QUICK REVIEW SHOWDOWN! See’s vs. Trader Joe’s

20+ years ago, in a different lifetime, a good friend of mine brought me a tin of See’s Toffee-ettes from one of her trips to Los Angeles. And oh my God, I was instantly in love! On a recent trip to Colorado I was super-excited to learn that my hotel was close to a See’s shop! So of course I dropped in and got a tin of Toffee-ettes. But imagine my surprise when, just a few weeks later, I was at Trader Joe’s and found their almost-identical “English Toffee with nuts”.

Which candy will reign supreme? Let’s find out:

Quick Review Showdown!

The Toffee-ette is shorter but fatter, rounder and more irregular in shape. The almond bits are also much larger than the Trader Joe’s product, which looks like a “log” of toffee that’s cut to size (which, to be fair, probably is how its made, through an extruder, like pasta).

On taste, See’s kills it, you guys! The almond bits are great – with that crunch-forward bite – and then there’s the “candy shop chocolate” taste. You know what I’m talking about. You go to the beach or somewhere with a fresh candy shop… you know what that FRESH CHOCOLATE tastes like! Yeah, that… but then there’s ANOTHER crunch from the toffee, which is straight-up sugary, buttery heaven. The folks at See’s have been doing this for a long time, and they know what the hell they’re doing.

As mentioned, the Trader Joe’s candies have much smaller almonds on the outside. So, much less crunch. In fact, it almost seems like the almonds are there just to keep your fingers from melting the chocolate. Incidentally, I find it curious that almonds are the only nut listed on the ingredients label, but all the packaging just refers to them as “nuts”. You’d think ALMONDS would be a selling point. I mean, See’s mentions almonds TWICE on their label! The chocolate on the Trader Joe’s candy is commercial- grade chocolate – not terrible, not anything to get excited about either. And that’s when I notice a taste I don’t like. It’s a very faint, yet VERY THERE sour taste. It’s not the dreaded “Hershey’s Sour”, but it’s very close. It only lasts a second or two, but it takes me out of the dream. Just then, the sugary toffee hits. And it’s pretty good. Again, nothing to hoot or holler about, and maybe a bit too burnt for my taste? Where See’s toffee is a beautiful café au lait color, Trader Joe’s is quite obviously several shades darker.

But then there’s this: See’s are only available in their own shops (which don’t exist on the east coast) or via Internet. And they’re expensive: $25.99/pound (454g). Trader Joe’s gives you almost twice as much (30 ounces, almost two pounds, 850g) for over 60% less: $10.99.

When it comes to overall flavor, I’m ridin’ and dyin’ with See’s here. I don’t know if this is a year-round Trader Joe’s item (doubt it), but if it is, that could change the equation a bit. Getting a tin of these from my local TJ’s in the dark of February or for my birthday in March would be nice!

Realistically, though, either of these candies are something I’d only buy once or twice a year anyway. If this was going to be an “everyday” candy, I could see TJ’s being the better “bang for the buck” option. But as an annual treat, I say spend the extra for the good stuff.

One (minor) complaint about Toffee-ettes: you better eat them outside or over the sink, ‘cos almond bits are gonna fly everywhere when your teeth hit that toffee!


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