Disney has made admirable strides in recent years in providing healthier food options for kids: fries are no longer the auto-side for meals, fresh fruit is readily available, and non-sugary snacks are often displayed on the same shelf as candy.
Among these non-candy options are offerings called “Tiny Treats,” some branded with the Chip & Dale Snack Company logo and some with the Minnie’s Bake Shop logo.
Introducing Tiny Treats
Tiny Treats are single-ish serving, easy to hold containers of the Disney version of preschool snack basics: Cheddar Mickey Crackers (think Pepperidge Farm Goldfish or Annie’s brand bunnies), Oat Cereal (think Cheerios), Arrowroot Cookies (think Gerber and others), and Dried Bananas and Strawberries (think Gerber and others).
When my own children were preschoolers, probably 50% of their calorie intake consisted of Goldfish and Cheerios. (I had three kids in three years. We were in “whatever-it-takes-to-survive” mode. Don’t judge.) Back in those days, touring the Disney parks meant bringing snacks from home and toting along a multitude of zip-top baggies filled with our carbtastic staples.
So I was super-double-plus thrilled when I first saw the Tiny Treats. While purchasing large quantities of any in-park, Disney-branded snack won’t make sense from a financial perspective (each little container costs $3.95), the Tiny Treats could be a HUGE life saver for many families. Finally a solution for the preschool parent whose child accidentally spills the entire day’s Cheerio rations all over the Fantasyland stroller parking lot. No more would you be caught without the magical manna that keeps kids quiet in the Nevernever Land of the Peter Pan standby queue. You could simply pop into the nearest park merchandise location and buy some more cheddar crackers or oat cereal to replenish your supply.
The Experiment Takes Form
Fascinated by the concept, I bought a container of the Mickey cheddar crackers for myself. The crackers were about the same size as Goldfish and had an uber-cute Mickey shape, but to my palate, they tasted nothing like the real thing. I’m a salt lover (I could easily spend an afternoon sucking off the salty spray coating on Goldfish and tossing aside the bready carcasses), but these Mickey snacks tasted decidedly sodium lite to me.
After a bit of reflection, I began to wonder, if I noticed a taste difference, would the intended audience of preschoolers have the same impression that I did? Would it matter if the Disney snack tasted slightly different than the home version? Would a child addicted to Goldfish be appeased by the Mickey facsimile, or would she reject them as impostor snack food? I needed to experiment.
Since my tween/teen daughters are now well past their dry-snack days (thank goodness), I enlisted the assistance of the sons of the fabulous Jonas L. of the Walt Disney World Moms Panel: five-year-old T and just-turned-four-yesterday G.
Cheddar Cracker Throwdown
I brought them several Disney Tiny Treats along with their real world counterparts. We conducted a head-to-head taste test. The first round was Goldfish vs. Mickey cheddar crackers.
I asked the boys some hard-hitting questions: “Can you taste the difference?” “Which one do you like better?” “If you had to choose only one, which would you pick?” But they were having none of it. Both types of crackers were consumed with abandon. Clearly these were equivalent products in the mind of this crew.
When I prodded even further, T let on that he really liked the Mickey shape. (Jonas has trained them well :-)). But seriously, somehow I had neglected to consider the siren song of marketing. Silly, silly me. The snacks might be a bit different to me, but I was focused on the taste. The kids were focused on the branding.
Oat Cereal Throwdown
Next up, we did a side-by-side cereal comparison: Tiny Treats vs. Cheerios. My adult tastes had Disney the winner by a nose, I found them to be infinitesimally sweeter. But really, these were so similar that I wouldn’t be surprised if someone told me that General Mills is secretly the cereal manufacturer.
G and T were also both equally comfortable with either cereal, devouring both with gusto. I’m comfortable in saying that only the choosiest of children would have even the slightest issue with the Disney version, or even be able to discern any difference at all.
Dried Fruit Throwdown
Our third comparison was with the Disney dried fruit vs. supermarket dried fruit. Setting up this showdown was more challenging than I had expected. The Tiny Treat fruit is sliced very thin and then dried, making the strawberries and bananas soft and chewy, but not overly so. Split the difference between dessicated astronaut fruit and the robust thickly sliced dried fruit at Whole Foods or Trader Joes and you’re somewhere in the ballpark.
I brought a few things for them to try, including a Disney-branded supermarket fruit product. The closest equivalent to the Tiny treats is Gerber Mini Fruits, which have a bit of sponginess to them.
The boys were game to try all the fruit variations I brought them. T was a champ and finished a few bites of everything, but G wasn’t a fan of any of these options. My adult taste sided with Disney. I’ve never understood the appeal of crunchy banana chips, but these chewable banana slices worked for me. I thought they were a yummy, diet-friendly snack.
My takeaway from this is that if your child is a dried fruit eater in general, he’ll likely be fine with the Tiny Treats fruit. But if not, you can skip it. No amount of branding hocus pocus is going to convert a true non-believer.
My daughter Josie would easily have devoured the entire Tiny Treats fruit within minutes, but her twin sister wouldn’t eat a dried banana if it were deep fried in chocolate sauce and presented to her personally by Mickey Mouse, Cinderella, Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber, and the entire cast of High School Musical.
Our final comparison was Minnie’s Bakeshop Arrowroot cookies vs. a Sesame Street branded alphabet cookie.
I know that both Gerber and Nabisco make widely-distributed Arrowroot cookies, but after checking three local supermarkets I could find neither (what’s up with that?), so I decided to compromise.
To me, neither cookie had much flavor other than a clean hint of mild vanilla. T and G gladly consumed both cookie versions, asking for more of both.
The boys were slightly more engaged with the Sesame Street cookies, but only because of the imprinted letters. They wanted to find their initials. We had to dig down to the veeery bottom of the box for a G, but luckily we found one. I’m sure if they were slightly younger and didn’t yet know their letters, then it would have been a draw.
Overall, all parties involved were impressed with the Tiny Treat offerings. The crackers, cereal, and cookies are reliable pinch hitters in a snack emergency. Many thanks to Jonas and to the utterly charming T and G for their help and hospitality. I had fun snacking with you guys!
Do you (or your kids!) have an opinion on the new Tiny Treats being offered in the parks? Let us know what you think in the comments section below!
Check out more from Erin on her Disney Food for Families column page!