Wednesday, 22 June 2011 Does Nature Deliver?
The Scoffing Cow Investigates

Traffic. Urgh. Don’t these people know what they’re standing in the way of?

It’s Monday morning and as per usual, I’m surrounded by exhaust fumes, becoming increasingly more agitated during the laborious journey to work, after two glorious days of freedom.

This morning however, I’m even more frustrated; the much anticipated free nibble box (courtesy of Graze) is due to land on my desk this very day, and if Royal Mail have upheld their end of the bargain, is already sat patiently awaiting my arrival.

As I push open the office door, and chunter the obligatory ‘mornings’ to my more punctual colleagues, I spy the little brown box nestled amongst my in-tray.
Quietly ‘eeeping’ to myself, I quickly discard my handbag, throw aside my coat, and rip open the parcel.

Well, Nature Delivered sure looks delightful. Four fist sized little punnets of yummy looking treats, sit quaintly inside a colourfully decorated box. A personalised insert provides corresponding key nutritionals, as well as use-by dates, and the main ingredients.

The first thing that strikes me, aside from the aesthetically pleasing presentation, is the apparent lack of variety within my box. Despite the website boasting deli topped focaccia breads, marinated olives, and tasty flapjacks, I don’t seem to have any of these.

Hiding my disappointment, and consoling myself in the knowledge that flapjacks and focaccia are for the main, pretty naughty nibbles, I tear open the first punnet, switch on my computer (having realised that I am actually supposed to be work) and delve straight in.

 Milkshake Mix

An uninspiring concoction of limp banana coins, bitter strawberries and white chocolate disks.

As you can probably tell, in my humble opinion, this punnet was nothing but an epic fail; its contents resembling a milkshake with the same authenticity in which Pizza Hut mirrors Italian cuisine.

Sure it sounds appetising enough, and it is the only nibble of the bunch to contain a whole portion of your 5-a-day, but the above descriptives really do say it all.

You’d think that the calamitous fruit would perhaps be salvageable with the addition of the chocolate, but in all honesty, is more like something you might find in a ‘Hello Kitty’ advent calendar (minus the cuteness of course.)
In addition to this, at a significant 141 calories for such a measly handful, this example of nature delivered, certainly does nothing to lessen the appeal of the biscuit tin.

Lemon Meringue Pie

One word… YUM.

Lemon infused raisins, yoghurt covered peanuts, and ever so cute little droplets of crunchy meringue.

Okay, so at 169 calories, this punnet of ‘health’ is even more laden with sugars than the milkshake massacre, but unlike the latter, actually feels as though it’s worth it.

The raisins are soft, the peanuts creamy, and the meringues perfectly balanced with the requisite crisp-to-chew ratios.

The flavours of the three components are complementary and work well with one another, and I suppose that when combined in one mouthful, do sort of resemble a lemon meringue. (Albeit a slightly stingy one, without any pastry or gooey lemony goodness).

That's a point... I wonder how big a piece of actual pie I could eat for the same calories? Probably a good half I'd imagine.
Hmmm, this is turning into a 'no brainer' isn't it?!

Bento Mix

Well done Graze; well done indeed. With jumbo chilli maize, satay broad beans, and Wasabi coated peas, this punnet had me salivating before I’d even started.

As a huge fan of all things spice, there was barely room to disappoint here; crunchy, flavoursome, and with an all mighty kick of heat, I could have quite happily munched on these all day long.

But alas, and in-keeping with Graze’s other offerings, these spicy nibbles were just too calorific for my liking to qualify as a healthy snack (141 Calories). Okay, the cals are hardly insurmountable for those watching what they eat, but when considering the small portion size, I’m not sure I could justify subbing two of my alpen light bars, in favour of the more-ish Bento Mix.

Perhaps it would sit more happily as an accompanying bar snack to a nice glass of rioja, but as health food… hmmm I’m just not sold.

Fennel and Caraway Seeds

They sure don’t look like anything special, but this seed mix is in fact a pretty decent graze.

With all the aromatic flavourings of the two key ingredients, plus the added textural bonus of sunflower and pumpkin seeds, this offering is paradoxically rustic yet innovative at the same time.

Despite this kudos however, I longed for a nicely dressed rocket salad to accompany it; call me a Neanderthal, but even in the midst of my most saintly health kicks, seed mixes have always felt too akin to rabbit food to enjoy alone.

Again, with a substantially high calorie content of 174 (the highest of the lot in fact), I wouldn’t be first in line to make this nibble a habit. Nonetheless it was significantly more filling than the other 3 snacks, which according to Graze, is the aim of the game….

You know, I was never any good at sports.

After all is said and done, I’m not sure I’d be looking to relive my Graze experience any time soon.

Taste wise, I was pretty chuffed, but as I conveyed above (in my typically tactful and subtle manner) the calorie content of my so called ‘health foods,’ just didn’t cut the mustard with me.

Graze suggest that one of their nibble boxes will get you through the day with significantly more energy and vigour than the standard working lunch.
In light of the fact that I ate all four punnets in addition to a hearty breakfast, and still felt the need to polish off a colossally generous stuffed pitta, I’m not sure I’d agree.

Perhaps the question should be as to whether those who are already eating sensibly, would in fact be doing themselves more harm than good by subscribing to the (admittedly charming) online snackery.

By my calculations, my nibble box set me back by over 600 calories – considering that last month I more or less consumed an entire three course meal at Pizza Express for the same amount, Graze could certainly do with some severe refinements in order attract the likes of the Cow and other health savvy eaters, on a pay per punnet basis.

Thanks for the trial Graze, but you really are in danger of defying mo-town adages with this one; don’t you know? The best things in life are free.


(P.S For any Scoffer (or indeed Grazer) who would like to try their own free Graze Nibble Box, simply enter HR5CJ8W upon registration, or click the link below….)


Mummy and the Beastie said...

I too succumbed to Graze with their special offer of free boxes, designed purely to lure people in! it seemed like a good idea especially as I was never going to pay the extortionate rate per box at full price! Besides the novelty of the packaging and the nutritional information the contents were disappointing. I too never saw any focaccia or the like. The only box I loved was vanilla sunflower seeds, and I can I buy them anywhere else? no! Having said all that, nice idea from whoever came up with it...

The Scoffing Cow said...

After foolishly forgetting to 'un-subscribe,' I recieved my second Graze box (though half price) through the door this morning.

This time I was delighted to see the addition of a scrummy looking hunk of flapjack... I was not however happy to learn that at 260 kcals, this punnet was seemingly the 'healthest' of the lot.

Needless to say I have now ended my short lived Graze affair... although your vanilla sunflower seeds do sound tempting; I see there's something similar here ->


VickyPie said...

Hello, Just thought I should pop a word in on Graze's defence. Having been getting their boxes for a few months now, I've had all kinds of yummy treats, including flapjacks and breads. I've found the company to be really easy to deal with, and I think it's a great little service. I know some of the calories are a little bit high, but you should remember that high calories from healthy things like nuts and fruit will not stick to your thighs like the calories in a mars bar...!

The Scoffing Cow said...

Hi Vicky,

I too agree that Graze as a company are a pleasure to deal with. They certainly delivered on that front, and offer a prompt, intuitive and all round attentive service. 
That being said, you definitely pay for these luxuries, so if I'm honest I'd expect nothing less.

In terms of the calorie debate, I again agree that seeds, nuts, fruit etc, offer much more 'useful' calories than those comparable in a mars bar for example.
Nonetheless it is worth noting that many of Graze's nut and fruit products, are also intermingled with various chocolate drops, meringues and sugary coatings. These ingredients account for a high percentage of the calories in each punnet, and hence negate the energy boosting qualities of the accompanying fruit etc.

I'll be writing a follow up article in the next couple of weeks, comparing it's products to those offered by less 'tarty' health food retailers.., so watch this space; might save you some pennies and calories to boot.

SC x