We Tried The Worst Grocery Store Cookies. Here's How It Went

Back in July of 2022, intrepid Mashed researchers set about to determine the very best grocery store cookies. We went about it by gathering data from 526 cookie connoisseurs who were polled about their preferences. They were given a short list of stores from which to pick, these being, in alphabetical order, Costco, Kroger, Publix, Walmart, and Whole Foods. We're not going to go into the results quite yet — you can just read the article to find out the winner if you're impatient, or just hang in there for a few more slides when all will be revealed. What we will do right now, though, is to disclose the name of the grocery chain that received the lowest number of votes: that dishonor goes to Kroger.

So does Kroger really deserve this last place finish? Having established our first-to-worst cookie ranking via the objective approach, we decided to apply a more subjective method to determine whether the losing cookies really are as bad as all that. To this end, we obtained a selection of cookies from Kroger's in-store bakery and, well, we ate them. (It truly is a tough job, but we are dedicated to pursuing the truth down to the very last calorie.)

These are the cookie varieties Kroger bakes

Oftentimes when we're discussing store-bought cookies, we're referring to brand names like Oreo, Keebler, and Pepperidge Farm. Here, however, we're talking about the cookies found not in the store aisles, but in the bakery section. Oh, and just FYI: for our purposes we are sticking with a fairly strict interpretation of the word "cookie" so we did not include any brownies or bars, although Kroger does offer a selection of those items as well.

According to Kroger's website, its bakery makes 11 different types of cookies: chocolate chip, chocolate-chocolate chip, snickerdoodle, cranberry orange softtop, banana nut chocolate chip, M&M, oatmeal raisin, peanut butter, sugar, and frosted sugar in shades of pink, white, and blue. When it comes to finding all items in any given store on any given date, however, results will vary. We were able to get our hands on the chocolate chip (24 for $5.99, which, we note, is cheaper than Costco's 24-pack), M&M (12 for $3.49), and un-frosted sugar (12 for $3.49) varieties, but none of the other ones seemed to be available when we went shopping. What we did find, though, was a variety of cookie not currently listed on the website: apple cinnamon soft top (usually 10 for $3.99, on sale for $3.79). In the interest of a thorough investigation, we picked up a box of these cookies, as well.

So how did the Kroger bakery cookies taste?

Kroger's M&M cookies, which were the first ones we tried, are soft and sweet ... a bit too sweet for our liking. The M&M-to-cookie ratio is not overly generous, but not too skimpy; sufficient to give some chocolatey flavor to every bite. The chocolate chip cookies are perhaps on par with the slice-and-bake refrigerated dough kind, but we feel they'd be vastly improved by the addition of some nuts. The sugar cookies are the worst of the bunch. They don't taste bad, exactly, just rather flavorless. We've found that usually only the frosted kind of store-bought sugar cookies are really worth eating and we'd have loved to try Kroger's if only they'd been available.

When it came to Kroger's soft-top apple cinnamon cookies, though, we were very pleasantly surprised. These cookies are thick and ever-so-slightly chewy and pretty much taste like apple pie in cookie form. The cinnamon flavor from the chips is subtle, but we count this as a plus since too much cinnamon can be overwhelming. 

Overall, our impression of Kroger's apple cookies is that they are something you might buy in a non-grocery bakery and pay maybe a buck or two apiece for, without being at all disappointed in your purchase. For less than 40 cents a cookie, though, they're quite a bargain, indeed. What's more, if these are representative of Kroger's soft-top cookies, we'll be sure to keep an eye out for other varieties.

Sorry, survey, but we'll have to agree to disagree

While Kroger's bakery may have come out last in our survey, we really couldn't find any reason for the low rating, at least not one that lies in the quality of the cookies themselves. One possibility they came out on the bottom is that our relatively small sample size may have been skewed towards respondents who weren't too familiar with Kroger products and were uninclined to favor them for that reason. It is our conjecture, not having additional data to go on, that Kroger's poor showing was more due to people being inclined to vote for the grocery stores whose bakery products they know rather than because Kroger is significantly worse than the competitors.

Our conclusion: take all such survey results (ours and everyone else's) with a grain of sugar. There is nothing that's really wrong with Kroger's cookies, at least not as far as a grocery store product goes. Okay, maybe they're not quite on the level of cookies fresh out of the oven, but when you don't have time to bake they make a perfectly acceptable substitute.

There's still some room for improvement

That being said, Kroger's cookies could stand for a bit of tweaking to make them even better. To start with, why should cookies that are purportedly fresh-baked require so many additives that sound like they'd be more at home in a chemistry lab than a kitchen? We don't know about you, but palm oil, soya lecithin, and thiamine mononitrate are not the kinds of ingredients we tend to keep in our cupboards, nor have we seen them called for in any of our favorite cookbooks.

Our biggest quibble, and something that probably explains the main difference in flavor between these cookies and the home-baked kind, is that not a single one of the ones we tried contains butter. In fact, that's probably about 90% of what's wrong with the sugar cookies, in particular. Apart from sugar, the #1 thing you want to taste in a good sugar cookie is butter, and when that all-important ingredient is missing, it takes a whole lot of frosting to make up for its absence.

The best cookies according to our survey

As promised, we'll now return to the survey results. We already know Kroger came in last place, and can now disclose (to anyone who didn't already peek) that it received just 15% of the vote. Publix didn't do much better — it received just 2 more votes, but rounding up put the grocery store at 16%. There was a tie for second place between the two "Ws," Walmart and Whole Foods, as both had nearly 22% of the vote, but the overall winner — ta da! — was Costco's bakery with a whopping almost 26%.

So what makes Costco cookies so popular? Well, part of it may be that if you're paying for the privilege of shopping at this warehouse club, you're darn well going to value what's on offer. Certain Costco cookies do, however, offer one thing that was missing in all of the Kroger cookies we tried: butter! While the ingredients label of its popular raspberry crumble cookies shows a fair number of dubious ingredients (what even is cellulose gel? and what's with the carrot juice?), the first three ingredients in the cookie dough are flour, sugar, and our beloved butter. While butter in the batter may not be enough to convince everyone to fork over the price of admission — particularly as the "gourmet" chocolate chunk cookies are made with vegetable shortening, instead — we'll still concede the cookie crown to Costco.