Updated Pizza Pockets look good, don’t deliver
McCain relaunched its popular snack this fall, but does it pass the test?
McCain Foods momentarily shocked and scandalized the nation this summer when rumour spread that its beloved Pizza Pockets were being discontinued. Memories of late-night college cravings, of cringeworthy ’90s commercials, of cheap, piping-hot puffs of goo-filled microwaved dough were on the verge of being scraped into the green bin of history.
Alas, the alarm was premature. McCain’s frozen balls of adolescent joy weren’t going extinct. They were going upmarket — up-marché, rather — dressing their best and standing on their tippy toes so they wouldn’t be carded this time.
Relaunched this fall as part of a new Marché line of stuffed pastries, Pizza Pockets seem to want to be taken more seriously, to reach an older crowd with deeper, um, pockets (pockets full of nostalgia, surely). Check out the country-kitchen esthetic on the new packaging. Behold the pocket’s oblong shape, with three parallel grooves — from a chef’s blade, presumably — across the top, like a miniature baguette.
This is some fine-looking snack food.
But what anyone who has bought these before will notice most of all is that the box, still roughly the same size as before, now contains only two pockets instead of four. And while the buns are a bit bigger, the total weight of one box is just 260 grams, down from 400. Consumers are paying a similar price (about $4 a box) for considerably less food.
But are the pockets better than before? McCain assures us the recipe is unchanged, despite those baker-ly flourishes. Now many years removed from my college days, I haven’t had an excuse to warm up a Pizza Pocket in a long time, but the taste is a more recent memory for several members of our panel.
I took a bite of a “deluxe” pocket, expecting it to ooze deliciously like it does in the picture. The dough is nice and soft but the inside is a rather mushy mound of salt and fat. It tastes pizza-esque, with the basics of cheese, pepperoni and tomato sauce, perhaps garlic, but in your mouth it’s hard to differentiate the flavours. I could tell there was cheese in my “deluxe” pie because it stuck to my teeth, but I had to read the ingredients to learn there were also mushrooms and green and red peppers.
Still, lack of nuance is unlikely to deter today’s youth from eating these. What might scare them off is the price — or if they happen to come across those ’90s-era TV ads on YouTube. They are just as embarrassing as you remember. Would I eat it again? I won’t avoid them. But unless I start aging backwards and return to high school, it seems unlikely.
The dough is soft but the inside is a rather mushy mound of salt and fat.