For a snack combination to succeed, the whole must be greater than the sum of the parts. Take Chex Mix, my favorite of all snack mixes: It is vastly more appealing than eating just Chex, or just pretzels, or just rye chips. (If you just eat those little breadstick bits, I have no words for you.)
So with its two new flavors of Cheez-It Duoz—Caramel Popcorn and Cheddar; and Cheddar Jack and Sharp Cheddar Pretzel—the cracker maker faces a daunting mandate: create a combination more delicious than solo Cheez-Its.
Caramel Popcorn and Cheddar Duoz
I dove first into Caramel Popcorn and Cheddar, a mash-up that Cheez-It acknowledges is inspired by a certain Chicago popcorn blend. Sweet-and-salty is my jam, friends, so I had high hopes.
The cheddar crackers had a familiar dusty cheese taste that tickled a flavor memory buried deep in my cortex: Ritz Bits cheese sandwiches. The cheddar Cheez-Its themselves were tasty enough, but the popcorn wasn’t a replica of the Garrett mix I used to gorge on when I lived in Chicago. It was softer, less sweet, and didn’t seem to be in the right proportion to the cheese crackers.
The mix needed more popcorn, I thought, as I turned up handfuls of cheese crackers. This could be due to the size differential between the popcorn and Cheez-Its; the former seemed to sift toward the bottom of the mix, making it tough to get the right proportion of both in one handful. Overall, the cheddar-caramel components seemed disparate and needed something to tie the room together.
Cheddar Jack and Sharp Cheddar Pretzel Duoz
Next came the Cheddar Jack and Pretzel flavor, which surprised me by being the vastly tastier option. Here, the Cheez-It and pretzel combo actually becomes integrated as the cheddar jack dust coats the pretzels. And because the pretzels and crackers are the same size, there was a good ratio of them as I crammed each fistful into my face hole. The Cheddar Jack flavoring itself is deliciously piquant, not overly salty, sort of like a cheese rind and Doritos’ spice mashup. The pretzels perhaps do not add much in terms of flavor, but their crunchy thickness is a welcome contrast to the softer, thinner crackers.
Are they better than Cheez-Its alone? This depends on how much you already love Cheez-Its, which for me, is quite a bit. If you’re going to give either of these new Duoz a whirl, make it the Cheddar Jack and Pretzel ones, and get your caramel-cheddar fix with a bag from Garrett.