My first experience with a Skinny Cow product was their tiny little frozen dessert single-serve cups, and it was downright terrible. With the first spoonful, I instantly regretted picking it over the tiny tubs of Häagen-Dazs in the same cooler. In the quest to find decent calorie-reduced treats, there are successes and there are failures; that Skinny Cow experience was most definitely a failure.
Ah, but I’m a sucker for punishment, and I wasn’t deterred enough by my first Skinny Cow experience to forever steer clear of the brand.
And wouldn’t you know it – I’m glad I gave Skinny Cow a second chance, because these Dreamy Clusters are a wonderful example of how, when done right, a calorie-reduced snack treat can actually nail the compromise.
The Pitch: “120 calories per pack,” which is why you’re eating them. Also: “Crunchy crisps and creamy caramel drenched in milk chocolate.”
The Look: The commercial on TV had me believing these were basically low-calorie Turtles, and the illustration on the package shows roughly the same thing, complete with gooey caramel flowing between the two halves of a split apart chocolate lump. In reality, there are about five or so smallish (between the size of a quarter and a loonie) chocolate-coated lumps in every bag, and they look nothing like Turtles – or the illustration on the front, for that matter. The packaging and name both scream “I’M ON A DIET!” – I guess that’s cool if you don’t mind proclaiming your diet intentions to anyone within sight.
The Taste: Once you get past the “Um, these aren’t like Turtles at all” shock, they’re really not that bad. They’re chocolate coated rice crisps, with a bit of chewy caramel inside. The sweet to salty ratio is just right, there’s a satisfying crunch and each piece is just the right size. There’s some psychology going on here, too: the chocolate lumps look bulkier because of the rice crisps, and the number of pieces per package makes it feel like a more substantial treat. The chocolate tastes fine, and the caramel adds the extra kick that takes it from OK to quite good. Reduced-calorie snacks are always about the compromise between flavour and cutting calorie corners. In this case, the right cuts were made.
RATINGS AND DETAILS
Cost: $1.25 for a 28 gram bag at Calgary Co-op. (Also spotted and purchased at London Drugs for $0.99.
Value for cash money: Good. About the same price as a chocolate bar.
Nutrition?: Per bag (28 grams): 120 calories, 6 grams of fat (including 0.1 gram of trans fat, FWIW), 100 mg of sodium, 2 grams of fibre, 1 gram of protein.
The verdict: That these are tasty is only half of the awesome. The real victory is that when you eat a pack of these, you feel as satisfied as when you’ve just eaten a regular-sized chocolate bar, which often contains twice the calories. That’s harm reduction I can get behind.