A cookie is one of those foods that really should be review proof, right?
It’s a sweet mound of dough and sugar, sometimes with something tasty contained within. People who don’t enjoy sweets aren’t going to eat them, and people who do are almost automatically going to like them. Yeah, you can get some outliers like shortbread cookies or Fig Newtons that some people hate, but by and large, there’s no way to mess up a cookie…EXCEPT by messing with the formula.
Sometimes successful companies who have plateaued on expansion with their existing lines will try dreaming up new variations of a product they’ve already mastered. Occasionally this works out really well. Frequently it…doesn’t. But it’s why we’re here today to discuss Chips Ahoy!’s latest offering, a dual attempt to increase market share and to make my spellchecker commit suicide.
The premise behind Sweet ‘n Salty is that they’re part of the “chewy” sub-line of Chips Ahoy!, but in addition to chocolate chips, they also contain salted caramel chunks. Since caramel is inherently sweet, it seems like more of a 2-1 ratio, but I guess “Sweet ‘n Salty ‘n Sweet” isn’t as marketable.
As you’d expect, the package is strongly modeled on Chips Ahoy’s “house style,” where you exchange some originality for instant recognition. If you’ve ever seen an EC horror comic, you know what I mean — any issue of Tales from the Crypt, the Haunt of Fear, etc. had a large box in the upper third with the book’s title, a small rectangle on the far left with an eye-catching noun like “Terror” or “Horror,” and three circles showing the trio of hosts (the Crypt Keeper, the Vault Keeper, the Old Witch). The individual cover images would vary, obviously, but you always recognize an EC cover or parody immediately.
As the “chewy” variety of Chips Ahoy!, this package is primarily red, with the standard logo and lettering and background. However, the image depicts a cookie with both chips and caramel chunks and supplements this with the ubiquitous “New!” tag in the upper left. Overly creative? No. Recognizable? Quite.
To my non-cookie-expert mind, it seems like the key to success here lies in achieving the right balance. Too salty and it’ll turn away people who came for a cookie, not a cracker. Too sweet and you risk rendering the salt unnoticeable/irrelevant. I’m happy to report that Chips Ahoy! seems to have found a pretty good balance, albeit with just a little less salt than I might have liked.
The cookies are the same size and consistency as any other Chips Ahoy! cookie you’ve ever had, and yes, they are indeed chewy, almost oozing rather than crumbling into your mouth. The chocolate is sweet, the chips are plentiful, and the caramel definitely makes its presence felt, though not overbearingly so. As a caramel fiend, I actually could have used just a bit more, but overall it’s a good proportion.
And yes, you will taste some salt, though it takes some time to hit; and as I mentioned before, remains fairly subtle. You might get the impression that these are chocolate chip-caramel cookies that some factory worker just accidentally dumped some salt into, and while that doesn’t make them taste bad by any stretch, I could see some people (like me) wishing for more.
Still, it’s hard to fault Chips Ahoy! too much for that. A pleasing taste, soft texture, and sweet smell combine, Voltron-style, to form a pretty darn good cookie, at least by prepackaged grocery store standards. I do think they could have just not bothered with the salt, but maybe that’s one of the things that attracts people and moves product in a way that plain caramel wouldn’t have. And that’s why I’m not one of the cookie mavens.
(Nutrition Facts – 2 cookies – 140 calories, 60 calories from fat, 6 grams of fat, 3.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 grams of polyunsaturated fat, 2 grams of monounsaturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 95 milligrams of sodium, 25 milligrams of potassium, 20 grams of total carbohydrates, 0 grams of dietary fiber, 12 grams of sugars, and less than 1 gram of protein.)
Other Chewy Chips Ahoy! Sweet ‘n Salty Salted Caramel Chunk:
Junk Food Guy
Item: Chewy Chips Ahoy! Sweet ‘n Salty Salted Caramel Chunk
Purchased Price: $3.79
Size: 9.5 ounces
Purchased at: Acme
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Strong brand marketing. Seeking the sweet/salty nirvana. Enjoyable smell. Plentiful chips and caramel. Stay chewy, my friends.
Cons: “Subtle salt” not just a good band name. Certain people (wives) might find them overly chewy. Could get lost among similar-looking Chips Ahoy! Chewy varieties. Suicidal spellcheck (also a good band name).