My local Trader Joe's always sells out of these, so I figured these had to be review-worthy and I started stalking the aisles for their return.
It took me two years to finally get a box! Admittedly, if I had put more time, effort and money into my search I could have gotten these a lot sooner, but I already had a giant pile of pumpkin products for 2013 and 2014! Driving into the next state to search for pumpkin flavored organic hipster-Pop-Tarts to add to my 30+ other seasonal reviews just seemed excessive. I could wait.
A few weeks ago I was wandering around Trader Joe's buying all that candy for our Candyology101 podcast, and I finally got my hands on a box!
The box's layout isn't bad at all, but it still gives me that same incomplete feeling that a lot of Trader Joe's products have. It's almost like this was made by a 2nd year design student. It has good concepts, but a poorly polished execution. The gungy typeface and the color choices suit Trader Joe's hipster-y vibe, but what's with this photo? Why are the pastries so magenta-heavy? It makes the product look so unappealing! Something like that is very easily corrected in Photoshop! There's no excuse for leaving that image so incorrectly colored and unbalanced!
Writing this blog isn't my full time job, I'm actually a graphic designer and printing consultant (hence all the packaging critiques) so I know firsthand how easy this is to fix and how that simple change will make this packaging look so much better.
BOOM! Look at that! You know how easy that was? We're talking seconds, not even a full minute of design time in Photoshop! The pink-tinged box on the right is the real design, and the box on the left is exactly the same, except I fixed the bizarre pink cast in the photo. Look how much better that looks! Come on Trader Joe's either step up your design-game, or hire me to fix your coloring, because someone over there doesn't know what they're doing and that little tweak I just did makes all the difference.
Okay, I had my angry graphic designer moment, time to move on to the food!
Inside the box are three plastic foiled packages, each with two toaster pastries inside, which adds up to 6 total. Normally Pop Tarts and other similar products are sold in boxes of 8, so I felt like this was kind of skimpy, but these are organic and likely made with more expensive ingredients so it makes sense that you get a little less product. (Similar to the Pop Tarts Gone Nutty brand which are also sold in a pack of 6.)
Once opened, the pastries have that toaster pastry pie-crust-smell, but this time there's a hint of pumpkin pie filling. They smell good, but it doesn't seem all that different from the Pop Tart's version. Okay, time to eat! Let's find out if these pastries were worth the two year wait!
I tried it untoasted at first and it was dry and pretty "meh." It was good, but not good enough to make itself stand out from the Pop Tart version. I can taste that dry crumbly outer shell, which is the same as any other toaster pastry out there, and the filling is a sweet brown-sugary-y mixture with a hint of pumpkin pie filling. It's a little gritty, dry, and generally disappointing. It wasn't bad by any means, but I kept thinking...I waited two years for this? Then I tried it toasted and everything changed.
The crust is the same dry pastry shell as it's always been, it's just warmed up, but no one eats these pastries for the outside crust. (As a kid I would eat bread crusts, but not Pop Tart crusts.) Even though the pastry shell remains unchanged by the toasting process, the icing and filling change completely. That uneven sugary coating turns into a beautiful caramelized shell and that brown sugar mixture inside becomes more liquid-y, like actual pumpkin pie-filling. The burnt sugar notes really bring out the pumpkin flavoring.
Normally I'm a raw (or even frozen) Pop Tart fan, and I rarely toast them, but this one really needs the added oomph from the toaster to make it worthwhile. Toasted, I can easily say this is superior to the Pop Tart's version, and I can see why they fly off the shelves as quickly as they do, but if you're eating this "raw" out of the package, you're really missing out.
On a Pumpkin Scale of 1-5 (5 being the most pumpkin-y) I’d give this a 4, but only if you toast it. The pastry shell is really dry, but the burnt sugar icing and spiced filling compliment one another very nicely. It's a good to-go breakfast with a bit of fall flair. Stock up while you can, these don't last long.