven as a standard.
- Dr. Praeger’s Super Greens
- Dr. Praeger’s California blend
- Trader Joe’s Quinoa Cowboy
Although, branded as “The World’s Best Veggie Burger,” Hilary’s was one of our least favorites. The anemic appearance and bland taste left us unimpressed and uninspired. However, considering it is essentially free of everything (gluten, corn, dairy, egg, soy, and nut) there’s likely a niche consumer out there who loves it. With adequate sauce and toppings, Hilary’s burger can see lots of improvement.
We loved Hilary’s playful packaging and immediately felt drawn to it through its vibrant color and fun use of doodles – though, if you stare at the sun too long…it gets a little creepy. We also noted that the product loses appetite appeal in contrast to the fun, trendy packaging.
When Dr. Praeger’s says super greens, they mean it. Like the name suggests, this burger was rich with spinach, kale, swiss chard and more, which was honestly a little too green for our tastes. The green assortment and seasoning profile provided a fresh flavor, but it fell apart easily.
After two so-so burgers prior and flagging morale, our hungry team needed to regain hope for the veggie burger. The California blend pleasantly surprised taste buds with its flavor, crunchy texture, and maintaining its patty shape.
Dr. Praeger’s packaging makes you want to eat a veggie burger. They leverage appetite appeal expertly, showcasing the burger prepared and in the hands of a consumer. Their design offers a pleasing visual balance between the product and information. If we were to change one thing, however, it would be the brand name itself…”Dr. Praeger’s” doesn’t leave us craving veg-burgers.
Trader Joe’s Quinoa Cowboy
Roped in by the southwest flavor, this quinoa blended veggie burger instantly became a team favorite. A crispy breadcrumb outside brought out the flavors of black beans, corn, and red peppers, while keeping shape.
After the brands were revealed, we immediately knew this was a Trader Joe’s brand because of their recognizable, visual-rich, and consistent packaging. But, we briefly second-guessed ourselves, as the Trader Joe’s logo gets lost in the imagery.
Ultimately, we have faith that there ARE really good, delicious, drool-worthy veggie burgers out there, but we’re just not sure that we found them today. The standout favorite among our team was Trader Joe’s Quinoa Cowboy Burger, followed by Dr. Paeger’s California Blend. From there, many of us decided to hold on to our carnivorous identities a little tighter.
You had us at pizza. Which brand is a freezer must-have?
At IN Food, all we’ve been thinking about is pizza (hey, Pizza Expo). Can’t say anything would be different if we weren’t going, we love this staple favorite. So, inspired by our love of cheesy, saucy goodness, we decided to compare a few frozen pizza brands to determine which is the absolute freezer must-have.
We purchased 4 brands of frozen pizzas (all cheese only) and tested them based on overall taste, cheesiness, and sauce. After revealing the brands, we reviewed the packaging.
The contenders (price: low to high)
Overall Taste: 2.2/5
- Overall, we enjoyed the sauce, the crispy crust, and an even melt of cheese. However, compared to the other pizzas it left us feeling uninspired. When it comes to improvements, we wouldn’t say no to more cheese!
- We found it interesting that Jack’s was the only brand that used photography of an enticing cheese pull on their packaging. They effectively matched packaging with their target audience (younger male, college students).
Overall taste: 3.5/5
- This local pizza offers a nice, cheesy flavor that’s rich and satisfying. It has a favorable amount of cheese and tangy sauce with notes of fresh tomato.
- We like the smaller label that shows off the cheese and pizza goodness. A less-sophisticated design provides that ‘local brand’ appeal.
Overall taste: 3.5/5
- Authentic ingredient flavor profile, topped with two cheeses and seasoning. The sauce leaves something to be desired – we wish there was more!
- The busy design distracts from the pizza itself. The illustrated ingredients give an artisanal feel, but overall it doesn’t have us craving pizza. Compared to other brands, it has us wishing we could see some of the pizza.
BREW PUB- LOTZZA MOTZZA (local)
Overall taste: 4/5
- When they say Lotzza Motzza, they mean it. We LOVED the abundance of cheese on this pizza. Brew Pub perfected the cheese pull with great coverage and texture. Accompanied by a full-bodied and flavorful sauce, this pizza left us wanting another slice (or two!).
- Again, we love the smaller label that shows off the cheese. Especially when this pizza has so much! The circular label works well with the shape of the pizza. We thought Brew Pub did the best job showcasing their pizza and brand with their packaging.
Lotzza Motzza is the winner on all fronts. Though its regular price is most expensive, our taste test confirms that, in this case at least, you get what you pay for!