If you grew up in Alberta in the 90s, there’s a good chance you remember Wheat Crunch. It was popular at my school, a regular find at the grocery store, and, if my memory isn’t faulty, even served in little plastic pouches abroad WestJet flights when WestJet was a quirky little upstart airline instead of a giant corporate behemoth.
If you’re from somewhere other than Alberta, or if you’re outside of the specific age window I find myself in, a bit of background may be helpful.
Some brilliant soul decided to turn wheat into a simple snack by frying it up, tossing it with seasoning and packaging it in little plastic bags. The flavours were similar to those of chips, but wheat being wheat, it had a veneer of nutritional respectability that potato chips didn’t. I don’t recall it being sold as a health food, but rather on taste and its spectacular crunch.
It was everywhere until it promptly vanished. I’m not sure of the why or the how, but Wheat Crunch faded away into Canadian prairie lore. I still occasionally have pangs of longing for the snack, in the same way that one remembers their favourite childhood pizza joint (Garbonzo’s in Winnipeg, if you must know) or the ultra-processed “fruit snacks” that lived in my elementary school Care Bears lunch pail.
The rebirth of Wheat Crunch
And then along came Dosch Organic Acres’ Wheat Crunch. I saw it mentioned online, so I knew I needed to grab some to see how this new version compares to my memories of the old one.
Instead of trying to compete head-to-head against typical junk food, this new Wheat Crunch plays up its earthy side. It’s sold as an “organic snack,” made with an “ancient grain” that the blurb on the back describes as “ancient khorasan wheat that boasts nutrients like no other wheat.” I don’t know enough about wheat to know if that’s legit, so I’ll leave that there for you to digest. (Any farmers care to chime in?) It’s also made with “cold-pressed high-oleic safflower oil,” and the packaging lists the flavouring as being organic. It also notes that it’s non-GMO and also nut-free. The nut-free thing is handy to know if you’re thinking about packing it in school lunches this fall.
Also: It’s now made in Saskatchewan? Weird! It’s from a place called Willow Bunch, in the deep south of the province, not too far from the U.S. border.
This reimagining of Wheat Crunch includes flavours such as Sea Salt, BBQ, Ranch, Buffalo Ranch, Dill Pickle, Salt and Vinegar, and, for those who like their wheat sweet, Cinnamon Sugar. The one I wanted to try most was Salt and Vinegar, since it’s the flavour I have the fondest memories of from my school days, but they were all sold out of those at Safeway. So I settled for a few others — ranch, BBQ and dill pickle. At $6.99 per bag, I was a bit checkout-aware of spending $21 for three not-huge bags of crunchy wheat snacks. But nostalgia be like that.
But how do they taste?
Opening the bag, the contents looked just like I remembered them — golden brown wheat kernels that look fried, but that are apparently “roasted” in safflower oil, as per the marketing copy.
Make no mistake: these tough little nuggets are crunchy. So crunchy that chewing a handful of them raised the ire of my TV-watching spouse, who complained about the noise. From the chewer’s perspective, it’s satisfyingly loud, with the kind of push-back you’d expect from a particularly thick-cut kettle-fried potato chip.
The three flavours I had were all unique, and each had their own pros and cons.
- BBQ: Lots of crunch, but not a lot of BBQ flavour. It’s subtle bordering on absent. When I think BBQ flavour, I think salty and smoky, with a touch of sweet. Here, the taste of the roasted wheat is great and shines through, but if I buy BBQ, I want BBQ. And there’s a lack of BBQ.
- Ranch: I’m pretty sure I remember ranch from the prior incarnation of Wheat Crunch, so I was most excited about this one. Sadly, it’s not nearly as tangy as I would have liked. There’s a kind of dairy-ish note, but it’s not quite right. This makes sense, as it’s apparently vegan. It reminds me of the artificial butter flavour used on subpar movie-theatre popcorn. Both this one and the BBQ one could use more salt. I wish their ingredients panel was more specific about what was in them, but it opts for the cryptic “organic ranch flavour” instead of telling me what I’m eating.
- Dill Pickle: Well, this one ain’t subtle. There’s tons of dill, so lack of flavour isn’t an issue. There’s also enough vinegar that any lack of salt isn’t nearly as obvious. Because of the strength of the dill, a little bit goes a long way. My favourite of the three I tried, but still not amazing.
Overall, the texture and taste of the wheat itself is much like I remember it. However, the flavours are too muted, which is a shame. Hopefully I can get my hands on the salt and vinegar to see if that holds up any better.
Price: $6.99 for a 160-gram bag at Safeway in Edmonton.
Value for Money: Kinda spendy.
Availability: Limited. Their website lists the stores that carry it, plus you can order it directly online.
Calories: 210 calories per 40 grams for the BBQ one. But that also includes a substantial 6 grams of protein and 5 grams of fibre.
Verdict: At this price, and given the lackluster flavours I tried, they’ll be lucky to only occasionally make their way into my shopping basket. And that’s if I can find a flavour I like.