Independence Day is coming, kids, practically the halfway point of summer vacation before school starts up again. Bummer. But don't start mourning just yet, what with all the fireworks and parades and cookouts millions of Americans will take in to celebrate America's big 2-3-4.
One of Store Brand Scorecard's favorite ways to celebrate the Fourth is with a big sticky slice of cherry pie; with the red cherries and white crust, it's just one color shy of the American flag. Maybe you can use blue plastic forks to complete the theme?
Now when it comes to holiday eats, you absolutely want the best, and so sometimes, that means shelling out a little extra cash to buy from a bakery instead of a grocery store. Restaurant chain Bakers Square has a reputation for making crowd-pleasing pies, and so they're often a star attraction at the kind of family and friend functions Store Brand Scorecard frequents. But they are costly – and compared with three cheaper store brands, maybe not all that worth it. We tried out four different cherry pies, including three store brands, to find out.
All items were purchased on June 17 in the Chicago-area. Prices are subject to change.
Brand Name: Bakers Square (a restaurant chain with locations in the Midwest specializing in pies. Sister chain Village Inn, with locations in the Rocky Mountain region, the Midwest, Arizona and Florida, also serves pies baked by the same facility that creates Bakers Square's pies. Both chains are owned and operated by American Blue Ribbon Holdings).
Size: 39 oz.
Nutritional Facts: (for 1/6th of pie) 490 calories (230 from fat), 26 grams of total fat (40% recommended daily value), 410 milligrams of sodium (17% recommended daily value), No cholesterol, 63 grams of total carbohydrate (21% recommended daily value)
Taste: When you think of Mom's pie, this is exactly what comes to mind. Sweet, juicy cherries and cherry filling with just a hint of tartness is stuffed inside a buttery, golden brown crust that's sprinkled with sugar for good measure.
The Big Box Store: Super Target
Brand Name: Market Pantry
Size: 25 oz.
Nutritional Facts: (for 1/6th of pie) 410 calories (190 from fat), 21 grams of total fat (32% recommended daily value), 320 milligrams of sodium (13% recommended daily value), No cholesterol, 50 grams of total carbohydrates (17% recommended daily value)
Taste: The filling's flavor a bit diluted, almost like it's watered down, and the crust crumbles in the taste category. It's hard to think a cherry pie could ever taste bad, but this one is as ho-hum and disappointing as I could imagine.
The Grocery Store: Jewel-Osco (owned and operated by Supervalu, #47 on the Fortune 500 list. Other grocery store chains owned by Supervalu include Albertsons and Shop 'N Save).
Brand Name: Jewel
Size: 24 oz.
Nutritional Facts: (for 1/6th of pie) 340 calories (170 from fat), 19 grams of total fat (30% recommended daily value), 210 milligrams of sodium (44% recommended daily value), No cholesterol, 42 grams of total carbohydrates (14% recommended daily value)
Taste: Just about as good as Bakers Square. The cherry filling delicately walks the line between sweet and tart and the crust is flaky fantastic.
The Mini Market: Trader Joe's
Brand Name: Trader Joe's
Size: 20 oz.
Nutritional Facts: (for 1/6th of pie) 270 calories (110 from fat), 12 grams of total fat (18% recommended daily value), 135 milligrams of sodium (6% recommended daily value), 20 milligrams of cholesterol (7% recommended daily value), 39 grams of total carbohydrates (13% recommended daily value)
Taste: This pie is more reminiscent of a restaurant than Mom's, thanks to a few exotic, but not too out-there, modifications, including a superb cobbler-style cinnamon and sugar crumble crust topping and terrific, tart cherries that constitute the filling (as opposed to that dominating cherry goop you find in most cherry pies). This one is the best of the bunch.
Greatest Value: Target's pie is downright cheap, not just when it comes to price, but also when it comes to taste. You won't gag or anything, but what's the point of paying for a ho-hum cherry pie just because it's $4? On a scale of 0 to 10, Market Pantry's cherry pie gets a value score of 5.
Bakers Square has built up a strong reputation for its pies, and its take on cherry is delicious. It's also far too expensive. Value score: 6.
Jewel's cherry pie tastes just about as good as Bakers Square, but at half the price, it's an even more delicious offering overall. Value score: 8.
Trader Joe's is the least conventional, a slight twist from standards, but it's the best tasting as well. It may be the most expensive of the store brands (and the smallest), but it's still significantly cheaper than Bakers Square, and well worth the extra $1.20 compared to Jewel. Plus bonus points for being the pie with the least amount of fat, sodium and carbohydrates. That makes Trader Joe's cherry pie the winner of this challenge, earning a value score of 9.
Piet Levy's Store Brand Scorecard tests a major label food product and three private label equivalents to see which brand offers the best value for the price. It appears every Monday on WalletPop's Money College page. Send suggestions, including items you want Piet to try, to moneycollege@walletpop.
Best cherry pie? We compare Bakers Square to store brands