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Best Gift Baskets for the Holidays

Our survey revealed what Americans really want in a gift basket, then we searched to find offerings that really delivered

Published: November 13, 2015 06:00 AM
The Golden State Fruit Grand Abundance Wine and Fruit Gift Basket, $140 to $145

Gift baskets have earned a reputation as a holiday present you give when you’ve run out of ideas. And that’s unfortunate because gift baskets can be a pleasure to receive, even if not every last item hits the spot.

Not that ordering one will be a snap. Many vendors offer dozens of baskets, boxes, and towers. What do people really want in gift baskets? And which assortments offer the best quality? We wanted to know, so we did what any reasonable organization with its own in-house survey department and expert sensory testers would do. We asked, then we tested.

Specifically, we recently conducted a nationally rep­re­sen­ta­tive survey of 1,024 adults to ask what they would most like to find in a gift basket. The winner by a long shot was fresh fruit, followed by a trio of vices: chocolate, cheese, and wine. (See the breakdown in "Fruits of Our Labor," below.)

We shopped 20 of the top gift-basket companies to find ­offerings that most closely match the variety of treats that our survey respondents said they were most eager to ­receive. We then picked four gift baskets and ordered two samples of each (because contents—and price—can vary or be customized).

Then our testers had an early holiday feast with the gift baskets—Golden State Fruit Grand Abundance Wine and Fruit Gift Basket, Harry & David Deluxe Favorites, GiftTree The Premium Selection, and Wine Country Eastpoint Cellars Wine and Fruit Collection.

Here’s what we found:

Looking to save money and time this holiday season? Check our hoiday gift guide.

Are gift baskets for you?

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Comparing the Gift Baskets

 

Golden State   Fruit Grand Abundance Wine and Fruit Gift Basket

 

Harry & David
Deluxe Favorites

 

GiftTree
The Premium Selection

 

Wine Country
Eastpoint Cellars Wine and Fruit Collection

 

Cost

$140 to $145

 

$127 to $130

 

$148

$128

 

Fruit

3 to 4 pears, 2 to 3 oranges

8 pears

1 to 3 plums, grapes, 2 to 3 peaches, 4 bananas (one basket), 2 to 3 pears, 3 to 4 apples, pineapple (one basket)

3 apples, 3 pears, 5 oranges

Chocolate

5 squares of chocolate, 4 chocolate-covered salted caramels (one basket

6 truffles, 2 ounces of milk-chocolate mini-mints, 6 ounces of chocolate-covered cherries 

1 ounce of almond bark, 2 ounces of caramel crisp

 

1 ounce of chocolate caramels

Cheese

8 ounces of sharp Italian

4 ounces of cheddar

 

8 ounces of cheddar

 

6 garlic-and-herb cheese wedges

 

Wine

1 bottle (chosen from 4 white and red)

 

1 bottle (chosen from 15 white and red)

2 bottles (red and/or white)

2 bottles (1 red, 1 white)

Other

Other 4 triangles of baklava (one basket), crackers, salted ­cashews or rosemary almonds

5 ounces of raspberry galettes, 10 ounces of Moose Munch, 10 ounces of pepper-onion relish

 

4 ounces of crackers, 4 caramels, 5 ounces of biscotti, 3 ounces of wafer cookies

1.5 ounces of fruit and nuts, 1 ounce of hard candy, 3 ounces of brownie cookies, 1 ounce of shortbread, 3 ounces of wafers

Results

Some of the pears were overripe, but the oranges were tender, juicy, and sweet. The chocolate, crackers, and nuts were flavorful, and the caramels were buttery. You can select one of four wines; we tried the 2013 La Crema Sonoma Coast Chardonnay and a 2012 Murphy-Goode Cabernet Sauvignon. Both were Very Good, although the cab might have improved a bit with age.

The pears ripened to a quality that Harry & David is known for. Truffles and mini-mints were decent; cherries tasted more cherry than chocolate. The Moose Munch and cookies were good, the relish delightfully spicy, and the cheese sharp and flavorful. One basket had a tasty but unbalanced 2012 Harry & David Vineyards Merlot, the other a 2013 Harry & David Vineyards Chardonnay, which was short on fruit.

Except for the bananas and grapes, the fruit was just okay. Baskets vary depending on location. One included items (such as Pepperidge Farm cookies) easily found in grocery stores. The almond bark and cheese were delicious. One basket had a Very Good 2013 Dreaming Tree Chardonnay Central Coast. The other wines—2014 Cloud Break Sauvignon Blanc, 2011 Poggio San Pietro Toscana Rosso, 2012 Primal Roots Red Blend—were Good.

The fruit quality varied; oranges were best. The caramels had little flavor, and the cheese tasted processed and slightly sour. Some cookies and crackers were stale. One basket had Very Good wines—a 2013 Eastpoint California Cabernet Sauvignon and a 2013 Eastpoint Central Coast Chardonnay. The other had the same wines, but the cab was from a less-impressive vintage.

Wine Rating

Very Good

Good

Good to Very Good

Good to Very Good

Food Rating

Very Good

Very Good

Good

Good

Fruits of Our Labor

Our national survey gave us a detailed picture of the country’s gift-basket favorites. To show what that looks like with real food, treats, and wine, we went shopping. With $100, we went to Wegmans (a Consumer Reports top-rated supermarket) in Woodbridge, N.J., plus a few specialty shops, and ended up with a great big grocery bag of goodies. America, here’s your gift basket! (A basket and shipping will cost extra.)

Photo: James Worrell
Editor's Note:

This article also appeared in the December 2015 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.

 



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