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?

God I love America (and 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.

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Never has a snack said "I lack cahones" like this one.

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?

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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.

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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

Lays.com

Nutrition Facts –  Smartfood Cranberry Almond Popcorn Clusters

Serving Size: 1 Pouch

Calories: 120

Total Fat: 2g

Saturated Fat: 0g

Cholesterol: 0mg

Sodium: 75 mg

Potassium: 55mg

Total Carbohydrates: 24g

Dietary Fiber: 5g

Sugars: 10g

Protein: 1 g

8 comments on “Snack Review: New! Smartfood Popcorn Clusters: Cranberry Almond

  1. rob says:

    I am way too masculine to eat these.

  2. I hate the marketing crap like “CalciYUM”, why do they attempt to market only to such a small niche…especially with an item that thy probably wouldn’t even want in the first place. Honestly all this does is “allow” the big ladies more excuses to pig out and not feel so bad….they just eat 4 pouches now instead of the whole box….well maybe it is better 😛

    The only reason it’s “healthy” is because the portions are so small. I bet an equivalent of the good ol’ CJ is near to it.

    Nice review though, glad to hear it tastes good.

    @Rob – Haha.

  3. I don’t understand how they can make food geared toward one sex or the other, I mean unless it has vitamins for men or woman. Personally as a woman that doesn’t interest me at all. The copy is just trying to get women to spend a more money on a smaller package as with all the “diet” snacks and meals.

  4. Ryan says:

    @ Erin … Haha, yeah…it’s all about marketing and target audiences. Don’t worry though, if a female wants to eat a HungryMan frozen dinner I won’t judge…well maybe a little. 🙂

  5. Adam says:

    Agree with everything that has been said, but in defense of the “serving size” question…I wish Cracker Jack would make smaller bags. I’ve been known to down 2-3 of those 99 cents bags at a baseball game in one sitting.

    Tense Bottom of the 9th + About 100 grams of sugar + All that caffine fron the mega gulp diet coke I just had = Dangerous Car Ride Home if I’m Driving

  6. @ Ryan
    Sorry for this just read what I wrote 😛 “women to spend a more money”.
    I would never eat a Hungry Man Meal lol. I try to eat healthy but I do like to eat “real” good every now and then. 😀

  7. Just checked and the nutrition facts are just about the same for Cracker Jacks and these “woman only”, “healthy” BS in a bags:
    http://www.crackerjack.com/nutrition.php

  8. Susan says:

    I tried these and must say i throughly enjoyed the 4 bags I ate! The serving size is way too small! I am a healthy eater but 1/2 cup of popcorn~who can do that? I would rather see this offered in a single bag so I don’t have to keep going back to open another bag and feel like I am doing something wrong-lol I doubt I would buy these again unless they offer them in something other than the five pack for $3+

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