What makes a smart cookie? Is it someone who does well on finals? Sure. A delicious, freshly baked and satisfying treat? That, too. How about someone who saves money buying better tasting store brand cookies? Most definitely. Store brands often are less expensive than name brands, but they aren't always worth their lower prices.
So Store Brand Scorecard sampled four brands of chewy chocolate chip cookies, including three store brand varieties from a big box store, grocery store and convenience store respectively, to see which cookie brand deserved to be our top choice, and which ones were just cookie cutter. All brands were purchased Aug. 12 in the Chicago area. Prices are subject to change.
Brand Name: Chips Ahoy! (Kraft Foods)
Cost: Typically $1.99 at Super Target (sales price: $1.89); $4.49 at a Chicago-area grocery store; $4.59 at CVS/pharmacy
Size: 14 oz.
Nutritional Facts: (for two cookies) 120 calories (50 from fat), 5 grams of fat (8% recommended daily value), 85 milligrams of sodium (4% recommended daily value), 18 grams of total carbohydrate (6% recommended daily value)
Taste: For being a brand called Chips Ahoy!, the number of chocolate chips is surprisingly sparse, and the cookies overall are bland. They taste factory processed -- which they are -- but I'd expect more from the self-proclaimed "#1 chocolate chip cookie brand in America."
The Big Box Store: Super Target
Brand Name: Market Pantry
Cost: Typically $2.38 (sales price: $1.50)
Size: 15 oz.
Nutritional Facts: (for two cookies) 130 calories (50 from fat), 6 grams of fat (9% recommended daily value), 55 milligrams of sodium (2% recommended daily value), 18 grams of total carbohydrate (6% recommended daily value)
Taste: This brand doesn't taste home baked by any means, but it definitely warrants a closer comparison than Chips Ahoy! to Mom's cookies. And there are more chocolate chips, or at least richer chocolate chips, found here than in Chips Ahoy!, based on the cookies I sampled.
The Grocery Store: Jewel-Osco (owned and operated by Supervalu. The company, number 47 on the Fortune 500 list, also owns and operates such grocery retailers as Shop 'n Save and Albertsons.)
Brand Name: Jewel
Size: 15 oz.
Nutritional Facts: (for two cookies) 120 calories (50 from fat), 6 grams of fat (9% recommended daily value), 110 milligrams of sodium (5% recommended daily value), 18 grams of total carbohydrate (6% recommended daily value)
Taste: Somewhere between Target and Chips Ahoy, this brand is good, though still lacking enough chips to make it anywhere near great.
The Convenience Store: CVS/pharmacy
Brand Name: CVS Gold Emblem
Size: 15 oz.
Nutritional Facts: (for two cookies) 130 calories (60 from fat), 6 grams of fat (10% recommended daily value), 85 milligrams of sodium (3% recommended daily value), 17 grams of total carbohydrate (6% recommended daily value)
Taste: Overall, this may be one of the best cookies, just a couple of pegs below Target, thanks to its chewy texture, (quasi) fresh baked taste and lip-licking chocolate chips.
Greatest Value: The store brands are all relatively comparable in the taste department, while the name brand is dead last in taste. It's also the most expensive, not considering the reasonable price at Target. On a value scale of 0 to 10, Chips Ahoy!'s chewy variety gets a 3.
Jewel is the third best-tasting brand (though definitely far better than Chips Ahoy!), and it's also the second-most expensive overall. Value score: 5.
CVS Gold Emblem deserves earns the silver for its fair price and better than fair taste. Value score: 6.
But the cookie that takes the cake here is Super Target's, being the best tasting for the lowest price (not including the far inferior Chips Ahoy!, priced lower at Target). This is one instance where it's worth paying more for the store brand than the name brand sitting next to it on the shelf. Target's Market Pantry wins this challenge with a value score of 7.
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 chewy chocolate chip cookies? We rank the house brands