ByBrandon Schultz/May 21, 2023 12:24 pm EST
Cool Ranch is undoubtedly one of the very best flavors in the Doritos arsenal, but you don't need to love tortilla chips to experience the classic flavor. At least for now. The summer 2022 release of Smartfood Doritos nacho cheese popcorn may have been last year's perfect popcorn for Doritos lovers, but the summer of 2023 is the season of Cool Ranch. Following the success of the previous collaboration, Smartfood Doritos Cool Ranch popcorn is now available for another summer mashup between two of America's favorite snack brands.
Smartfood and Doritos are two brands under the FritoLay umbrella, so the partnership makes perfect sense from a business perspective, but plenty of ideas are better on paper than they are in practice. To see where this one falls on the snack scale, we gathered all the details on the exciting new flavor with an early taste test of Smartfood Doritos Cool Ranch popcorn. Here's everything you need to know before buying a bag for yourself.
What's in Smartfood Doritos Cool Ranch popcorn?
The good news is that Smartfood Doritos Cool Ranch popcorn is primarily made from popcorn and vegetable oil, just as you'd hope. The less fab news is that ultra-processed maltodextrin is a primary ingredient too, but if you're a regular snacker then this is nothing new. Beyond the maltodextrin, there's little else to be concerned with among the components, so we'd consider this pretty great news overall.
Among the many ingredients contributing to the flavor of this collab, most are natural. Salt is most heavily featured, and there's plenty of it (more on that below). Other contributors include tomato powder, cheddar cheese, garlic powder, onion powder, and the ever-ambiguous "spices." To achieve that multicolor powder that Cool Ranch Doritos lovers often find all over their fingers, this Smartfood popcorn uses vegetable juice, turmeric extract, and annatto, which is commonly used in Mexican spice pastes but is much less familiar to the American public. Here, it's generally used as a natural food coloring, thanks to its rich red hue. As for common allergens, only milk appears in this recipe, so lactose-intolerant and vegan snackers should steer clear.
How much does it cost?
Smartfood Doritos Cool Ranch popcorn will be on shelves in three sizes this summer. The price tag will obviously depend on what size you spring for and where you score it. The most widely available format will be the 6.25-ounce bag and asmaller 2-ounce option, with suggested retail prices of $5.19 and $2.69 respectively. For those who can't get enough of the new flavor, an enormous bag stuffed with 15.75 ounces of popcorn will remain available at only one retailer for $6.18. We'll reveal that location directly below, but you'll need a membership to get through the door. For now, take note that this is more than double the popcorn content of the next largest size, and for less than one dollar more.
Expect Smartfood Doritos Cool Ranch to fetch higher than normal prices on resale sites like eBay, where limited-time-only flavors already demand considerably more than their original retail cost. At the time of writing, bags of this hard-to-find flavor are currently commanding as much as $23.99 each. That may come down as the product becomes more available in the coming weeks, but it will surely rise again when it's no longer on shelves at all. Whether you should throw down almost $25 for popcorn will depend on how desperately you want to snack on this flavor right away. If you can wait a couple of weeks, you'll be able to score it for much less. At least until fall.
Where and when is it available?
Smartfood Doritos Cool Ranch popcorn should be around nationwide for the duration of summer 2023, but it's a limited-time-only flavor that will effectively be available as long as supplies last in your area. Major retailers like supermarkets and big-box stores will likely pull the flavor at the end of its intended season, but you may still see it on shelves at smaller retailers like convenience stores and gas stations until someone snags the last bag. And, of course, online retailers will carry it until it sells out, leaving the options to buy it limited to resale sites like eBay.
But that's not the full story this time. While the 6.25-ounce and 2-ounce bags of Smartfood Doritos Cool Ranch popcorn will be released to all retailers nationwide in June, the big bag (15.75 ounces) is already available. Sam's Club members received exclusive early access to Cool Ranch popcorn when the oversize bag went up for sale in May 2023, and it will remain available for the duration of the flavor's limited lifespan. While everyone will have access to the product throughout the summer, that gigundo bag will remain a Sam's Club exclusive.
How does it compare to other Smartfood popcorns?
We're no stranger to limited-time-only flavors that combine the relatively healthy snack of Smartfood popcorn with other favorite foods, and there remain a handful ofSmartfood flavorsthat are always available. In general, we find most of the Smartfood varieties deliver higher levels of flavor than Smartfood Doritos Cool Ranch, and we also find them to be typically truer to their advertised names. This doesn't mean this one is bad, but it's admittedly less impressive and impactful than we would have hoped.
Comparing ingredients and nutritional considerations, Smartfood Doritos Cool Ranch is relatively on par with the rest of the brand's varieties. Offering a snack option that feels more virtuous than other options in the snack aisle, this flavor continues the brand's goal of using "quality ingredients"in its better-for-you snacks. Calorically, it's equally on par with other Smartfood flavors when compared by serving size. Consider us impressed by Smartfood's ability to incorporate elements of bold Cool Ranch Doritos without introducing artificial colors or compromising on its other brand ideals.
What's the popcorn's nutritional value?
As noted above, the calorie content of Smartfood Doritos Cool Ranch popcorn is similar to the rest of the brand's flavors, measuring 160 calories per serving — the same as the popular White Cheddar variety.The Cool Ranch Doritoslabel reports just 150 calories per serving, but that's only 12 chips — you know as well as we do that no one is eating just 12 Doritos. The Smartfood Doritos Cool Ranch popcorn serving size is 2⅓ cups, which weighs the same as 12 Doritos (28 grams) but gives you far more of a snack than a dozen chips. Adjusted for reality, the popcorn comes in far lower in calories per actual serving.
Let's return to the salt content for a moment, as promised. With 200 mg of sodium per serving, that's 9% of the recommended daily allowance, which is no small dose. There's also 8% of the recommended daily allowance of saturated fat in each serving, bringing the total fat content to 11 grams per serving (14%). On a positive note, you won't catch any cholesterol in this bag, and the carb content sits at just 5% (14 grams).
How do we feel about Smartfood Doritos Cool Ranch popcorn?
Cool Ranch Doritos are one of our favorite Doritos flavors of all time, and as both brands are currently owned by FritoLay, we had high hopes for this crossover. Unfortunately, we were a little let down by the actual delivery, finding the Cool Ranch flavor to be relatively lacking on this Smartfood popcorn variety. It's certainly apparent visually, with the familiar flecks of Cool Ranch color coating each popped kernel, but the overwhelming flavor of the popcorn is white cheddar. This may account for why the nutritional content is similar to the White Cheddar variety, too. At the end of the day, it's not dramatically different.
Since Cool Ranch Doritos are not white cheddar flavored at all, we're not sure why the popcorn went in such a different direction — especially without mentioning it in the name. The final flavor is still enjoyable, but we don't think it's going to satisfy serious Cool Ranch Doritos fans. Regardless, we encourage you to pick up a bag while you can so they don't end up only available at a considerable markup on resale sites. It's a light summer flavor you'll still enjoy, as long as you keep your Doritos expectations a little lower than your Smartfood expectations.