Snack Review: New! Smartfood Popcorn Clusters: Cranberry Almond
Summertime is in full swing and to me that says baseball. And while Human Growth Hormones may be the snack of choice for major league sluggers like Alex Rodriguez (hey what do you expect, I am from Baltimore), what says ballpark munchies more like Cracker Jacks?
Nothing that I know of, and despite the arrival of several imitators over the years, no product has been able to replicate the classic and All-America combination of popcorn, molasses, and peanuts found in the original Cracker Jack. While I’d personally argue that any attempt to “fix” what obviously ain’t “broke” would be foolish, the fine folks at Lays recently sent me their new and healthier alternative to Cracker Jacks to try out: Smartfood Popcorn Clusters.
Lays seems to really be marketing these as a healthy snack choice aimed at what I like to refer to as “the hungry girl crowd.” This is not an opinion, it is a fact. I mean, how else can you explain the product’s marketing slogan of “only in a woman’s world?” The fact that I’m aware of this dynamic is a bit emasculating in and of itself, but what I really want to know is why Lays thinks a dude can’t enjoy flavors like “Cranberry Almond” or “Chocolate Cookie Caramel Pecan?” I mean I love the original Cracker Jack as much as the next red blooded American male, but that doesn’t mean my taste buds don’t enjoy a little variety, and it doesn’t mean I can’t be health conscience. What gives Lays? Are we, as dudes, just not evolved enough in our tastes to “get” flavors like Cranberry Almond?
This question notwithstanding – and the fact that I arguably lost my manhood by eating these – I have to admit that I really enjoyed my little pouch of Cranberry Almond Popcorn Clusters. I say “little” because the packet really was little, measuring out to only a half of cup (coincidentally the serving size listed for Cracker Jacks.). Still, the cranberry pieces were flavorful and light, and they worked well with the sweetened pieces of popcorn. I felt that the sweet taste of the Clusters was lighter than that of a typical Cracker Jack, and I wasn’t crazy about “brown rice syrup” being first on the ingredient list (I enjoy the deep and bolder flavor of molasses). The almonds were full of flavor and there was a good deal of glazy goodness connecting them to the popcorn, but at the same time I found myself missing the exceptional saltiness of peanuts in the original Cracker Jacks.
Don’t get me wrong, Smartfood Poporn Clusters are definitely very tasty. I just have a hard time justifying their cost considering the tried and true alternative of a bag Cracker Jacks. This really just looks like a case of a “beautified” Cracker Jack pumped up with fiber and calcium, while at the same time being marketed as a healthy item because of the preset serving size. Smartfood Popcorn Clusters are worth a try (especially if you’re looking for something a little different) but I’d go ahead and stick with the real deal the next time you’re at the ballpark.
- Pros: Great flavor combination, as the fruity sweetness of cranberry is balanced by the almonds. Sweet glaze reminiscent of Cracker Jacks. Low fat. Fiber. CalciYUM.
- Cons: Expensive. Sweetness is too “light.” Would benefit from molasses, and possibly a saltier nut choice like peanuts. The knowledge that I enjoyed a woman’s “diet snack” conjures up images of Colonel Kurtz’s immortal words in Apocalypse Now.
GrubGrade: 6.50/10 (Average)
Price: $3.49 for Five-Packet Package
Serving Size: 1 Pouch
Total Fat: 2g
Saturated Fat: 0g
Sodium: 75 mg
Total Carbohydrates: 24g
Dietary Fiber: 5g
Protein: 1 g