“Cheese-tastic” is a passable name for this Cheez Whiz knockoff at Loblaws, but the French version is amazing. “Fromidable!” indeed.
Supermarket finds: White condiment
What on earth are they putting into this stuff that they can’t even call it vinegar?
I thought this was a one-off thing, but they have a whole line up of condiment:
If I’d had to guess, I would have said that “white condiment” would be some mayonnaise-like substance, not white wine vinegar(-ish). But then I’m not in marketing, so there.
Supermarket Finds: Chocolate Soda
I saw a row of President’s Choice Decadent Chocolate Flavoured Soda bottles on a shelf at Loblaws around Christmas and had to pick one up to Risa’s vocal disapproval. It’s for science, I told her. Think of the kids whose lives would be immeasurably improved if I, instead of they, drank this limited-availability monstrosity. Well, it finally made it into my testing lab and it’s not quite what I expected. Oh, in at least one way it’s exactly what I hoped it would be: a vaguely disgusting carbonated concoction that would slip past my lips once and never again tempt me to slip a fiver to the store clerk who would quietly slide my shame into a plain paper bag so that I could secretly imbibe on my way home, the sugar rush dulling the self-flaggelation over my lack of willpower. It’ll never happen again, I’d tell myself. Until the next time.
Instead, this is disgusting in a way that I didn’t expect. I had expected it to taste like a bad imitation of a chocolate chip cookie dipped in Coke, a guilty pleasure I enjoyed far too often during my youth. And since I love (but now rarely touch) both Coke and chocolate chip cookies, I was quite looking forward to the can of whoop-ass I was about to open on my senses.
Upon unscrewing the lid, I was almost overcome by the twin smells of caramel and chocolate, as if I’d dropped a bag of chocolate chips into a warm mug of Kraft Caramels. The taste was much closer to drinking a sickly sweet box of Pot of Gold chocolates than any cookie I’ve ever had. The after-taste was a medley of mint and disappointment, not at all dissimilar from a late-night hunt through the pantry looking for sweets and finding only a stash of After Eights.
It’s definitely flavourful, but not in a very good way. They would have been better served by selling Coke in a wide-mouth bottle with a couple of chocolate chip cookies for dipping strapped to the side. The hunt for a carbonated mashup that’s actually good continues.
Supermarket Finds: Individually wrapped cantaloupes
No longer content with wrapping each little mandarin in its own plastic packaging, the East Dodgeville Loblaws had a rack of individually wrapped cantaloupes on display this weekend. The good news is that many more products are ready for this kind of innovative packaging. I can’t wait to see what they come up with next week.
Don’t be distracted by the “50% off for quick sale” stickers; these melons are lovingly pre-ripened for your convenience.
Supermarket Finds: Individually wrapped mandarins
So the East Dodgeville Loblaws is now carrying individually wrapped mandarins. I’m not sure why these little oranges need to be wrapped in plastic when all of the other ones seem to survive just fine in nothing but the all-natural, easy-open, biodegradeable, and universally identifiable wrapping that’s built-in at the factory, but there you go. Another product innovation from the people who brought you individually tagged mushrooms.
More from Loblaws
Shortly after posting Tuesday’s mini-rant about Loblaws PC Organics yogourt, I received a second reply from Loblaws customer service:
Dear Mr. Dodge,
Thank you for taking the time to pass on your comments regarding our PC Organics Strawberry Fruit Bottom Yogurt. We apologize for the delay in our response as we’re experiencing higher than normal volume of emails.
I was disappointed to hear that this product did not meet your expectations. Our product development team re-evaluates products on an ongoing basis and customer feedback such as yours is very valuable to them during that process. Accordingly, I have communicated your comments to them for consideration during their next review of this product.
Mr. Dodge, we appreciate hearing from you. Please continue to let us know how we’re doing, as your feedback is one of the best ways for us to improve.
There’s still not much to go on here, but at least now I know that my complaint didn’t fall into a generic “website feedback” black hole never to be seen again. I know I left my complaint during the holidays, but two weeks for a response is pretty sad. It’s the Internet equivalent of keeping me on hold for two hours while telling me over and over again how important my call is.
I’m also struck by the timing of the reply: after waiting for two weeks for a proper acknowledgement of my feedback, this more appropriate response arrived barely two hours after I posted yesterday’s article. While that could be coincidence, it seems just a touch too convenient.
More fake milk and bad customer service
Just before Christmas and not even a week after writing about fake milk products, I bought a tub of my regular yogourt, President’s Choice Organic strawberry fruit-bottom yogourt, to be met with a nasty surprise when I opened it up at home a few days later: a new recipe and a substantial downgrade in quality. The taste and texture were all wrong and it left a chemical aftertaste that lingered until I brushed my teeth to get rid of it. I didn’t have to look far to see the culprit: “organic milk ingredients” at the top of the new ingredient list versus the “ultrafiltered partly skimmed organic milk” that headed up the old formula. Foiled again!
Thoroughly disgusted with both the new product and the fact that I hadn’t thought to verify the ingredients on the new container before I bought it, I submitted this feedback on the President’s Choice website on December 28:
I’ve been enjoying PC Organics Strawberry Fruit Bottom Yogourt for a number of years but have been disappointed with the new formulation that has recently replaced the older flavour. To be charitable, it tastes awful. It also leaves an equally unpleasant aftertaste, has a lumpy texture reminiscent of cottage cheese, and features a fruit bottom that neither looks nor tastes real. In short, it’s a considerable step down from the PC Organics yogourt that I was buying just three months ago.
I was not surprised when I checked the ingredient list on the new tub and saw that the first ingredient is now “organic milk ingredients” rather than the “ultrafiltered partly skimmed organic milk” that headed up the much better previous version of this product. If you think that consumers don’t notice the difference, you’re sadly mistaken. You are also sadly mistaken if you believe that the change in serving size will mask the increase in carbs and decrease in fibre in the new formula.
I’m disappointed that President’s Choice is sourcing cheaper ingredients and not directly informing consumers that the formula has changed in this way. I will not be buying PC yogourt again, and will be examining more closely the labels of any other PC products that I buy in the future.
I checked the “response required” box and sent it off. I got this response early in the new year, posted in its entirety (minus the French translation):
Thank you for visiting our website.
Our Customer Service hours are Monday to Friday 8:30 am to 5:30pm EST.
Please note that Customer Service will be closed on Monday December 26th.
This email message is confidential, may be legally privileged and is intended for the exclusive use of the addressee. If you received this message in error or are not the intended recipient, you should destroy the email message and any attachments or copies, and you are prohibited from retaining, distributing, disclosing or using any information contained. Please inform us of the delivery error by return email. Thank you for your cooperation.
So a customer who spent more than half of his total food expenses in 2011 at Loblaws expresses his dissatisfaction and all he gets in return is “thank you for visiting our website” and “we will be closed for one day, a week and a half ago”? Well, I still have another tub of this crap sitting in the fridge; maybe I’ll return it to the store this week. I’m certainly not going to eat it.
[January 11 update: I got a second response from Loblaws shortly after posting this article.]
Who's minnding the store?
The problem with hand-written signs is that there’s no spell-check to fall back on. This sign in a local Loblaws, which combined two errors in one word, was the very first thing customers would see upon entering the store a couple of weeks ago. Spelling flames aside, it created the impression that the people there just don’t care: whoever wrote the sign couldn’t be bothered to check the spelling of a common word and either no one else noticed or they didn’t say anything. It certainly makes me even warier than usual when it comes to trusting that the food isn’t mouldy or short-dated.
Supermarket Finds: Code 4651
While I recognize that memorizing all of those codes can be difficult for cashiers and it can’t be easy telling whether that bag of apples has a dozen galas or fujis, I think that painstakingly tagging every individual mushroom in the store is going a little overboard. Not only do labels not stick to mushrooms all that well, but I can’t imagine that it’s very efficient to pay some poor stocker to sit over boxes of mushrooms all day long with a label gun. And as with all tagged produce, the worst part is standing in the kitchen removing all of the labels. Good thing those printed codes save me five seconds in line; I can apply that time to the two minutes I have to spend standing over the cutting board de-labelling a bag of shiitakes.
I try to avoid my local Loblaws whenever possible, but occasionally it’s just too convenient to pass up. I never fail to be surprised by something there, and today was no different. At least they don’t shrink-wrap as much of their produce as the local Sobeys does.
Why Loblaws is losing money
— The acting store manager in the Loblaws at Broadview and Danforth on Sunday, when I asked if he could do anything about the lineup that snaked from the one open non-express checkout all the way across the front of the store and up the dairy aisle.
“I keep forgetting not to come here anymore.”
— A frustrated woman making her way to the end of the line.
You and me both, sister. The newly-renovated Sobeys up the street beckons.