Tuesday, September 18, 2007
I appreciate everyone’s patience with me not being my normal organized self. It’s been tough without consistent internet access. Right now I’m typing this while sitting at the Chinatown branch of the Chicago Public Library. Thank you free wifi!
Today I spent far more time on the floor focusing on my list of things that I wanted to see than yesterday. And of course I’m keeping an eye out for all the items you requested. But it’s tough ... I’ve started making candy friends (folks who run these companies, sell candy and of course fellow writers) and I find myself torn between visiting with them and gabbing and going out and finding new things. I know, you all feel really sorry for me!
I had a great conversation today with a gentleman at the Tootsie booth (I went back in search of the name of the Junior Mints Deluxe product that I mentioned earlier). It was fantastic to talk about all their products, the company’s history, their positioning in the market and the new items that they’re coming out with. I’m especially interested in their new holiday offerings including a Candy Cane Tootsie Pop (they had these last year) and the Junior Mints for the holidays that include candy cane crunchies on them.
I had a fun time looking at some of the licensed items (which I don’t ordinarily pay attention to). Folks will be happy to hear that Hershey’s will bring back the Dark Chocolate Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup in a tie in with the new Batman movie (of course it will be a bat-shaped Reese’s!).
I found another line of completely branded Bratz candy cosmetics. I wasn’t much for Barbie as a girl (I was more of a Lego fan), but I can see the appeal of these products, which are basically edible lip glosses. (Hey, women basically eat their lip gloss anyway, why not have it be actually made from edible things?) I’ll have more on that when I get home and can photograph them.
I spent a little while at the Nestle booth and was so pleased to talk to them about their product lines, especially the Wonka items and the dearly departed Tart ‘n’ Tinys. The bad news is they’re also discontinuing the bulk Banana Runts (you’ll still be able to get them in the regular Runts mix). They have a new Berry Mix Chewy Spree product as well, which I’m eager to try and picked up some samples of.
I tried lots and lots of black licorice today and had a great time talking to Kenny’s Licorice, which does an amazing job in the standard twists (they make the Root Beer ones!), an Australian style and a new release of an Organic line that will include black and red.
I also got to taste RJ’s New Zealand Licorice, Tubi’s Tire Tread and Lucky Country. I’ll have a licorice day (or perhaps week!) soon.
In another version of Licorice, I tried the J. Morgan Confections Licorice Caramel. Holy moly ... it was creamy and spicy and smooth. So satisfying. They have a whole line of butter caramels (and even some fudge). They amply sampled me up, so I’ll have more to say about this Utah confectioner.
On the fortified side of things, Hall’s cough drops came out with some fun new all natural lozenges, as well as a Ginger lozenge (in the regular square packs) and some zinc fortified lozenges (they’re going to send me samples, hopefully before cold season starts).
In other fortification, I picked up something called Java Pops by McJak company which have 60 mg of caffeine in them and come in a variety of coffee inspired flavors. They’re the gourmet style pop, dense and heavy. It’ll take me a while to get through them (since I can’t eat them all at once!).
Tonight I also went to a reception to honor the new Lemonade Stand mix of Mike and Ike. The limited edition (or perhaps seasonal) item has a fundraising tie-in with Alex’s Lemonade Stand, a fundraising program to benefit Pediatric Cancer Research. It’s a really sweet promotion for a tangy product. I’ll have more on that later.
There are so many other things on my list I fear that I’m not going to get to them all tomorrow. I’ll do my best, I don’t want to let you down!
I’m not publishing all the All Candy Expo coverage on the front page of Candy Blog, so be sure to look at the little “featured news” block on the upper right to make sure you don’t miss any of my briefer postings.
This morning I decided to really concentrate on my list of candies I wanted to seek out.
Here are a few highlights so far:
Ah, day one of the All Candy Expo is done. I came back to my hotel room and dumped out my three mini-shopping bags (think small shoe boxes) onto the bed to rebuild my day. I spent most of the day on the show floor with Sera, from Candy Addict (so be sure to check out her thoughts!).
The addition of snacks to the mix of candy products this year means that there’s a savory respite while walking around. Some nuts, lots of pretzels, chips, popcorn products and of course jerkies.
Ferrara Pan has gone chewy ... it makes me think they’ve been reading Candy Blog or something. It’s always been my wish that there were chewy Lemonheads (kind of like super sour bursting jelly beans). Imagine my delight to find Chewy Lemonheads and Chewy Atomic Fireballs. The Fireballs are the small sized ones and like an incredibly intense cinnamon crossed with a soft jelly bean. (Update: here’s the review.)
Reese’s Whipps ... I can go on and on about how I feel when marketing folks spell things oddly, but I won’t. The initial description made me think of a peanut butter 3 Musketeers, but there’s a bit more going for it here. The center is a nougat-style with a light peanut butter taste and a nice hit of salt. That is then covered in a thin layer of a crumbly peanut butter fudgy thing and then the whole thing is enrobed in mockolate. I’ll have a full review of that in a week or two.
The fun new product that we saw was a Green Tea Hershey’s Kisses that they’re selling in China. Yeah, why they’re teasing the American candy wholesalers and retailers with a product that’s not available here, I don’t know. It’s a milk chocolate shell with a green cream center with a distinct matcha taste. I actually liked it quite a bit, but it isn’t something that I’d be particularly eager to consume in large quantities.
The other product they were showing that’s coming out in the American market is a Hot Cocoa Hershey’s Kiss. How it’s different than the Chocolate Truffle was not something that the young woman at the Hershey’s booth was able to answer (as is often my struggle as a blogger visiting a major candy maker’s booth). I found it rather ordinary ... just a Hershey’s Kiss with a slightly saltier, creamier center.
Andes Mints are coming out with new Dessert Indulgence candies. They come in Lemon Meringue, Raspberry Cream and Key Lime. They’re a white confection base, which I know is probably terrible for me, but I have a special fondness for it.
Ghirardelli had an afternoon dessert event at their booth that Sera and I caught the end of. They were featuring three little brownie/cupcake bites based on their new line of filled chocolate bars. I loved the brownie bites, but only tried one of their bars so far. It was a Dark Chocolate with Raspberry Filling. The caramelly filling tasted completely authentic to raspberry. The tangy and sweet bite set off the chocolate very well. The other bars in the line are Milk Chocolate with Caramel Filling, Dark Chocolate with White Mint Filling, Dark Chocolate with Caramel Filling.
I spent a few minutes at the Chuao booth as well, even though I’ve already tried their ChocoPods, I hadn’t tried all of their bars. The Chinita Nibs is my favorite, the nibs are crunchy and rich and have a hint of caramel to them and the dark chocolate is spiced with nutmeg. The Earl Grey bar is a milk chocolate base and is wonderfully floral and rich, a little sticky and sweet. The new standout are the Caracas bar, which blend El Rey chocolate from Venezuela with perfectly roasted Hazelnuts and Pistachios. It comes in milk chocolate (41%) and dark chocolate (60%).
Flix Candy was showing some new gummy products called Gummy Bands. Four little gummi bracelets in four flavors, four colors and four sayings. They look my juicier than the version I got from the Oriental Trading Company earlier this year, though the sayings are a little, I dunno, out of step with what I’d expect: Trouble, Team, Wazz Up and Crazy.
One of the standout European chocolate imports is a German premium brand called Rauch Plantagen Schocolade. All single origin, they have a few different styles of packaging, from standard bars to long sticks to little chunks that are packaged in a “treasure chest.” I know it sounds goofy, but I’ll try to get more info and some photos later. I tried two pieces (Tobago and Trinitario) and this was extra smooth but super dark and distinctive chocolate.
I also spent a bit of time at the Annabelle‘s booth as Sera is a huge fan of theirs. I’ve always been keen on the idea of them, but much of their product line hasn’t quite clicked with me (granted, my experience is limited). The good thing was that I was keeping an open mind and had high hopes for the new high end Rocky Road-type marshmallow bars: Rocky Road Supreme Dark Chocolate Mocha and Rocky Road Supreme Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter. The mocha one was my favorite and featured a lightly coffee flavored marshmallow that wasn’t particularly sweet, drenched in dark chocolate with chopped cashews. As is often the case with coffee flavored candies, it was more of a woodsy, maple or pecan flavor than that dark roasted flavor, but it was wholly pleasant and certainly something I want to give another try. The peanut butter version that was so rich and filling, I can’t believe that anyone could eat a single bar by themselves (and they probably shouldn’t with it clocking in at about 400 calories and 3 ounces and what is at least two portions). Think of them as King Sized bars that you can share ... a more affordable upscale marshmallow indulgence. Smart.
After the show I toted my samples for the day back to the hotel, a little less than a mile walk from the convention center to the hotel for the dump ... that moment where I just spread it out on the bed and pick through the items and inspect the wrappers and, well, write this up. The above is only a small sampling of thoughts ... my bed was covered with over 100 different items at the end of the day, so expect a full inventory in next week and then the reviews!
Continuing coverage on the Expo here.
Monday, September 17, 2007
Mars made a surprising and pleasant announcement this morning, they have come out in support of the current standards of identity for chocolate. That means that no matter what the FDA decides, they will not dilute our sacred chocolate experience with cheap vegetable fats.
I’ll have more later, but I have to say the new venue is really great. It’s spacious and well organized and of course brand spankin’ new. I’m having some connectivity problems at the hotel, so I don’t know how well I’m going to be able to do updates. But I’ll be posting photos from the floor as often as I can.
Saturday, September 15, 2007
I’m busy packing and repacking today for my trip to Chicago to the All Candy Expo. Stop by all next week for daily coverage of what’s on the show floor, new products, things I spit out, and all the other insider info from the candy business.
The most exciting thing is that there are going to be many candy and food bloggers attending. I’ll try to have roundups of that coverage as the week goes on but you can check out Candy Addict, Chicagoist and Metroblogging Chicago.
In other global candy news, Bloomberg reports that the German chocolate market is saturated. So saturated that Germany is positively busting at the seams with great quality chocolate and will be forced to sell it to other countries. So expect to see more German chocolate in your local store.
The story also quotes that Germans consume an average of 19.8 pounds each. Americans average only 12 pounds. I can see why we look like a tempting target.
In other good news for dieters and diabetics, another report has confirmed that Aspartame (sold as
Nutrasweet) is safe for use. Personally, I don’t care for the stuff, it nauseates me and gives me a headache. I don’t think otherwise healthy children should be given artificial sweeteners, because I think natural is best as children learn their eating habits for life. But it’s good to know that if you do eat it (whether on purpose or by accident) that it’s safer than previously thought.
If my week in review isn’t enough for you, check out the Wandering Eater’s week in review ... be sure to scroll down to the awesome photos and descriptions of the Christopher Norman shop.
This week in review:
Monday: Candy Corn Kisses (4 out of 10)
Tuesday: Lake Champlain Organic Dark Bars (8 out of 10 & 9 out of 10)
Wednesday: Frey Supreme White, Lemon & Lime and Lemon & Pepper (6 out of 10)
Thursday: Walkers Nonsuch Toffee Original & Treacle (8 out of 10 & 9 out of 10)
Friday: M&Ms Razzberry - Limited Edition (4 out of 10)
Average for this week: 6.86 with 43% chocolate content.
Friday, September 14, 2007
I don’t usually do new product announcements, I like to have the candy in my hot little hands, photograph it, taste it, describe it and of course post as much info as possible ... you know, as part of my relentless public service.
But sometimes I really just wanna share my excitement about new products coming up.
Here are a few new products I know are going to be coming out soon:
Name: Twix Limited Edition Java Bar
Name: Pop Rocks Chocolate Bar
Name: PEEPS Peppermint flavored Stars
Name: Skittles Chocolate Mix
(All photos courtesy of the respective companies’ press kits.)
I did a guest post on Gridskipper.com of some Los Angeles chocolatiers. They have an awesome system of mapping everything. However, they gave me an itty bitty box to cram into it everything I thought was important about each one. If you’re looking for more, I’ve linked everything up here to my yummilicious reviews along with a grand listing you can print out if you want to do a little tour of Southern California chocolates.
Yes, yes, I know I still need to visit Compartes.
I’m a little late to this Limited Edition Milk Chocolate Razzberry M&Ms story, but mostly because I couldn’t find them anywhere in Los Angeles. I tried all my usual haunts (RiteAid, Walgreen’s, Von’s, CVS, Target & 7-11) and finally found them Wednesday night at the Dollar Tree in Harbor City on my way to San Pedro.
The bag felt a little light, and it is. It’s only 1.5 ounces instead of the usual 1.74 ounces for the Peanut variety or 1.69 ounces for the Milk Chocolate. (Of course the Pirate Pearls ones were similiarly scant.)
The bag is a pleasant hot pink and urges me to “Get Razzed” ... which as far as my understanding of the lingo that the kids use these days, that means, “Get Harassed.” Okely Dokely!
At first when I dumped these out to take their photo I thought I got a bad bag. The color looks completely off. Now if you just handed me a bowl of them, I might say, “Oh, what a lovely muted pink color!” But because of the brightness of the package, this feels like it clashes, which makes me feel like it’s unintended. But looking around at other photos on Flickr of the candies, it seems like they’re supposed to be this way.
The size and shape is also irregular. Some are the same size as typical Milk Chocolate M&Ms and others are as big as the now-discontinued Mega M&Ms. I rather like the regularity of M&Ms when spread out on my desk when eating them, but these just didn’t please me as much with their appearance.
The candies smell, like, well, someone spilled a bottle of raspberry after-bath spritz. I’ve spent a lot of time with fresh raspberries. When I was a kid, for several years when we lived in Ohio we had a raspberry patch in the back yard which was absurdly productive. While they weren’t wild berries, they certainly weren’t like the commercial ones sold in stores today. They were on the small side but bursting with flavor, a combination of sweet, tart and floral. By the time I was a teenager and we moved away, I was so spoiled by the real thing that I couldn’t stand raspberry flavored things or bring myself to spend $5 for a teensy little portion of watery-tasting fresh berries at the grocery store.
The Milk Chocolate is okay, for some reason it tastes sweeter than the regular Milk Chocolate M&Ms (remember, I’ve eaten a lot of those lately), it could be the larger size of most of them that gave a bigger hit of the ordinary chocolate center. The chocolate simply wasn’t creamy and I have to wonder if these were stored properly. Southern California experienced a wicked heat spell around Labor Day weekend and there were sporadic power outages all over which means that these could have bloomed in some way.
M&Ms stressed in their press releases about these that they’re the first fruit flavored M&Ms ever given full distribution. (I guess they were ignoring those super exclusive fruity ones they did last year.) I’m sad that they didn’t do orange, as I think that’d be a good place to start. It’s easy to get an authentic orange flavor with chocolate. But then again these aren’t raspberry M&Ms ... no, they’re razzberry M&Ms, here to mock real raspberries (and us) with their fakeness.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.