Pillsbury's refrigerated chocolate chip cookie dough is a marvel of convenience product, a log of sweet beige putty studded with chocolate chips. It's engineered to induce pleasure: Stick it in your refrigerator. Unravel. Bake (or risk the food poisoning and enjoy raw.)
In early August, Pillsbury gave the packaging for its line of refrigerated cookies a facelift. Each tube is now baby blue (before, it was more of an azure) and emblazoned with the Pillsbury Doughboy's face peeking from behind a cookie. The change isn't simply cosmetic, as the words 'NEW RECIPE!' disclose; the dough itself has also changed, as the company has excised the high-fructose corn syrup and some other additives.
"These cookies are made with a new, better tasting recipe using real ingredients," the collateral on the Pillsbury website reads. "No colors from artificial sources, artificial flavors or preservatives, and no high fructose corn-syrup."
But some consumers aren't too happy with the new dough. The tenor of the reaction to the company's Chocolate Chip Refrigerated Cookie is, well, horrible, to put it lightly: The product page has become a nerve center of surging consumer discontent over the past two months. Alongside that of Toll House, Pillsbury's chocolate chip cookie dough recipe might just be the singular ready-to-eat formula most familiar to American consumers' palates, and change can be rough.
"These are honestly horrible," one epigrammatist who goes by the name Hsvrunlover13 wrote. "America is in a health craze and I get why they did this. But seriously, they are cookies." Or consider Houston 77079's take: "The new recipe is no good. Cookies don't taste anywhere near as good and really aren't good at all. Go back to the old recipe or the drawing board." And another, from Shcain17: "Horrible ugghhhh I'm sooooooo disappointed. I like really loved these cookies and this is totally ruined for me. Whhyyyyy?????!!!!! Why would you ruin such a perfect recipe? Negative [stars]"
A distinct trend emerges as you scroll through this page, teeming with one-star reviews that average out to two stars for the product; it's the equivalent of hearing a chorus of consumers griping, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. The incident recalls what happened to another General Mills product earlier this year: Trix cereal. Its once-blazing neon hues were blanched of color when General Mills gave it a more "healthy" ingredient calculus, yet General Mills recently reneged on that decision following public outcry.
As of writing, it's unclear whether General Mills will kowtow to critics who pine for the sweet, gritty taste of preservative-laden nostalgia in the former incarnation of its refrigerated cookie dough. The company certainly knew what it was getting itself in to: General Mills preemptively set up a money-back guarantee form that promises a refund for any disgruntled consumers to receive a full refund for their purchases.
General Mills has not yet responded to requests for comment from MUNCHIES regarding the recipe's future, or the company's impetus for changing it in the first place.
UPDATE—Shortly after this story's publication, a spokesperson for Pillsbury provided the following comment to MUNCHIES regarding the changes to its cookie dough recipe:
"We are always looking for ways to improve our products and deliver what consumers are asking for. With our new Pillsbury cookie recipe we have improved the taste and been able to remove artificial flavors, colors, preservatives and high fructose corn syrup from the recipe. We have heard from many consumers who are delighted by these changes. We promoted the 'Money Back Guarantee' on the packaging because we stand behind our products and want our consumers to love the Pillsbury products they buy."