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Kroger Cinnamon Rolls (Kroger)

I’ve harped on before how donuts are one of my favorite sweets on the planet. But I’m not sure I’ve even had much of a chance to mention that cinnamon rolls are right up there. There’s just something about the combination of cinnamon and icing that greatly appeals to me. It’s also another one of those products that are virtually impossible to screw up: I don’t think I’ve ever met a cinnamon roll that I truly despised.

Kroger, on the other hand, is a place I despise. It’s not really much different from other supermarkets, but my wife’s insistence on shopping there (mainly just because there’s usually a Starbucks inside) makes me hate it even more. There are other places nearby that are far cheaper (Walmart) and far quicker (Aldi), but instead I get dragged around a massive warehouse of depression for a minimum of two hours. There’s nothing appealing about it. The prices typically range from “average” to “high”, unless you happen to stumble on a good sale. Every minute I spend there is time I’d rather spend gouging my eyes out with a straight razor.

While many of the private label products I’ve reviewed from there have been good, they’re almost always more expensive than other private label brands. Ones that are usually just as good (if not better). I swear their private label pricing strategy consists of adding at least a quarter to the cost of the same off-brand goods at Aldi and Walmart. I don’t know why that pisses me off, but it does. Sure, a quarter or two isn’t a lot up front, but when it spans a dozen products over several shopping trips, it adds up rather quickly. 

Needless to say, I don’t equate Kroger with “value” in the least. That especially applies to their bakery products, which seem to be climbing well over the $5 range, despite none of them actually being baked in store. This applies to their cinnamon rolls, as well.

Kroger actually offers a couple different cinnamon roll options. The ones released under their “Private Selection” brand are bigger, and meant to be a more “upscale” option. They also come at an upscale price: Each 4-count package retails for around $5. And it looks like only $.25 of that price is spent on icing; the large rolls are typically only half-covered in the white sweetness. Kroger also offers a “family size” option under their “Bakery Fresh Goodness” (ugh) label. This doubles the quantity (8 rolls) for around the same price. These never look appetizing, with cracks in the icing that make the rolls look stale and crispy; the icing is also so light it looks more like a glaze. These don’t seem to make any effort to hide the fact they are pre-packaged.

But look deeper and you may find there’s another option: A six-count collection contained in clamshell packaging. There isn’t a brand name given, save for a “Kroger” logo, insinuating it’s baked in-house. Whereas their other options are either under-iced or look overly stale, these are smothered in icing, to the extent that pools of excess gather along each side of the included metal tray. It’s everything their other offerings aren’t.

But where they truly stand out is the price. Sure, each package is pre-printed with a $5.99 price tag, which is in line with everything else they offer. But these always seem to be offered for an astonishing $1.99. That’s right. One dollar and ninety-nine cents. And that isn’t a clearance price, or – as far as I can tell – even a sale price. It’s the price they routinely go for; the pre-printed price is just there to reassure you that you’re saving a lot of money. 

Tastewise, these are incredible. The texture is nice and soft, whether you eat them warm or straight out of the packaging. The cinnamon flavor is apparent throughout, getting even more pronounced the more layers you make it in. Even the icing has the perfect consistency, melting in your mouth the moment it hits the tongue. It’s very sweet, as can be expected, but combined with the semi-sweetness of the cinnamon, it isn’t overly so. And it’s more than generously slathered all over; so much so, that it slides off the sides of each roll, gathering in a tempting pool in each corner. It’s kind of ironic that they are the only cinnamon rolls I’d even consider paying $5.99 for inside a Kroger store, and they’re the only ones I don’t have to. 

The biggest question mark is availability: They don’t always seem to be in-stock. Even when they are, they’re usually in some random spot throughout the store. Case in point: On a recent visit, they were in front of the milk, which is clear on the opposite side of the bakery. (I also watched in horror as an old man on an electric scooter slooooooowly took the last one.) On our latest trip, I didn’t see them anywhere at all. I’m sure there’s some sort of rhyme and/or reason as to when they are offered, but until I figure it out, it just seems to be entirely randomized.

These don’t quite justify the existence of Kroger – nothing could – but they come damn well close.

Overall: 9.5/10. These are just about perfect. The pastry itself is soft and moist, with an inviting texture that lures you in. The cinnamon starts off strong, and gets stronger the further you travel in. The icing is perfectly rich, and perfectly smooth, providing the perfect counterpoint to the semi-sweetness of the cinnamon. There’s also so much of the white stuff that it collects in pools on each corner of the tray; this is an area most supermarket examples skimp on. The only thing preventing a perfect score is the spotty availability: They aren’t always available. And when they are, they’re usually in some random spot throughout the store, separate from the bakery. Do they sell out quickly? Or are they only occasionally offered? Whatever the case, these are about the only valid reason to voluntarily visit a Kroger store.

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