Thursday, April 29, 2010

PRODUCT REVIEW: Planters Black Label

Planters is making a big push to expand their brand. Their first big effort was launched about eighteen months ago with the NUTrition line of mixed jars and food bars. I recommended both of those as quite tasty, especially the delicious mixes. I was also happy to see a real focus on quality in these new products, more so with the mixes. The bars are good, but they're a bit high in weird ingredients and a bit low in actual nuts.

Planters newest family member are Black Label. Ooooooh. Black Label. Sounds exclusive. Well, as exclusive as anything sold at Wal-Mart can get. This is certainly no Johnny Black.

I think it shows that Planters is really trying to expand their brand with the noticeably omission of peanuts from any of these mixes. Up until the NUTrition mixes, I don't think Planters even made a mix without peanuts in them. Hell, they were apparently so infamous for making their mixes primarily peanuts that they started listing maximum percentages for peanuts on their mix jars.

But here, zip. Zilch. Nada. No peanuts to be seen. The two most used seem to be almonds and cashews, with macadamias and pistachios making a couple of cameos. While the limited selection of nuts might be disappointing, the variety of flavors and dips will not be. Chocolate, chipotle, Santa Fe, sea salt and cracked pepper. These are not your ordinary nuts. This sort of flavor experimentation is usually restricted to small, niche-label food brands sold either online or from specialty resellers. But no. Here's Planters throwing the universe upside down.

Also surprising is the price. A large jar of Santa Fe will set you back $10 minimum, and small jars of the dark and milk chocolate mixes sell for nearly $6 at Wal-Mart. But that price certainly goes somewhere. The seasonings on the Chipotle are spicy and don't taste artificial like on most chip seasonings. The chocolate-covered nuts use a surprisingly high-quality chocolate, especially the dark.

And as I mentioned with the NUTrition mixes, these are NOT low-calorie foods. They are decidedly high-calorie. So don't think that almonds and dark chocolate, the super friends of super foods, make this overly healthy. If you add them to an otherwise healthy diet, you're good, but if you just munch on these bad boys, your weight will grow faster than you can say "Oprah."

The label has yet to expand nationwide, and currently you can only get the chocolate ones at Wal-Mart locations. Mentions of the Black Label start popping up online about a year ago, so I'm assuming that Planters has been rolling the product line out since then. It hasn't gotten an official mention on the Planters page, either.

I'm a bit torn as to how to recommend this. They're all good, but local shops dipping their own chocolates and adding higher-quality (but perishable) seasonings will be better. So I'll recommend this with a caveat: if you can get these same products locally, they'll be better. But as it stands, these are some of the tastiest snacks nationally available.

Planters Black Label: HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

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