Thursday, August 7, 2008
Alert and distressed readers informed me that Hershey’s Kissables have been reformulated and not in a good way.
I was fortunate enough to find both the old variety and the new ones at the 99 Cent Only Store, which is like some sort of time capsule, just dig deep enough into the layers and you can find stuff that goes back to the last century. (Don’t worry, both were still within their expiry dates - made only five months apart.)
First, the Original Kissables, as introduced were called Candy Coated Milk Chocolate. (Original review from 2006 here.)
The ingredients: Milk chocolate (sugar, cocoa butter, chocolate, nonfat milk, milk fat, lactose, soy lecithin, PGPR & artificial flavors), sugar, red 40, yellow 5, yellow 6, blue 1 & carnauba wax.
The taste is familiar. The crunch of the shell is crispy and nondescript but gives way to the inimitable Hershey’s chocolate flavor that’s a little tangy, a bit like yogurt and has a rather interesting rum note to it.
The new version is called Chocolate Candy which is code for chocolate-flavored confection, or candy that contains chocolate but can’t be called chocolate because it has other stuff in it that’s not permitted by the FDA definitions (like more oil than actual chocolate).
The ingredients: Sugar, vegetable oil (palm, shea, sunflower and/or safflower oil), chocolate, nonfat milk, whey, cocoa butter, milk fat, gum arabic, soy lecithin, artificial colors (red 40, yellow 5, blue 2, blue 1, yellow 6), corn syrup, resinous glaze, salt, carnauba wax, pgpr and vanillin.
They look exactly like their old “pure” counterparts (which really weren’t so pure if you ask me). The colors and size are identical. The flavor though, is quite obviously off. The crunch of the shell is familiar, but the flavor of the chocolate lacks any particular pop and feels less fresh. The texture is cooler on the tongue, though has the same fudgy grain that it’s always had.
It’s not that the new formula is bad, but it certainly lacks a pizazz and familiarity that the old ones had. They old ones were like Kisses. The new ones are like, well, nothing much special. Kind of like chocolate frosting. As a mockolate product, well, they’re actually pretty good. These are still far and away better than the Garfield Chocobites or other off-brand/fake chocolate lentils I’ve had.
The ingredient tweaking had some interesting results as well, which show that it’s entirely possible to tell the two apart on taste alone:
..............Original Formula ....................2008 Formula
(This info was taken right from the packages, the Hershey’s website lists strangely different nutritional specs for this size package - where the portion is only 1.4 ounces instead of the full 1.5 ounces in the package.)
So the new ones have more salt and sugars, a third of the calcium but no cholesterol. Ten fewer calories, but also made with all sorts of other replacement oils. Oh, and the new ones also have a resinous glaze, which is shellac, which is on most vegetarian’s forbidden list.
The copy goes like this (set to a cover of I Melt with You):
More fun with new formulas: Check out what Hershey’s has done to the iconic Hershey’s Miniatures collection.
UPDATE: Kissables were discontinued in early 2009. They will be replaced by a new line called Pieces which will come in Special Dark, Almond Joy and York Peppermint. (No straight milk chocolate replacement though.) Look for them in December 2009.
Wednesday, August 6, 2008
I bought this package of Kasugai Pineapple Gummy Candy back in January on a trip to Little Tokyo that I’d hoped would cheer me up. After all, the most widely accepted definition of candy is sweetened, concentrated and read-to-eat fun .
The package is dominated by a photo of two real pineapples. Pineapples are the symbol of hospitality in Western culture and their Indian name, anana  means simply excellent fruit . So what better combination to make lightly sweetened, concentrated and edible fun than to make it from the most excellent fruit?
The ingredients list goes like this: sugar, corn syrup, pineapple juice, gelatin, oblate powder, sorbitol, citric acid/malic acid, pectin, artificial pineapple flavor, palm oil, emulsifier, coloring (beta carotene).
Each gummi is individually wrapped. This keeps them fresh, which is good because I don’t usually eat a whole bag of gummis in one sitting. (But then again I have no problem eating stale gummis.)
The pieces are rounded, with a little crease in the top that might even make this look like a heart to some. Or maybe a peach.
Opening the little packet and the gummi is super soft, a little most but most of all, heavily scented. It smells like opening a can of pineapple: sweet but very deep. The chew is soft and pliable, almost like a Jell-O dessert.
It’s tangy and has a little sizzle to it with a good fruity burst. If I have a complaint about them, it might be that they’re just too fruity. After about five of them I get that same tongue burn. No, wait, that’s not a complaint. I love them. They make me happy. They’re concentrated bits of sunshine and tropical beaches. My misgivings are the fact that I find them hard to find and they’re pretty expensive for gummis.
Kasugai makes a pretty large array of flavors, most of them tropical including Lychee, Kiwi & Mango as well as the more middle-of-the road like Orange, Apple, Muscat (white grape), Peach and Strawberry.
 - This definition first appeared on Candy Blog on August 6th 2008, so may not be as widely accepted as I might hope.
Tuesday, August 5, 2008
The large format bars come in a smart black box with a spare and enticing design and the further promise that this is a product of Switzerland.
The dark chocolate is 64% cocoa solids and features pieces of “crunchy caramel” (what US-folks would call toffee). The dark chocolate recipe contains butteroil (milkfat), so don’t expect a pure experience.
The bar is lovely to look at, with nicely molded segments, glossy sheen and crisp snap. In addition, the caramel bits look like they’re nicely distributed.
The chocolate is dark and rich, not complex but rather robust. There’s a bitter tone to it that seems to come more from the caramel bits than the chocolate itself and it’s rather nice. The caramel bits remind me of sponge candy - very dark burnt sugar notes. They’re crispy and pop with quite a bit of flavor considering they’re so small.
I was shunning this bar for months but now that I’ve tried it, I think it’s a really good effort. I wouldn’t spend more than $2 for it, but for something found at the local drug store, the caramel bits really make this one stand out from the crowd of syrupy filled bars.
Rating: 7 out of 10
But then I read the ingredients. Yes, it’s 64% cocoa solids too and has butteroil but it also has real cherries in it. But in addition there are apples and pineapple and later in the listing some artificial color & flavor (though it appears far more color than flavor). It’s a fruit salad in a bar of chocolate. Curiosity wins.
It smells woodsy and rather like maraschino. Oh, and then biting into it, it was apparent that it was more of a cherry-flavored bar than a cherry-studded bar.
The fruit bits are soft and chewy, kind of tangy, a little grainy (as some dried fruits can be when the sugars crystalize) and a rather noticeable shade of pink. They don’t taste like much of anything though. The flavor seems to come from the chocolate itself.
No, this doesn’t work for me at all.
Rating: 5 out of 10.
I’m still curious to try their caramelized nib bar. This 64% chocolate base is a bit firmer and smokier than the Cacao Reserve that Hershey’s came out with, so I’d like to compare the two nibby bars.
Monday, August 4, 2008
Sometimes I let me curiosity get the better of me. And in the case of Limited Edition Junior Fruit Cremes, it wasn’t that exhilarating sense of discovery that made me do it. It was because I’d already seen a bunch of reviews and was pretty convinced that they were bad.
But sometimes I have to find out how bad they are for myself (call it the curiosity of Schrodinger’s cat). Here are a few highlights of what I knew I was in for:
Joann at Sugar Hi: All I could taste was sweet. The raspberry was also sickeningly sweet and reminded me of those candy coated marshmallow Easter eggs that are always leftover on the store shelves weeks after Easter.
AV Club: A.V. Club testers back at the office were pretty dubious about Junior Fruit Cremes, praising their initial tart burst of juicy fruit taste, but not so much the way the flavor quickly passed, leaving us all with waxy mouthfuls of the outer coating.
Sera at The Candy Enthusiast: I couldn’t finish the recommended serving of these since I they were burning out my esophagus with the sugar hit. I am not kidding, my throat just *burns* for all the sugar in this.
Patti at Candy Yum Yum: On the package, the drawings of the cremes look all bright and shiny and oozy in the center. In reality, they’re grayish, and the centers are dry, like a thin mint patty. I can’t even describe the taste. Gross, like a bad grammar school fruit dessert.
At first glance they look a lot like the Pastel Junior Mints that were out around Easter. It’s some sort of white confection (well, pastel colored in this case) that looks like melted crayons but is probably supposed to remind us of real white chocolate. They’re nicely domed and have little belly buttons on the underside like regular Junor Mints.
The smell, well, even if I wasn’t getting over a bout of food poisoning (and I wasn’t when I took the pictures and had a similar reaction), I found the too sweet and fake fruity scent repulsive. It smells more like cheap air freshener than something to eat. And let’s face it, that’s odd for me because orange blossom is one of my favorite ice cream flavors.
The box has three flavors: Black Cherry (the darkest pink), Orange and Raspberry (light pink). They don’t smell any different from each other.
The candy shell is soft and waxy. It melts slowly and reveals a fondant center with a bit more of a flavor pop and some sort of super sweet center. When I say super sweet, I mean that it exhibits extraordinary characteristics not known in nature. It’s as if Tootsie has taken over a particle accelerator and has somehow found a way to use supercolliders to violate the laws of two objects existing in the same space. There’s twice as much sugar in here as was formerly possible in confectionery to this point.
But of course in order to contain this physical impossibility they’ve contained the super dense fondant in some sort of subspace warp field with an oscillating polarity and improbability drive to power it (that’s housed in the little belly button area). I think the base material was a pile of used crayons found behind on of those restaurants that has the paper on the tables & little cups of generic crayons.
The density of it shocks my teeth, and perhaps creates some sort of electrical field or radiation or something because it makes me woozy and gives the bones in my lower jaw a deep ache.
I fear for the scientists creating these, the texture of the candies was inconsistent. The orange ones had a rather soft center, the cherry ones a sort of crumbly one (apparently the firmness effects the glucose delivery via the wormhole or whatever and it wasn’t as painful). Raspberry was the mildest of the three, which isn’t really a recommendation.
I’m all for investigating the cosmos and believe that many problems can be solved through innovation, but these incredible scientific feats are being used for evil. Pure evil.
They must be destroyed.
And the way to destroy a limited edition candy is to look away. Yes, that’s right, don’t buy it, don’t even pick it up and handle it at the store. Just walk away ... keep going. The fate of the universe depends on you. Don’t try to save me, I’m already infected. Save yourself!
I couldn’t give it a rating of 1 for inedible, as I have to applaud the scientific breakthrough of super-density sweetness.
(Special note, these have no candy category. I have 30 or so “candy type” categories like chocolate or mint or chew and these don’t fit into any of them! They simply cannot exist.)
Friday, August 1, 2008
Altoids has a pretty wide variety of flavors and their newest innovation (from late 2006) is offering their most popular mint flavors covered in dark chocolate. This summer Wrigley’s has not only brought out a new mint flavor, Creme de Menthe, they also offer it in the Altoids Dark Chocolate Dipped Mints format.
The dark brown tin with gold and green accents looks rich and inviting. It was easy to spot on the rack at the checkout at Safeway when I was up in the Bay Area and I was lucky enough to catch them on sale, too, at only $1.50 for the package.
The dark chocolate covered mints don’t look like much and look identical to the previous varieties. They smell, well, minty and chocolatey.
I prefer crunching mine. The chocolate cleaves off pretty easily and the mint inside has a satisfying crunch. But the chocolate is pretty good too, though tastes more of mint than chocolate, it’s creamy and has a buttery melt and dry finish.
I can’t quite peg what Creme de Menthe is in the first place, so all I can say is that this variety is for people who would like Altoids but find them too strong.
These are like eating a hardened Junior Mint. The dark chocolate complements the mellow mint well, the mint lingers and feels fresh and cool longer after it’s gone.
I ate the whole tin. While the curiously strong Peppermint variety keeps me from eating more than, say, eight or ten in one sitting, it took me only two sessions to eat this whole package. But of course the package only holds 1.76 ounces, so it wasn’t a huge binge. And my breath smells pretty good now. I think I might prefer the softer bite of something like Junior Mints, Dutch Mints or York Peppermint Patties, but I have to say that the crunch was different enough that these aren’t quite interchangeable. (But they are more expensive.)
As with all the traditional Altoids mints, these have gelatin in them and are unsuitable for vegetarians.
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