Unless you live in a hole in the ground, you are probably aware of the Quaker Company. They’ve been spreading the good word of oatmeal since 1877, and in the past decade or so have been branching out considerably to compete with other snack giants such as Frito Lay. Since it’s that time of year when lots of folks are looking to be a little healthier, I wanted to explore a couple of their snack products and see what they had to offer those of us who don’t want the term “healthy snack” to be an oxymoron.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the details on the Quaker empire, there is quite a bit of interesting information to be found on their site www.quakeroats.com. It is extremely in-depth and offers everything to consumers from nutritional information on their products to the latest news on the Quaker Oats Center of Excellence, a program set up by the company that is dedicated to developing, ” healthier, nutritious and great-tasting oat-based products for the family.” Awfully nice of them to do that. And of course the site does also include the requisite page packed with recipes and serving suggestions for the home cook. And Quaker has plenty of history to back up all that marketing. The company officially registered their trademark 138 years ago, but they struggled for a few years until they were purchased by Henry Crowell in 1881, whose marketing skills were clearly ahead of his time. Among the many firsts in the industry, Quaker Oats was the first to have a national advertising campaign, the first company to offer “trial” sizes in a direct marketing campaign in Portland Oregon (every household in town received a small box of the product in the mail), and they were also the first food product to feature a recipe on the back of the box. It wasn’t until 1915 that the now-familiar cylinder shaped box went onto shelves, and in the decades following, other convenience-based options were introduced, like their Quick Oats in the twenties and the first Instant Oatmeal in the sixties. And in the late nineties, Quaker received the very first food-specific health claim approved by the FDA regarding the consumption of oatmeal for heart health.

But enough of me blabbing the history lesson, let’s get down to the purpose of this post. As I mentioned before, Quaker doesn’t just do oats. These days, they are into a bit of everything, including rice-based snack products. I had tried a few of their Popped Rice Crisps in the past (the Chocolate flavor is delightful), but had never sampled any of the savory flavors and wanted to give them a try – I picked up the Sweet Chili – as well as look a little closer at just how healthy they really are. For a little variety, I also tried the Apple Cinnamon, a sweet flavor I had never sampled.  I first tested the Sweet Chili flavor. The “chips” definitely have their positives; 13g of whole grains in every serving (which according to the package is about 18 of the little cakes), and only about 130 calories. And depending on where you purchase these products, all the Popped flavors can be had for about $1.50 per 3-3.5 oz. bag – definitely not mad at that. However, for those of you who are concerned, the Sweet Chili flavor does contain gluten and soy products, which is clearly marked on the back of the package. But then there is the taste factor to consider. If you are someone who makes healthy food a regular part of your life, you’ll really like these; they are very flavorful, and have a little kick that isn’t too overwhelming. But if you are accustomed to regular potato chips or cheese-flavored snacks, they’ll probably resemble mildly spicy styrofoam. You’ve been warned.

The Apple Cinnamon flavor, I am pleased to announce, was markedly better. While they do have fewer whole grains per serving, they have remarkably little sugar for being so sweet (8g), and have fewer calories (120). And although they also contain soy, they do proudly proclaim on the front of the package that they are gluten-free. They are satisfyingly crunchy and not too sugary-sweet tasting. I would liken the overall flavor of them to Quaker’s Apples & Cinnamon Instant Oatmeal – and that is definitely not a criticism!

Part of my motivation for starting this blog was to not only bring my readers information about various foods and food-related products, but also to educate myself in the process. This was one of those particular times where I learned quite a bit more than I was expecting. I knew prior to this that Quaker had an extensive reach into the breakfast and snack-food market, but I wasn’t aware of the variety of products they offered. From their fifteen kinds of oatmeals in nearly limitless flavors, to their breakfast shakes, corn meal, and even a tortilla mix, the Quaker Corporation seems to have the situation well in hand. So get out there and start snacking – as if you needed my encouragement!