Remember Epic Meal Time? (Awe, 2012, we had some laughs, didn’t we?) For anyone just learning about YouTube, Epic Meal Time is the ongoing viral web series created by founder and host Harley Morenstein, where a group of bros with beards create dizzingly over-the top foods with tens of thousands of calories and then eat them right in front of you, while spewing catch phrases and pouring whiskey on top of french fries.
Awwwww…this is making it sound like I don’t like Epic Meal Time. But I totally do. I like excess consumption. I like Canadian accents. I bought the “Bacon Strips & Bacon Strips” t-shirt. I followed along when Morenstein ejected the original “Muscles Glasses” from the cast and forced out his own co-creator, in a lawsuit that was eventually settled out of court. I can’t even say the word “sauce” without pronouncing it like “sauwwwwce.”
If you don’t get these references, it hardly matters. The important news here is that Epic Meal Time has finally (finally!) expanded into the retail space, offering a line of new snack foods manufactured under the “Super Snack Time” moniker. From the press release:
“Featuring indulgent and crave-worthy foods you never knew you wanted, Super Snack Time is kicking off its first installment [in the new snack lineup] with ‘Pizza in a Bag’, delicious pepperoni jerky that combines jerky, a modern meat snacks [sic] obsession, with pizza, one of America’s favorite comfort foods.”
A Wal-Mart exclusive product, “Pizza in a Bag” is hard to miss, seizing your attention with its distinctive pizza slice-shaped bag. I’m a sucker for naming products by describing exactly what they are in plain language, and “Pizza in a Bag” scratches this itch admirably.
The first thing you notice when you crack the two ounce bag is the thick layer of damp seasoning, which the ingredient panel reveals is a combination of dehydrated tomato sauce, parmesan cheese, and assorted seasonings (which we’ll talk about later) that surrounds each slice of the enormous, thick-sliced pepperoni. The pepperoni is lightly greasy, slightly spicy, crazy salty, and tastes almost exactly like a solid version of the filling you’d find inside a pizza-flavored Combo cracker snack, which is to say that it’s pretty awesome.
It feels a little weird calling this “jerky.” If what we think of as “jerky” is a dried, spicy, chewy meat, then pepperoni by definition is already very much like “jerky.” Like, a slice of slow-smoked prime rib that’s weeping blood onto your plate is obviously a lot different than a chunk of premium beef jerky. You can’t really say the same thing about the difference between “pepperoni” and “pepperoni jerky”; I’m not sure what makes this “jerky,” instead of just “flavored pepperoni.” But that’s whatever, and I’m tired of surrounding all of these words with quotation marks.
I think what impresses me most about this product isn’t the clever shape of the packaging, or the intentionally obnoxious copy on the back. A cruise through the ingredient list reveals that the Epic Meal Time gang, for as much as they could have been involved in the design of this product, really seemed to want to create an innovative new product, using quality ingredients. While it would have been easy to cover cheap pepperoni in a chemical slick of flavoring and slap the Epic Meal Time logo on the bag, a read through the ingredient list reveals components normally reserved for much higher-end food, including parmesan cheese, mushrooms, garlic, brown sugar, worcestershire sauce, thyme, and rosemary. That’s right: All pronounceable, natural ingredients that you might actual employ in your home kitchen.
At $3.98 a bag, “Pizza in a Bag” is hardly inexpensive; in fact, you could buy two slices of actual pizza from the corner slice joint for about the same amount of money. It’s not out lot line for similar premium jerky offerings, however, as consumers seem to get increasingly comfortable paying upwards of $7 bucks for a bag of dehydrated meat.
The cynic in me wanted to write this product off as a quick cash grab by a brand who (I imagine) feels its influence waning and its window of opportunity coming to a close. However, the use of quality, natural ingredients used to create not just new flavors, but practically an entirely new category of snack, by a ragtag bunch of food weirdos who seem to be having a really good time and making money doing exactly what they feel like, feels like the kind of thing we should celebrate.
Pizza in a Bag, you’re alright by me.