TASTE

Revealing The Name Brands Behind Trader Joe's Food, Round 2 (TASTE TEST)

03/05/2013 12:03 pm ET | Updated Jan 23, 2014
Damon Dahlen/The Huffington Post

In our inaugural Trader Joe's taste test, we wanted to find out which big brands produce some of Trader Joe's most popular items. We judged strictly on taste, because we wanted to know if Trader Joe's products are flavor-comparable to their rumored big-brand manufacturers. (And guess what? They are.)

But of course, our curious readers took things a step further, wanting to know whether the big brands are non-GMO. Trader Joe's claims all of its products are non-GMO, so technically, the brands they're in cahoots with should be, as well.

And thus, Round 2 of our Trader Joe's taste test ensued. We took a two-pronged approach this time, staying true to our taste-centric roots while also checking in on the GMO issue. For every Trader Joe's product we tasted, we did a blind tasting of a big-brand product that has been rumored to be Trader Joe's supplier. We compared tasting notes, and then afterward we checked the boxes to compare ingredients and check non-GMO status (which isn't always easy, since GMO labeling practices aren't regulated).

How many matches did we find in Round 2? Three out of the nine products we tasted seem to be surefire hits. Check out the slideshow below for the taste test results.

As always, this taste test is in no way influenced or sponsored by the brands involved.

  • Trader Joe's Reduced Guilt Woven Wheats Wafers vs. Reduced Fat Triscuits
    Damon Dahlen/The Huffington Post
  • Price: Trader Joe's $2.49, Triscuits $4.79

    Comments: "I honestly cannot tell a discernible difference." "They taste very similar to me." "No difference." "[Trader Joe's] might be a little denser." "[Triscuits] seem slightly flakier."

    Ingredients: Different

    Verdict: Not a match, but they taste incredibly similar (and Triscuits aren't labeled as non-GMO anyway)
  • Trader Joe's Apples & Cinnamon Instant Oatmeal vs. McCann's Instant Irish Oatmeal, Apples & Cinnamon
    Damon Dahlen/The Huffington Post
  • Price: Trader Joe's $2.49, McCann's $5.49

    Comments: "These are both great, I can't tell the difference." "I got a different amount of apple pieces, but that would vary from spoonful to spoonful." "I'm pretty sure these are exactly the same."

    Ingredients: Same

    Verdict: We're as sure as we can be that it's a match!
  • Trader Joe's Mac 'n Cheese vs. Amy's Macaroni and Cheese
    Damon Dahlen/The Huffington Post
  • Prices: Trader Joe's $2.99, Amy's $3.49

    Comments: "[Trader Joe's] is CRAZY GOOD. It's so creamy and tastes like real, non-frozen mac and cheese." "[Trader Joe's] was amazing, better than my restaurant mac and cheeses. [Amy's] was a little mealy." "[Trader Joe's] is the best frozen mac and cheese I've ever had." "[Amy's] tastes so artificial."

    Ingredients: Completely different

    Verdict: Not even close to a match.
  • Trader Joe's Organic Lentil Vegetable Soup vs. Amy's Organic Lentil Vegetable Soup
    Damon Dahlen/The Huffington Post
  • Price: Trader Joe's $1.99, Amy's $3.49

    Comments: "These have the same weird green bean/celery flavor." "Identical. These taste exactly the same." "Weird -- but identical!"

    Ingredients: Same

    Verdict: It's a match
  • Trader Joe's Reduced Fat Wheat Crisps vs. Reduced Fat Wheat Thins
    Damon Dahlen/The Huffington Post
  • Price: Trader Joe's $2.29, Wheat Thins $4.79

    Comments: "They look different but taste almost exactly the same." "[Trader Joe's] might be slightly sweeter." "[Wheat Thins] have more salt, so taste way better." "[Trader Joe's] are sweeter, [Wheat Thins] are saltier."

    Ingredients: Different

    Verdict: Not a match (and Wheat Thins aren't labeled as non-GMO anyway)
  • Trader Joe's Butternut Squash Soup vs. Imagine Butternut Squash Soup
    Damon Dahlen/The Huffington Post
  • Price: Trader Joe's $2.79, Imagine $4.99

    Comments: "[Imagine] tastes like it's actually made of squash, and [Trader Joe's] is horrible." "[Imagine] has a much fuller, sweeter, spicier flavor than [Trader Joe's]." "Definitely not the same. The taste of [Trader Joe's] makes me cringe." "Definitely different. [Imagine] tastes like squash and [Trader Joe's] tastes like wallpaper paste."

    Ingredients: Completely different

    Verdict: Not a match. Not at all.
  • Trader Joe's 21 Seasoning Salute vs. Mrs. Dash
    Damon Dahlen/The Huffington Post
  • Price: Trader Joe's $1.99, Mrs. Dash $4.19

    Comments: "These taste the same." "Depending on the blend you get with each bite, they sometimes taste the same and sometimes are completely different." "These have got to be the same thing."

    Ingredients: Same

    Verdict: It's a match!
  • Trader Joe's Garden Vegetable Lasagne vs. Amy's Vegetable Lasagna
    Damon Dahlen/The Huffington Post
  • Price: Trader Joe's $2.69, Amy's $5.39

    Comments: "[Trader Joe's] has a brighter green filling and tastes more verdant, but they taste similar in every other way." "Both were ok, but [Trader Joe's] had a more vegetal taste." "They taste almost identical but are clearly not the same because of the filling." "The filling is substantially greener and better in [Trader Joe's]."

    Ingredients: Different

    Verdict: Not a match
  • Trader Joe's Mini Peanut Butter Sandwich Crackers vs. Late July Organic Mini Peanut Butter
    Damon Dahlen/The Huffington Post
  • Price: Trader Joe's $2.69, Late July $3.99

    Comments: "[Late July] tastes a little more buttery." "[Late July] had more of a 'real' peanut butter flavor." "Both are delicious, and they taste the same to me." "[Late July] looks and tastes more buttery." "These are twins!"

    Ingredients: Very slightly different

    Verdict: Not a match

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