Taking a page from both the Smart Choices school of nutritional revisionism and Rachael Ray’s vocabulary, Duane Reade has premiered Delish, its very own brand of “delectable food and beverage items.” The drugstore chain rolled out 25 of the products last weekend, and plans to have 100 of them out by the end of the year.
Earlier this week, a large Duane Reade shopping bag landed at Fork in the Road’s headquarters, so we rummaged around to see what the drugstore fairy had delivered, unbidden. Boxes of cookies and bags of snack food awaited, as did an impressive display of propaganda.
The DR marketing team undoubtedly drank a lot of green Kool-Aid, and have vomited up all of the right eco-conscious buzzwords onto their products’s (non-recycled) packaging.
The label on the Delish gallon-jug of “Premium Brewed Green Tea” proclaims “puritea diversitea new york citea,” though pure green tea, apparently, is only as pure as the sum of its 13 ingredients. The two “lovingly packaged” and “all natural” trail mix varieties, pistachio and blueberry pomegranate, also push all the gastronomically correct buttons — they’re vegan, gluten-free, kosher, cholesterol- and wheat-free, and don’t contain peanuts. The cinnamon streusel Drizzles are multigrain, a detail somewhat obscured by their thick shellacking of sugar and palm kernel oil. The “no trans fat” Spudzz potato “crisps” contain sea salt, which may or may not distract you from the fact that the potatoes are actually a composite of potato flakes, rice flour, potato starch. And the oatmeal-chocolate chunk and chocolate chip-pecan cookies are made with “creamery butter” — as opposed to what, exactly?
Trying to re-vamp junk food as something other than junk food is nothing new, and has certainly been espoused by entities much grander than Duane Reade. But what’s particularly craven about the drugstore’s campaign is that, unlike a Snickers, for example, their “food products” (to borrow a term from the press release) don’t even taste good. The cookies have a flavor and texture almost indiscernible from that of their cardboard packaging; while the press materials claim that they contain “more than 20% more” chips than Pepperidge Farm, and 60 percent more than Chips Ahoy (seriously, who counted?), that means nothing when the chips are as desiccated as the surrounding crumb. Everything else — the weirdly glossy trail mix, the cinnamon streusel things, and the brownie bites — left a rancid aftertaste.
But what do you expect when you get your snack food from a drug store? Generic aspirin is one thing. But generic cookies? Half-baked at best.