We’re all fine with it mixed into our frappes and covering an ooey-gooey sticky bun, but we’re only moderately interested should it show up in our cereal bowls. Sales history speaks for itself; Kellogg’s Caramel Nut Crunch and Crunchy Nut Caramel Nut were both short-lived, while Dulce de Leche Cheerios is as elusive on supermarket shelves as Barry Sanders was in the open field of the Pontiac Silverdome.
There’s really only one conclusion to support this: cereal companies have been thinking of caramel all wrong.
Instead of trying to pair caramel with chocolate, apples, or nut flavors like past cereals, Cap’n Crunch’s Caramel Popcorn Crunch looks to the snack aisle for inspiration and gets caramel right.
Popcorn for breakfast?
Actually it’s less crazy than it sounds, and certainly on more solid footing than rainbow sherbet-flavored Fruity Pebbles. Aside from the fact most sugary cereals are made from corn, there’s actually some precedence for eating actual popcorn at the breakfast table. Even though old-timey Americans who would eventually found cereal empires ate popcorn with milk to jumpstart their day, I’d recommend keeping this latest flavor solely in the realm of a dry snack.
Oh sure it’s not bad in milk—actually the end-milk has a delicious dulce de leche sort of flavor—but the light and airy spheres don’t hold their texture as well as other Cap’n Crunch flavors. Also, the salty-sweet flavor and the molasses backnotes are, literally, drowned out.
Those flavors are much more prevalent when eaten dry, where an intriguing salty-sweet flavor comes together in a flavor rarely encountered in cereal form. There’s the usual brown sugar and coconut oil aftertaste of Cap’n Crunch, but an extra burnt sugar sweetness is balanced by a salty and airy crisp that’s really enjoyable. It’s not perfect in replicating caramel popcorn—there’s something to be said for sticky hands and partially melted corn syrup to lick from your fingers—but it’s pretty accurate for what it is, and, what’s more, comes with the benefit of not having any annoying unpopped kernels. And if you’re into the whole “Chicago Mix” thing, I have great news. It pairs wonderfully with an extra salty cheesy crunch from a snack like Cheese Nips, which everyone knows is far superior to Cheez-Its.
I’m not going to endorse Caramel Popcorn Crunch as a part of a complete breakfast because I don’t want the First Lady coming after good old Cap’n Horatio again, but I will definitely give it a thumbs up as a snacking cereal with excellent mixability with other salty snacks.
Will it stick around for more than a couple of years? Probably not, but such is the lifespan of caramel-flavored cereals. If you don’t like it too, then tough. But at least we’ll have twenty million other caramel or salted caramel-flavored products to fall back on.
(Nutrition Facts – 31 grams – 120 calories, 10 calories from fat, 1 grams of fat, 0.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 150 milligrams of sodium, 60 milligrams of potassium, 27 grams of carbohydrates, 1 grams of dietary fiber, 14 grams of sugars, 1 grams of protein, and if you’re getting the majority of vitamins and minerals from cereal you really need to rethink your dietary choices.)
Item: Cap’n Crunch’s Caramel Popcorn Crunch Cereal
Purchased Price: $3.00
Size: 16.2 oz. box
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Salty-sweet flavor makes for an addictive snack. Brown sugar and molasses depth. Delicious dulce de leche type end-milk flavor. Pairs exceptionally well with Cheese Nips.
Cons: Lacks the buttered richness of caramel popcorn. Absolutely no redeeming nutritional value. Tastes horrible mixed with Cocoa Puffs. Not as crunchy as the other Cap’n Crunch flavors, and still only the fourth tastiest version of Cap’n Crunch.