Many manufacturers add chemical preservatives that inhibit the growth of microbes and mold. The six lowest-rated brands all contain preservatives; the three winners do not-instead they rely on vinegar to perform this function. According to our science editor, the preservatives can lend a slight off-flavor to the breads, which our tasters detected in several of the low-rated brands.
To mask those off-flavors, most of these low-rated breads use high-fructose corn syrup as their primary sweetener; the corn syrup is powerfully sweet and can make off-flavors-as well as desirable wheat flavor-less apparent. Our top three brands do not contain high-fructose corn syrup (instead they rely on white and brown sugars, raisin juice, honey, and molasses), and tasters praised them for stronger wheat flavor.
As for texture, our tasters liked breads that were heartier, chewier, and more dense than white bread. The breads are listed below, with tasters' comments, in order of preference.
1. PEPPERIDGE FARM 100% Natural Whole Wheat Bread $3.39 for 24 ounces
Comments: This bread, which had a low level of sugars and no corn syrup,
was praised for its "whole-grain, earthy flavor" and "nuttiness." The
"dense, chewy" texture was lauded as being "grainy but moist."
2. RUDI'S ORGANIC BAKERY Honey Sweet Whole Wheat Bread $3.79 for 22 ounces
Comments: This bread earned high marks for its "dense and wholesome" texture. It also had the lowest total sugars of any brand in the lineup. "Closest to traditional wheat bread in taste and texture," said one taster.
3. ARNOLD Natural 100% Whole Wheat Bread $2.50 for 20 ounces
Comments: "Nutty and wheaty," said tasters, who appreciated this bread's "complex" and "strong, healthy" flavor. Its texture was praised as "hearty." A few panelists complained about a "bitter" aftertaste.