It’s fair to say I’m not the healthiest eater, a regrettable side effect of unrelenting stubbornness meeting finicky taste buds. As a result, I’m even more desperate than most people for reasonably healthy food that actually tastes good. And man cannot live on Pirate’s Booty alone, so when SunChips’ new Sweet & Spicy BBQ flavor hit grocery store shelves, I was all over that like, well, me on frozen yogurt.
The front of the bag really tries to sell you on the complexity of the tastes you’ll soon be mouthfeeling, showing the chips leaning against a dipping bowl of barbecue sauce, alongside chili peppers and that weird utensil that seems to be used exclusively to drip honey. (Or “hunny,” if you’re a silly ol’ bear.) It’s an intriguing montage that creates the expectation of a great pairing, like brownies and ice cream or Spider-Man and Optimus Prime.
In keeping with the health-conscious branding of SunChips, the label reminds you that they’re multigrain and a stamp emphasizes the all-natural ingredients and lack of MSG, preservatives, and artificial flavors. No complaints from me — their marketing strategy has always revolved around being healthier than the competition (30% less fat than regular potato chips, apparently), and you’ve gotta dance with the one who brought you.
The back further expands on the flavor explosion you’re apparently about to experience. It promises “a bold and unforgettable taste” that will “start the sweetest, sauciest fire in your mouth,” which hopefully is an exaggeration because hey, SunChips… flattered, even curious, but married. It also encourages you to check out their Facebook page, being updated by some eager, unpaid intern even as we speak. Yes, this is why you went to Brown for four years, Sarah. Working your way up!
But enough talk! Let’s talk about the actual chips themselves. Opening the bag releases a pleasing smell, like a somewhat muted aroma of barbecued ribs or chicken. It’s enjoyable without being overpowering, even if you stick your nose in the bag, although why would you do that unless you’re a weirdo food reviewer? In terms of appearance, you’ve seen SunChips before; these look identical except for a slightly darker, more orange shade than the plain variety. Given their focus on all natural ingredients, I’m assuming that is genuinely due to the barbecue coating, not just food coloring to differentiate them in your mental food rolodex.
With respect to texture, they’re definitely crunchy — if you’ve never had a SunChip of any kind before, basically they feel just like any regular potato chip, possibly even slightly crunchier. But ultimately that doesn’t matter a whit if they taste terrible, now does it? Well, the good news is, they don’t taste terrible; in fact, they’re pretty darn good. The sweetness comes through loud and clear, more like molasses than super sugary, although it doesn’t linger for long. Still, I have a hard time imagining many people disliking the taste, even if it doesn’t absolutely blow you away.
However, I do have a bone to pick, which is simply this: I have tasted spicy before. I know from spicy. And this, my friends, is not spicy. Remember that business about the bold and unforgettable taste? I can’t give it the response it deserves, but suffice to say in gentleman’s terms, that’s a crock of horseshit.
This is as edgy and in-your-face as men piercing their ears nowadays: it still might slightly intimidate young kids, but nobody else is going to be impressed. (And yes, I had three piercings in college. Swimmers are pretty hardcore, you know.) The heat is conspicuously absent, and while I’m not looking to scorch my lips off, the word “spicy” evokes certain expectations that are simply not met. Compared to the sweetness, the spice is like unto a phantom flavor, evident in some pale shade but so insubstantial as to make you question your senses. And that’s the last time I read M. R. James before writing a review.
(Full disclosure: while the upper chips in the bag were almost entirely devoid of heat, around the halfway mark there started to be a tiny bit, presumably due to the spices settling downward. Still not much, but it at least approaches the heat of a typical “mild” flavor.)
Even without more spice, this is still a good flavor that I have no trouble recommending; it’s just that it could have been even better if the spice were commensurate with the sweetness. I don’t know if that would have made them less healthy or if artificial flavors are needed to really crank it up to 11, but it’s a missed opportunity. Even so, try not to let these slip away without giving them a shot; they might not knock your socks off, but they are good.
(Nutrition Facts — 1 oz (28g/about 15 chips) — 140 calories, 50 calories from fat, 6 grams of total fat, 0.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 1 gram of polyunsaturated fat, 3.5 grams of monounsaturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 135 milligrams of sodium, 19 grams of total carbohydrates, 2 grams of dietary fiber, 3 grams of sugars, and 2 grams of protein.)
Other Sun Chips Sweet & Spicy BBQ Flavored Chips reviews:
Item: SunChips Sweet & Spicy BBQ Flavored Multigrain Snacks
Purchased Price: $3.99
Size: 10.5 oz. bag
Purchased at: Giant
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: If you’re going to eat chips, these are among the least ass-fattening. Barbeque smell. Good texture. Effective degree of sweetness without being overly sugary. Spider-Man and Optimus Prime: great team-up, or the greatest team-up?
Cons: An Ivy League English degree is still useless. Misleading ad copy. As much heat as Hayden Christensen/Natalie Portman. Letting someone see you sticking your nose in a bag of chips.