The BEEF Taste Test panel moves into a new genre of convenient beef products this month. Previous taste tests have critiqued microwaveable beef entrées. This month, it's snack foods, and the first one was a real hit.

Ortega Fiesta Dips is a four-product line of chip dips that blend seasoned beef or chicken, cheese or salsa and spices. We tried the “Nacho Beef” product. Other products in the line include the “4-Layer Dip,” “Nacho Chicken” and the “Chunky Salsa & Beef.”

The Nacho Beef Dip product combines seasoned ground beef with two cheeses, green peppers, tomatoes and traditional seasonings. It's designed as a topper for nacho chips, but it also works great on baked potatoes, finger food snacks or on taco shells.

Our 13-member taste panel this month consisted of the board of directors of the Minnesota Beef Council (MBC) and MBC staff. Overall, they rated the product an 8.77 (10-point scale), making it the highest-rated product ever in our BEEF Taste Test series.

The previous champs were Red Oak Farms Beef Pot Roast (August 2000, page 6), which scored an 8.75; and Schwan's Ground Chuck Beef Burgers (December 2000, page 14), which rated an 8.72.

Ortega Nacho Beef dip is an 11-oz. package with a retail price of $2.73. The dip is packaged in a film-covered, serveable tray that can be prepared in a microwave or conventional oven.

The product drew high scores across the board, garnering no less than a 4.4 (5-point scale) in every category of packaging, convenience and sensory factors.

Panelists lauded the product's packaging for its simplicity of design, selection of color and attractiveness. They also highly rated its ease of preparation, preparation time and serving size.

The product drew its highest scores for the sensory factors of visual presentation, flavor and texture.

“Almost as good as mother's homemade dip,” one said, “although there's more beef in hers.”

“Great taste, plus this product fits into a non-traditional market for beef,” said another.

The use of seasonings, of course, is a personal taste. One panelist alluded to that saying, “the product leaves a little afterburn.” Yet, that panelist gave the dip an overall score of 8 (10-point scale).

Ortega Fiesta Dips

Does the package clearly identify the entree? 4.5
Complete preparation instructions 4.5 Packaging
Nutrition information 4.4
Easy to prepare 4.4
Preparation time 4.6 Convenience
0-5point scale
Serving size 4.4
Does it visually present well? 4.5
Flavor 4.6
Tenderness 4.7 Sensory Factors
0-5 point scale
Palatability 4.6
Is it juicy? 4.7
Overall value
10-point scale
8.77