Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Product Review: Einstein Bros. GF Bagels

The Goods

The title of this post (and the above photo) pretty much says it all: Einstein Brothers is offering gluten-free bagels! Now, before you go and get your bagel-loving self into a tizzy, hang on a sec... there's more to the story. First, I'll divide this product review into four parts: my own bagel background, my review of the product, the back story behind the product, and a few lingering questions.

So, for my bagel background... It's important to note, I think, that I consider myself something of a bagel snob. It's not my fault. I was born into it. I grew up on Long Island in New York, definitively home of the best bagel on earth. Seriously. They're boiled and then baked. They have a glossy, almost crunchy shell. And they have a moist, doughy middle. Some say it's the Long Island water that makes the difference. (In fact, I know of one transplanted Long Islander who moved to Florida, opened a bagel shop, and imported his water from the Long Island taps to make his bagels... No joke.) Okay, so my bagel snobbery being what it is, take the review with that context in mind.

A raw, plain bagel

Secondly, as for my review of the GF bagels themselves... They have a nice, brown crust, but rather than a glossy finish, they're matte. (Sounds like I'm reviewing painting, I know.) The interior is very white, and the texture is something like bagel-shaped bread. Even so, it has good crumb, nice moisture, and is very soft. I give it more than a passing grade, and you can bump my review up a notch when they're toasted. Delicious.

Ditto, toasted...

The bagels are made with: brown rice flour, tapioca starch, canola oil, egg whites, potato starch, sugar, tapioca maltodextrin, xanthan gum, tapioca syrup, yeast, salt, cultured corn syrup, and enzymes. (A few unfamiliar and tech-y sounding ingredients, but overall not too bad.)

Now, as for the story behind the bagels, here where it gets a little interesting... About one year ago, Udi's Gluten-Free and Einstein Bros. had initial talks about partnering to do a GF bagel. Einstein was often asked about offering such an option, and Udi's was interested in developing such an option. Earlier this year, those talks finally resulted in hard, concrete action.

For now, Einstein is field testing the bagels in three Colorado locations (in Highlands Ranch, Denver, and Broomfield). One week ago today I had the opportunity to attend a GF bagel tasting at the Broomfield location, resulting in this review. In a sense, Einstein is doing target market testing to gauge demand, and will make a go / no go decision on a nationwide roll-out based on that. (It's also a de facto test of Udi's ability to meet large-scale demand after moving into a new, larger facility.)

The bagels come in sleeves of 6, pre-sliced, for $8.99

But here's where the lingering questions come into play... First, despite the fact that Einstein is conducting market research on the GF bagels, the company is purposefully not doing any press. Aside from customer word of mouth at the three locations, and a handful of blog posts like this one, Einstein isn't announcing the availability of the bagels. Now, how you can expect to accurately measure market demand when your target market doesn't know about the product is beyond me...

Secondly, following the GF bagel tasting last week, I received a request (sent from Einstein via an intermediary) not to mention Udi's in any blog posts. Why? As you can see in the first photo above, Einstein's own packaging for the bagels prominently displays the Udi's logo. Me telling you about Udi's isn't giving you any priviliged information you wouldn't learn simply by looking at the package. (Thus far I can only think of two reasons why Einstein would make this request... either a) they're anticipating subcontracting GF bagels to bakers other than Udi's, or b) they want to brand these bagels as their own. Which is partly true. Udi's makes these bagels exclusively for Einstein, and you won't find them in the supermarket under the Udi's label, or on the Udi's website.)

And lastly, there remains an issue of cross-contamination concern if eating these bagels in a brick and mortar Einstein Bros. location. Probably because for now Einstein is market testing in a limited number of locations, it has done very little staff training about cross-contamination issues and handling protocols. As a result, if you do pick up a sleeve of bagels at one of the three Colorado locations, your safest bet is to take it home and consume the bagels there.

The bottom line, though, is that - in spite of the behind the scenes shenanigans - the Einstein Bros. gluten-free bagel is tasty and worth your while. Especially considering that bagels are something we tend not to bake ourselves at home. Let's hope the field testing is successful, and that the bagels become more widely available throughout the Einstein domain.

- Pete

28 comments:

Erin said...

Thanks for this! Which location are they at in Denver?

peterbronski said...

Hi Erin... they're at the Einstein at Colorado Blvd and Yale in Denver. The sleeves of GF bagels should be located in the refrigerated section of the store.

Cheers, Pete

Marlow said...

EEEEKKKK!!!! Darn. Why the heck am I in North Carolina?!!

peterbronski said...

Hey April... from what I've been hearing so far, Einstein has been selling out of the bagels before they get the next shipment. That must mean that demand is high, which will hopefully prompt them to roll out the GF bagels nationwide, and you'll be able to get them a bit closer to home in NC! =)

Cheers, Pete

Anonymous said...

As soon as I read your post, I ran up to the Einstein's on Colorado and University in Highlands Ranch, bought a bag and some cream cheese and ran home to my gf toaster. FANTASTIC!! I have tried a variety of gf bagels and these are my new favorites. I called 1-800-BAGELME and gave them a rave review.

peterbronski said...

Hi Anonymous... So glad you enjoyed the bagels!

Cheers, Pete

heather said...

Hi,

Glad everyone is loving the bagels Udi's Gluten Free made for Einstein Brothers.

On behalf of Udi's Gluten Free, we are encouraging everyone to get out and taste our delicious gluten free bagel at the 3 Denver test locations (Highlands Ranch on Colorado Blvd; 120th & Sheridan, Broomfield and Colorado & Yale).

Thank you for your kind words. Fingers crossed that demand forces Einstein to carry our bagel on a regional or national level.

Please feel free to email questions at heather@udisfood.com

Be Udiful,

Heather Collins
Marketing, Udi's Gluten Free

Jacque said...

they showed up at whole foods in KC and sold out in less than an hour! UDI's is delish on ALL of their products. Can't wait to get my hands on their bagels1

peterbronski said...

Hi Jacque... that's remarkable! Seems that Udi's is as popular as ever.

Cheers, Pete

Anonymous said...

There is a new Einstein Bros on Parker Road just north of Araphoe (in Centennial/Aurora). They just got the bagels in. I will be going in today or tomorrow to try them. they did say they have a seperate toaster to minimize cross cont.

peterbronski said...

Hey Anonymous... Thanks for the update about the Parker Road location!

Cheers, Pete

Erin said...

They carry these bagels at my Whole Foods now (Cherry Creek location in Denver). They sell them in 4 packs for $6.

peterbronski said...

Hey Erin... Sounds like their popularity and availability are both growing!

Cheers, Pete

Traci said...

Why do the Udi's bagels you buy in the stores only contain 4 bagels in the pack and these contain 6?

peterbronski said...

Hi Traci... My educated guess is that these bagels are made by Udi's exclusively for Einstein Bros., while the bagels sold in the store are marketed under the Udi's brand. Beyond that distinction, I can't speak to why one company packaged them in 6 and the other 4.

Cheers, Pete

Anonymous said...

Hey Pete,
I am located in Flagstaff, AZ. We have one location of Einstein and none of the employees know of GF bagels coming in, what is your location saying about spreading the bagels nation wide?
-KM

peterbronski said...

Hi KM... I haven't been in to my local story lately, so I don't know what might be going on with Flagstaff stores. I'd recommend contacting corporate and seeing what they say:

http://einsteinbros.com/#/contact/

Cheers,
Pete

Mary said...

just discovered Udi's gluten free bagels here in Ohio, they carry them at our local grocery store and they are amazing, not sure if it is the same recipe as the one for Einstein's but the are delicious!

poobail said...

I went to the Denver location about a month ago expecting to enjoy the GF bagel as I had previously. Much to my disappointment, they told me they no longer carry them. I did however, find the 4 pack in King Soopers. It's not the same as going with friends to the Einstein's for a social visit. sigh, but at least they are still available for purchase. =-)

peterbronski said...

Hi Poobail... It's too bad Einstein doesn't carry the bagels anymore, but at least Udi's still carries their line! I know what you mean about it socially being not quite the same...

Cheers, Pete

Missy said...

Are these bagels available in PA

peterbronski said...

Hi Missy... Unfortunately, they're not available anywhere. Einstein cancelled its GF bagel program. But, you can order Udi's GF bagels direct from them, or use the store locator on their website to find a store near you.

Cheers, Pete

CG said...

Is anything being promoted about them being produced in a GF bakery? Cross contamination in the store itself is a pretty big deal. just because it's GF doesn't mean that it always is. Be sure to ask lots of questions.

peterbronski said...

Hi CG... Yes, cross-contamination in the stores was a concern. Udi's made the GF bagels in a dedicated facility, so that wasn't a concern. But more to the point, Einstein Bros. cancelled the test program, so this is all a moot point.

Cheers, Pete

Talawolf said...

I just went to an Einstein location to get a gluten free bagel and they said they no longer had them because no one bought them. The reason being that no gluten free people went in there to get the bagels because no one knew they even existed. S if you want to people to buy them you're going to have to advrtise so that people know its available. I found out too late and arrived for a disappointment. Please take my advise and advertise.

Anonymous said...

If they r really that great whats the holdup nation wide. We have next 2 nothing in South Florida ... :-(

Anonymous said...

YIKES!! Not cheap 4 sure

Anonymous said...

Great idea..publish to let peeps no they even exist!!