Road Trip Snacks Taste Test

Buying road trip snacks at your usual grocery store — rather than at the gas station or tourist spots — is one of the best ways to save money for family trips. I usually buy store brands, or sale items, but there is a bit of a debate in our house about if the store brand is best or equal to the name brand. So, I decided to have a little fun with my family and settle the debate by having a road trip snack taste test.

Road Trip Snacks Taste Test

For the most part, my children are not picky when it comes to store brands vs name brands. They really are grateful for the that food that feeds them. But, while they will gladly enjoy a store brand product, if you ask them if a name brand is better, they will usually say yes — even if they haven’t tried that brand. They tend to believe that if a brand costs more, it must be better.

It was time to put it to a test. For this road trip snack taste test, we sampled three First Street store brand products from Smart & Final and then the similar name brand products. Would my family prefer the name brand or would the store brand be the same…or even better?

For our taste test, we tried salted peanuts (AKA party peanuts):

Road Trip Snacks Taste Test: Peanuts

Visually both varieties looked really good to me, although the brand name peanuts looked more “toasted” and seemed to have more oil and salt on them.

Road Trip Snacks Taste Test-7a-Peanuts

We also tried Mixed Nuts:

Road Trip Snacks Taste Test: Mixed Nuts

Both brands said they contained less than 50% peanuts, so I assume it’s true although I did see a lot peanuts in both. They looked quite similar to me though. If I noticed anything it was that the First Street brand seemed to have more pecans in it. Also, the brand name almonds were definitely darker and more “toasted”.

Road Trip Snacks Taste Test: Mixed Nuts

Our last items we taste tested was Teriyaki Beef Jerky:

Road Trip Snacks Taste Test: Beef Jerky

The First Street Beef Jerky was in small pieces than the brand name one. I don’t mind though though, because on road trips, I would rather the kids grab smaller pieces than there be only a few large pieces in the bag. The other thing I noticed was that the name brand jerky was a bit softer and easier to tear. Both smelled really good when I opened the bag.

Road Trip Snacks Taste Test: Jerky

I didn’t want my family to have any idea if they were eating the name brand or the First Street store brand. To do this, I used small plastic cups from Smart & Final  and on the bottom, I labeled half of the cups with a # 1 (for the First Street brand) and the other half with a # 2 (for the name brand).

Road Trip Snacks Taste Test: Tasting Cups

I wanted the samples to be equal so it was fair, all peanut cups were filled with 1/2 ounce of peanuts.

For the mixed nuts, rather than going with exact weights, I filled cups with one of each nut of the First Street brand and filled the cup # 2 with the same, but from the name brand mixed nuts.

Road Trip Snacks Taste Test: Weighing

The beef jerky was also placed in cups — 1/4 ounce of the First Street brand was place in the # 1 cups and the same amount of the name brand was placed in the # 2 cups.

Road Trip Snacks Taste Test: Weighing

To make the taste test even more fun, I sent an email to each family member asking them to complete a “pre-test questionnaire  on a form I created on Google drive. The email also instructed them to take the “final questionnaire” after the Taste Test.

The Pre-Test asked them:

  • Which brand of peanuts do you think you will like more?
  • Which brand of mixed nuts to you think you will like more?
  • Which brand of beef jerky to you think you will like better?

Road Trip Snacks Taste Test: Pre-Test

The results didn’t surprise me — nearly every answer from every member of my family said they thought they would like the name brand better.

Road Trip Snacks Taste Test: Pre-Test

Each person in my family sampled all three products for both the name brand and the store brand. When they felt they knew which one they liked better, they looked at the number on the bottom and noted the number for the final questionnaire.

It was clear that there was difference in opinions from the start. My oldest son choose #2 for the peanuts — I knew this was the name brand peanuts, but he had no clue.

Road Trip Snacks Taste Test: Tasting

Courtney selected the #1 peanuts. She didn’t know, but this was the First Street brand peanuts.

Road Trip Snacks Taste Test: Tasting

When they were done sampling, each person completed the final questionnaire, where they stated which cup of each product they liked better.

Road Trip Snacks Taste Test: Final Questionaire

The results were in! As much as the frugal shopping mom in me wanted my family to pick the store brand, a slight majority of the responses represented that they liked the name brand better. A complete tally of all the votes show that it was VERY close:  6 total votes for the First Street store brand and 8 total votes for the name brand.

Road Trip Snacks Taste Test: Final Questionnaire Results

Here’s a breakdown of the results:

Name Brand — 2 out of 5
First Street — 3 out of 5  **

Name Brand — 3 out of 5 **
First Street — 2 out of 5

Name Brand — 3 out of 5 **
First Street — 1 out of 5
(one vote that they liked both brands equally)

Note:  ** = wins taste test

My family was surprised by some of their responses — particularly when their answer showed that they liked the First Street store brand more. All of them really thought that it would be total win for the name brand.

As the primary shopper, these results really don’t change how I would shop. Our summer trip is made possibly due to frugal spending and First Street store brand products had the name brand product beat. The closest price was the peanuts, so in that case, I would normally consider getting the name brand, but my taste test showed that my family preferred the First Street brand, so I would stick with that.

Here was the price breakdown:

Name Brand — .17 cents per ounce
First Street — .16 cents per ounce

Name Brand — .60 cents per ounce
First Street — .30 cents per ounce

Name Brand — $ 1. 69 per ounce
First Street — $ 1. 04 per ounce

The whole family taste test was a lot of fun and the kids got a kick out of me putting together the Google form for voting. It will be fun to do that again with other taste tests. Stay tuned for some fun road trip snacks that I made with all the peanuts I bought!

Do you live in Arizona, Nevada, or California?

Then check this out!

Smart & Final is having a First Street Sweepstakes from 4/17 – 4/30.  Customers that buy any 2 First Street brand products can enter for a chance to win:

1 of 5 $500 SmartCash Cards
1 of 5 $250 SmartCash Cards
1 of 5 $100 SmartCash Cards

Visit your local Smart & Final store, or follow them on Twitter and Facebook for more details!

Disclosure: I am a member of the Collective Bias®  Social Fabric® Community.  This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for Collective Bias®  and Smart & Final #cbias #SocialFabric

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  1. Lindsey says

    Wow what a great blog post!! You really went all out with weighing the different snacks and putting the results in excel. I’m quite impressed! and hungry for snacks now.. :) The pricing bit at the end is really cool to see. Thank you for posting!

  2. says

    I always try to remember to bring our own snacks on road trips instead of buying at the gas station to save money. There is such a big markup that it’s silly not to try to save.

  3. says

    When I lived on the West coast, I found that store brands and name brands were very similar in quality, After moving to the Midwest, I found that the name brands were vastly superior to the store brands. It made me sad!

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