I ought to like these. I ought to love them. The package lists but three ingredients: Mandarin orange segments, sugar, and sulfur dioxide.
Can you guess which ingredient is the problem here?
It's the sugar.
You have every justification at this point to ask, "Who are you, and what have you done with the real Bob?" But Trader Joe's has somehow managed to exceed even my higher-than-normal threshold for sweetness. These things are way, way too sweet to enjoy.
You can see a fine coating of white powder on the orange pieces. I assume that's a mix of sugar and sulfur dioxide. I wondered whether to blame the excessive sweetness on the orange segments themselves--perhaps due to concentration of the naturally occurring sugars from drying--or the added sugar. So I thoroughly rinsed a few pieces in tap water, then dried them off in paper towels. I then alternated between eating one straight from the bag, and one from my rinsed samples.
The results of this little experiment were, in my mind, definitive: the problem is the added sugar. Rinsed free of the sugar coating, the segments tasted delicious, just like regular Mandarin oranges, except, of course, chewier.
I don't object to the sulfur dioxide. I assume that it is needed to preserve the color and perhaps keep the pieces from sticking together too badly. Fine. But the sugar? No, thanks. Not only is it completely unnecessary for such a naturally sweet fruit, but it turns what would be a delicious treat into one that I find unpleasant.
I sometimes check the #traderjoes hashtag on Twitter to see what people are saying about the store and its products. By coincidence, I did so last night about an hour after first trying these orange segments, and found somebody saying, "Best. Snack. Ever." It had a link to this Instagram picture:
I beg to differ.
This item could be a fine addition to the impressively broad Trader Joe's line-up of packaged dried fruit--but only if they reformulate it without the added sugar. As it is, it's almost inedible.
Will I buy it again?
No. I suppose I could apply my solution whenever I wanted to have some, but rinsing and drying dried fruit is never going to be something I feel like doing when I head for the snack cupboard.
The mandarin-orangey flavor is excellent, the sweetness is excessive. Just dehydrate them, TJ's, sprinkle a little sulfur on them to keep them pretty, and let us nom them up. (I knew that eventually my clever disguise would be exposed; my alien power to alter the taste palettes of others is clearly more than human.)