warning Hi, we've moved to USCANNENBERGMEDIA.COM. Visit us there!

Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

Which Fall Foods To Buy And Which To Skip

Sara Newman |
October 1, 2014 | 3:24 p.m. PDT

Deputy Editor

Every fall, the food industry rakes in millions of dollars with promises of warm and toasty seasonal treats. In 2013 alone, Americans spent $308 million on pumpkin-flavored products, according to Nielsen

The market is so profitable, in fact, that Starbucks didn’t even wait until fall; instead they began cashing in on the ubiquitous Pumpkin Spice Latte craze as early as August. Even McDonalds has been selling their version of the PSL—a term adopted by the most intense of Pumpkin Spice Latte fans—for a month already.

But as long as the pumpkin spice craze remains profitable (with lesser but still notable profits to be gained from its little sister, the apple cinnamon craze), food marketing experts from all walks of the industry will find a way to get in on it. 

SEE ALSO: Fun Fall Recipes

But, as well-received as the pumpkin spice latte may be, many of the pumpkin spice spin offs should have never made it beyond factory doors.  To save your taste buds and your wallets, brave Neon Tommy staffers tasted the most questionable fall products currently gracing your grocery store shelves. 

Staffers tasted nine different products, ranking each product on a 10-point scale ranging from “worth special ordering on Amazon” to “nausea-inducing.” As News Editor, Diana Crandall warns, “eating multiple elements evokes illness.” 

And now for the questionable products: 

Pumpkin Spice Milanos: What should have been a scare-free treat warranted a less-than-favorable response from tasters. “It felt like I was eating Bath&Body Works,” said Music Editor, Jillian Morabito. Even the trademark Milano crumble was wrecked by the artificial pumpkin flavor. “Is this made of pumpkin-flavored cardboard?” asked News Editor, Rebecca Gibian. 

Score: 3.9

Caramel Apple Pie Cookies: Where Pepperidge Farms failed with the Milanos, they largely succeeded with their soft-baked cookies. News Reporter Matthew Tinoco was disappointed by the taste, noting, “it’s just tastes like more processed food,” these cookies came out on top of the food rankings. Of all the products, this was the only one that was popular enough for people to go back for seconds. 

Score: 6.8

Maple Bacon Frosting: While the alarmingly vegetarian frosting was met with the most resistance—“Is there a zero?” asked Morabito—Neon Tommy staffers found the bright orange goop to be less revolting than expected. “The icing was great I could have eaten it with a spoon but the bacon was the worst thing I’ve put in my mouth in a while,” said Gibian. When it comes down to it, though, any foodie can take the 15 minutes to cream some butter and sugar with a drizzle of maple syrup—but for your gastronomical well being, hold the fake bacon sprinkles. 

Score: 3.6

Pumpkin Pie Yogurt: While the Oikos yogurt appears normal and—dare we say it—healthy, the reviews remained far from favorable. “It’s too sugary and sweet,” said Supervising Producer, Shilpa Nagesh as she dumped her yogurt into the trashcan. “I question whether it actually has any Greek yogurt.” While some staffers claim that it gets better with time, it seems like going-all out and curling up with a bowl of pumpkin ice cream may be a better idea. 

Score: 4.0

Pumpkin Pie Pop Tarts: “ It’s too dry,” said Sports Editor, Jeremy Bergman. “The artificial pumpkin isn’t cutting it.” This may be fine for a breakfast on the go, but Neon Tommy staffers verify that it’s neither nutritious nor delicious.

Score: 6.0

Caramel Apple Crunch n’ Chew Jolly Ranchers: Yes, it’s just Halloween candy, but the neon green and peach-colored candies are still more frightening than most treats on the market. The packaging brags of being hard and chewy at once, but according to Morabito, the artificial taste and puzzling texture are nothing more than “decent.”

Score: 5.5

Apple Crisp Gum: As with many sugar-free dessert-inspired gums, the gum simply doesn’t match up. “I feel like I’m at Wonka’s factory, and someone made a cataclystic mistake whilst attempting to transform a delicious dessert into a piece of gum,” said Crandall. “This is like drinking beer through a straw—the original pleasure of consumption is ruined and exploited.” But does it come as any surprise that a small, dry  rectangle is less rewarding than a gooey plate of apples?

Score: 5.0

Pumpkin Spice Almonds: While this may be one of the few savory fall items on the market—and quite possibly the perfect Oktoberfest pairing—it too leaves something wanting. “It’s spicy, but not distinctly pumpkin-tasting,” said Bergman. 

Score: 6.3

Pumpkin Donuts: As baking blogs continue to cash in on the fall food craze in a less direct way, a whole slew of mouth-watering pumpkin donut recipes are popping up on Pinterest, but these Entenmann’s boxed donuts not seem to measure up. “It was so dry I couldn’t finish it,” said News Reporter Heidi Carreon. “It desperately needs milk.” While this may be one of the best conceived products, there’s no way around the fact that donuts packed full of preservatives can’t quite measure up to their fresher counterparts. 

Score: 5.7

Bottom Line: The Caramel Apple Pie Cookies, Pumpkin Pie Pop Tarts and Pumpkin Spice Almonds might be worth a try, but ultimately no matter how good the ad-campaigns may be, none of these items measure up. Try the bacon sprinkles and frosting if you dare, but otherwise consider your tastebuds spared. 

Contact Deputy Editor Sara Newman here and follow her on Twitter here



Craig Gillespie directed this true story about "the most daring rescue mission in the history of the U.S. Coast Guard.”

Watch USC Annenberg Media's live State of the Union recap and analysis here.