Published December 1, 2006.
We evaluated both cookie quality and assortment presentation.
We look forward to baking cookies for friends and family at the holidays, but the list seems to grow every year, and shipping cookies to distant relatives never seems to work out. For gifts or parties where pretty packaging counts, can you order good cookies by mail? To find out, we ordered assortments from eight popular online food retailers and evaluated them for ease of online ordering, freshness, taste, value, appearance, and overall quality.
Ordering the cookies online was painless and easy, with one exception. One site forced us to register before we were able to place our order. Delivery was as prompt as promised, and all the companies offered reasonable rates for standard shipping. One company offered free shipping, a pleasant surprise that we considered when evaluating their cookie assortment’s overall value.
The winning cookie assortments impressed us with both cookie quality and assortment presentation. Not surprisingly, our tasters gave the highest points to the cookies made with the purest ingredients, while the cookies with the most ingredients—including hydrogenated oils and artificial flavorings—fared the worst in our tasting. Cookie breakage occurred in almost all of the assortments, either as a result of poor packaging or the delicate nature of the cookies themselves. The best presentations were subtle yet elegant, though we did appreciate the childlike charm of the lower-end assortments.
Our results are listed below in order of preference. Some of our findings were as expected—our favorite mail-order cookies were not the cheapest, and the lower-end holiday assortments did not please our tasters. We did, however, make one surprising discovery. The cookies we ordered from one purveyor were actually made and packaged by another company, which we had also ordered from for the purpose of this tasting. Although the assortments were almost identical in presentation and there was some crossover in the cookie variety, the taste and quality of the cookies themselves varied a great deal.