Ode to Combos
In a recent poll Slice readers indicated a surprising love for pizza flavored Combos®. Combos® currently makes two pizza variations of the tubular, cheese-filled snack: Pizzeria Pretzel and Pepperoni Pizza Cracker. Seeing your enthusiasm for this snack inspired me to investigate these savory morsels a little more closely.
What are Combos®?
Why, they are crunchy cheese-filled tubes of cracker, pretzel or tortilla of course. The original salty, savory snack and all of the variations thereof were developed internally in the mid '70s at Mars Snackfood US, LLC., by a group of Research & Development, Engineering and Manufacturing associates.
Pizzeria Pretzel Combos® were introduced to the public in 1981. Six years later Pepperoni Pizza Cracker Combos® hit the streets in 1988. Since then Pizzeria Pretzel has become one of the most popular variations of the snack, although exact sales info is not available to the public.
How Are Combos® Made?
Your guess is as good as mine. For all I know they are made by a magical snack fairy, though it is much more likely they are made by a factor of workers and robots. I asked the people at Mars to explain the process and they said, "Unfortunately, this is a proprietary process and that information is unavailable to the public. However, there was a 5-minute segment on The Food Network's Unwrapped in 2007 (Season 15, Episode 6, Topic: Pizzarama) that featured a glimpse into how COMBOS® Snacks are made." So if anyone has that on DVD, holler.
What Do the Pizza Combos® Taste Like?
Pizzeria Pretzel Combos® are kind of sweet and kind of tangy. The salty pretzel taste mixes well with the pizza filling, but since I'm not used to pizza + pretzel the taste is not immediately identifiable as "pizza." There is definitely a pizza-esque thing going on here though. I like the salt on the pretzel shell.
The texture is totally great. The pretzel tube shell is awesomely crispy and crunchy. Inside each bite is a little bit of creamy pizza-flavored filling. More than the taste, the texture of these snacks makes them totally addictive.
It really made me wonder if there are any pizzerias in the U.S. that make pies on a pretzel crust. I looked up recipes for pizza on pretzel crusts. I promise to try one out and see if a pretzel crust pizza tastes anything like Pizzeria Pretzel Combos®. I'll report back later.
Have any of you Slice loyalist tried making pretzel crust? Do you know any pizzerias that do?
Pepperoni Pizza Cracker:
These are definitely a little zestier. The cracker shell has a much less distinct flavor compared to the pretzel shell so the filling in the Pepperoni Pizza Cracker Combos® variation stands out a lot more. They are still sweet and tangy, but this variety has a little more spice and is much more tomato-y.
These are also totally addictive. I'm sure they are made with crack even though the package states they are "Made with real cheese."
Fun Combos® Facts:
- Combos® was the most mentioned and most loved pizza-flavored snack in a recent Slice poll.
- Combos® will celebrate its official 40th anniversary in 2011.
- Combos® has been an "Official Partner of NASCAR" since 2002 and is currently the "Official cheese-filled snack of NASCAR"
- Combos® is also a partner of Joe Gibbs Racing and Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 Combos® car, a Toyota Camry
- Kyle Busch has won two Sprint Cup races in the Combos® car (Dover in 2008 and Richmond, VA, in 2009) and two Nationwide races in the Combos® car (Phoenix and Dover, both in 2010).
- Combos® is a supporter of Habitat for Humanity. The company is donating $100,000 to Habitat in 2010 as well as supporting home builds across the U.S. with both volunteers and funding.
- Current flavors for Combos® include: Cheddar Cheese Pretzel; Cheddar Cheese Cracker; Nacho Cheese Pretzel; Zesty Salsa Tortilla; Jalapeño Cheddar Tortilla and of course Pizzeria Pretzel and Pepperoni Pizza Cracker.
- Discontinued flavors of Combos®include: Mustard Pretzel; Peanut Butter Pretzel; Peanut Butter Cracker; Bacon, Egg and Cheese Cracker; and Cheeseburger Cracker.
- In 2008, the Cheeseburger Cracker variation was manufactured as an exclusive, limited edition promotion for Walmart. Then they vanished.
- WAIT! Combos® lovers and fans of A Hamburger Today get stoked! Mars Snackfood US. LLC., intel informs me that Cheeseburger Cracker Combos® will be back in Wal-Mart stores this summer. This is going to be just like the McRib—I can feel it.