14 September, 2010

New Banquet Fruit Pies

Did you know that ConAgra, harnessing their vast Small Pie Technology developed over years of producing edible pot pies, have introduced a new line of fruit pies?  I'd noticed them a few months ago in Dollar Tree (ha!  What does that tell you?) but only recently decided to try them as they've started hitting the regular supermarkets in my area.

So I bought one of each variety - Apple, Cherry-Berry, and Peach - and a couple of nights ago, I cooked them up for Maryanne, Lynnafred, and myself.  They cooked up just fine, with the expected amount of ugliness around the edges.  I'm not going to hold that against Banquet; frozen stuff cracks and breaks with the jostling of transit, and broken pie edges leak a little when they heat up.  Hell, my homemade pies leak a little most of the time.  Trouble is, leaking at the edges is the least of the faults here.

Look back up at the pictures on the box.  Notice how the little pie cuts are simply bursting with fruit.  I know that cover art is not necessarily representative of the actual product, but in this case the cover art has little to do with reality.  None of the pies had more than the smallest amount of actual fruit - a few pieces at most swimming in a vast pool of starch-thickened juice.  And this isn't just a subjective observation; the apple and peach pies both had "lemon juice" listed before the apples or peaches, and the cherry berry pie listed cherry juice and wheat flour listed before the fruit.

We tried the Cherry Berry Pie first.  There were some blueberries and a couple of shriveled cherries floating in the sea of purply-red goop.  The flavor was odd; I thought it had a vaguely chemical aftertaste - Lynn said it tasted the way an electrical fire smelled.  Maryanne simply wrinkled her nose at it and said, "Well that one isn't very good."

The Peach Pie had better flavor - more like a "real" peach pie but still much less like anything I would intentionally buy and serve.  A small number of small square peach cuts wallowed in large amounts of thick sloppy syrup  There was so little actual fruit in it that the pie, divided into three, didn't have enough to go around:  Lynnafred's portion had but a single tiny peach morsel.

The Apple Pie seemed to be Banquet's way of combining the worst aspects of the other two, bringing the resinous aftertaste of the Cherry Berry type together with the near-total lack of fruit in the Peach Pie.  Kind of a shame because there's a fairly decent apple-vanilla thing going on in there that could have been enjoyable if only there was some, you know, apple in it.

Stretching for something positve to say about them, I will mention that they do not contain HFCS.  Bravo, ConAgra, you get a point for that one.

Banquet's Fruit Pies sell for about a buck a piece no matter where they are found, whether it's ShopRite, Save-A-Lot, or Dollar Tree.  This is one of the very few times that I've actually felt ripped off buying something to review for the blog - at half price, you still wouldn't be getting your money's worth.

Bonus:  Dave Rants About Bloggers Who Kiss Ass

If you plug "Banquet Fruit Pie" into a Google search, you will find LOADS of positive reviews of these sparsely-fruited nasties.  Apparently, a "mommy blogger" webportal called "Mom Central" teamed up with Banquet to buy a shitload of positive word-of-mouth.  Banquet provided coupons and Mom Central paid the bloggers with gift cards, and in return it looks like all of the bloggers wrote glowing articles about the pies.  Each of the articles includes - sometimes in tiny print - the following mandated disclaimer:

So.  Because all these bloggers took coupons and a gift card for writing up the pies, none of them had the balls to stand up and say "Thanks for the coupons, Banquet, but these pies suck and that's what I'm going to write."  Don't these people have any pride (or integrity?)

It's situations like this that made me grateful for the FCC rules that require bloggers to disclose when their posts are sponsored.  That simple little rule might not keep douchebags honest, but it will at least help clue you in that a given blog might not be totally unbiased.

And yes, I do accept coupons from manufacturers and samples for review.  I've been upfront about that since the blog opened (before the FCC rules were put into effect.)  But, as it states in my policies, the companies that take advantage of that do so at their own risk, because my blog entries aren't for sale, and stuff that sucks is going to get called out no matter who paid to put it on my table.


Alan said...

Don't pull any punches here, Dave. LOL
I'm glad you're honest, and Banquet should accept the call just as written. They too can benefit from the honesty if they so choose. I can relate to this article as I think back many years ago when I loved buying pre-made chicken pot pies. I liked their flavor, chicken pieces or not, however I recall dumping the little pies on a plate and having them collapse and spread from end to end with nothing but juice.

Nope. said...

Damn, Dave, those pies look rancid. The Mommy Bloggers are a force to be reckoned with, because with the amount of free advertising they spew, they have an obscene amount of traffic. All for free pies and organic diapers for Junior.

J. Astro said...

I had one or two of these when they first came out, too. And I ALSO thought they were garbage. My local Hy-Vee sells 'em for like 59 cents, so ya get about what ya pay for. Too much work/time to spend for a dry, relatively flavorless piece of junk that doesn't even measure up to a plain ol' Hostess fruit pie.

Dave said...

Alan - This may sound odd, but I actually like Banquet's kind-of-crappy pot pies (well, the chicken and turkey ones, anyway.) When I was a kid growing up kinda poor, they were available really cheap and today they are still a bizarre sort of comfort food for me. But the concept just doesn't translate well to fruit pies I guess. Not the way Banquet does it, anyway.

Jess - Just for shits and giggles, I Googled the phrase "Mom Central on behalf of Banquet" to see just how many mommy bloggers ConAgra recruited for their campaign. I got a little over 1200 unique hits, some of which were on apparently well-read and well-funded blogs. I actually clicked on about two dozen of them to read the reviews. A small number of them never reviewed the product at all, choosing instead to regurgitate a canned press release and give the coupons away to their readers. But most sang the praises of the pies, saying how delicious and filled with fruit they were. It was like they were reviewing an entirely different product. I can't imagine being so thirsty for freebies and pocket change that I would suck up like that, but that might be because I didn't start blogging to make money.

Astro - The Hostess Fruit Pie reference is appreciated. I was going to draw a comparison in the article but I got sidetracked and then couldn't figure out how to fit it in smoothly.

Anonymous said...

my husband bought a couple of these pies - peach and berry. He said his was okay (the berry just not much fruit). I had the peach and it actually tasted as if soap was in it. I was literally up all night with stomach cramps and still don't feel real good today. when i burp, it tasted like soap again. Not sure which factory these came from, but may want to check on it.

Unknown said...

Dave, you might want to revisit the banquet fruit pie, or at least scope the ingredients. I bought one on a whim, and had it for breakfast this morning. I was so impressed (for a buck) that I ran over to your blog to see if you had done a review. I believe that banquet may have responded to the negative criticism and reformulated these little pies into a decent treat.

epiphany theory said...

Just a note, mate! --

I know that your original observations are years old. That being said, these banquet fruit pies have come a long, long way since then. The fruit portions are more than generous for 80 cents. I buy a ton of these little cheap morsels, because I generally shop on a budget. I've never had the displeasure of a fruitless bite.

Anyways, it's worth a reconsideration!