Friday, May 29, 2009
Now they’ve delved into mucking with the inside of the Raisinet ... the raisin.
In the new Cranberry Raisinets they’ve swapped out the dried grape for dried cranberries.
While the classic Raisinet is pretty simple & pure (just raisins in the center covered with some mediocre milk chocolate then coated with a sealing confectioners glaze), the new Cranberry version is a bit more complicated with a complicated package to match.
First, they’ve gone to a 100 calorie package which is priced the same as a standard serving package. Regular Raisinets currently come in a package with 1.58 ounces in there. The new 100 Calorie Cranberry Raisinets are .81 ounces. (If a package is 75 cents, that’s over $14 per pound.)
The front of the package says: 100% chocolate covered cranberries. I don’t know if that means that each cranberry is completely covered (which isn’t quite true, since some of mine had little bald spots) or that there are no raisins hiding in there ... but what’s really certain here is that there’s more than cranberries in the center.
The centers are “sweetened cranberries” with their ingredients listed as cranberries, sugar and sunflower oil. The little factoid box on the back of the package says: Good to Know: Dried cranberries are one of nature’s best sources of fruit ANTIOXIDANTS. Yes, that’s a nice thought, but there’s less than a half an ounce of cranberries here (I’m being generous with that estimate based on how much of the product is chocolate), so little that there’s no measurable amount of Vitamin C listed in the dietary specs.
All that prefacing aside, I love dried cranberries. I buy them often and eat them quite a bit (I love them mixed in with raw almonds). I’ve only been able to find the sweetened cranberries, no unsweetened ones seem readily available.
The Cranberry Raisinets are big and plump, usually flat and some of them were conjoined.
The chocolate is sweet, milky and flaky. The flavor is bland with a slight musty & cocoa note to it. The cranberry centers are chewy and tangy but also sweet. The overall effect is, well, sweetness without enough texture variation.
I’ve had quite a few different brands of chocolate covered dried & sweetened cranberries and think they’re just too sweet for the flavor profiles of the chocolate & cranberries to come through strongly.
I don’t see any reason to pay the same amount of money for basically half as much candy, even if it is some sort of portion control. 100 calories of something really tasty might be worth it, but this is simply not worthy of my limited calorie allotments for confections.
Thursday, May 28, 2009
Well, let me make a correction: yes, I’ve had packages before ... but I’ve never actually opened them up and eaten them.
The previous flavors were Blueberry (blue), Strawberry (red), Mixed Berry (purple), Raspberry (pink), Wild Berry (green) while the new flavors are Blueberry, Strawberry, Blue Raspberry, Peach Berry and Wild Berry. So besides a color shift for some of the returning flavors, the new flavor here is Peach Berry.
Strawberry (pink) - a mild strawberry flavor. Sweet for the most part with a little tangy layer around the sugary shell.
Blue Raspberry (light blue) - again, mild. I really couldn’t tell it was raspberry specifically, but at least there was no red food coloring aftertaste. The tart bite was completely missing.
Blueberry (blue) - I’m rarely fond of blueberry flavored candies, as blueberries aren’t that intense to begin with and are best fresh or in pancakes. It’s sweet and has a bit of an iced tea vibe to it ... nice, but rather bland.
Peach Berry (peach) - I’m not sure who thought peaches & berries go together, but it doesn’t make much of a difference on this one since the flavor is boldly peach and only vaguely raspberry. Well, the bold part is an overstatement, the peach isn’t in my face like Jolly Ranchers, just a sedate sort of background note.
Wild Berry (dark purple) - I got only one of these, so it’s hard to make much of an assessment based on that. It tasted a lot like the raspberry, perhaps a little more intense.
Overall, I think it’s just my personal preference for more intensely flavored candies that are assertive in their flavors. But as far as flavor mixes go, I like that these are all in the same flavor family and if I mixed the colors in the same mouthful, there isn’t a bad combination to be had. Add to that, the jelly bean quality here is very smooth and I enjoyed the color variations. The bag is a decent value since it holds 2.12 ounces, I’ve found that the bags are fresher than the theater boxes.
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Surf Sweets has been making fun candies that are also mostly organic and made from non-GMO ingredients for years. What’s fun about them is that other than the ingredients, they don’t look like a compromise to kids. They’re fun shapes and flavors and even the all natural colorings don’t look faded and suspicious.
The Gummi Swirls area also fortified with vitamin C (no big deal there, lots of candies are) and 100% of the RDA of calcium.
Hmm, calcium? That’s stuff tastes pretty nasty sometimes.
The package doesn’t mention it, but these little gum-drop-sized candies come in three flavors: orange, strawberry and cherry.
The little pieces are truly lovely. The white background color and the little swirls are then graced with crunchy granulated sugar.
The bite is firm, they’re not quite gummis (they’re vegetarian, so actually contain no gelatin, think of them more like jellies or gumdrops since they use fruit pectin) but chewy. The flavor is good, not overly tart or sweet but also not terribly intense. They’re simply nice. There’s a bit of a creamsicle vibe to them, a slight creamy background to the flavor. If I let them dissolve a bit on my tongue I was getting that hint of chalky grain that antacids can have. (But pop & chew and it’s not at all detectable.)
My only real complaint is that I can’t tell the cherry from the strawberry. If they’re different colors, I’m not wise to the subtlety. (Maybe one is cream with pink strips and the other is pink with cream stripes.)
I really like this brand, they’re obviously more expensive than the mass-manufactured options, but the ability to buy without artificial colors and the fact that they don’t look “special” to kids must be a huge relief to parents who keep their kids on a more restricted diet. Surf Sweets has also started making smaller packages (.9 ounces) for lunches, party favors and Halloween treats.
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Way back in 2006 I first tried Wonka SweeTarts Rope. It was a cherry licorice rope filled with a tangy, grainy paste dotted with Nerds. It was definitely unique.
And then they seemed to disappear from shelves.
Then earlier this year I found Twizzlers Sweet & Sour Filled Twists, which seemed like a pretty good replacement, except perhaps a better deal since there were four ropes in each pack (and I preferred them because they had a pure lemon version).
Well it wasn’t really that SweeTarts Rope were discontinued, they were just retooled and are being relaunched as a new line called Kazoozles. They’ve dropped the Nerds and come in two different varieties now.
Cherry Punch Kazoozles are heralded as Delickoricious on the package. (Which makes me glad I only have to write this, instead of my reviews being delivered as a podcast - I’m not sure I can pronounce that.)
The ropes look a heck of a lot like their prequel, perhaps slightly less red.
They smell like a vat of black cherry flavoring.
The bite of the licorice tube is quite soft, less “wheat” flavored and more like a chew. The filling in the center is just slightly grainy, like a frosting made out of Pixy Stix. The punch flavor comes out loud and clear. It’s all rather artificial tasting and leaves an odd taste in my mouth later on.
The packages are color coded, so it’s pretty easy to tell them apart. The wrappers are thin, metallic mylar.
Each rope is nicely sized and weigh a little less than an ounce each (.9 ounces to be exact).
Here the lemon rope tube is textured with the ribbing that we usually see in licorice twists. But it’s also covered in a grainy sour powder. It’s sparkly! On top of that, it’s bigger around (but slightly shorter) than the Cherry Punch variety.
While the Cherry version smelled quite strongly, I barely got anything from this, just slight sweet fruity whiff.
The chew of the Lemon licorice rope is soft, softer than the Cherry, the sour grains give it a bit flavor punch right off the bat, instead of waiting to release after a few chews. The flavor is sour and stays that way for most of the experience. The lemony citrus really isn’t much of a contributor but later on when I got into the filling I caught some cherry notes.
Since I just had some of the Twizzlers version recently, I can say that I preferred the, but that’s mostly because I love lemon and the lemon was much more pronounced. As far as a reinvigoration of the SweeTarts Rope line, it’s nice to see a new flavor variation, even if it does have cherry in it just like the other flavor.
Like most licorice products, they’re made with wheat so are not gluten-free. They also contain a confectioners glaze and are not suitable for vegetarians.
Monday, May 25, 2009
Ghirardelli Chocolate introduced their new Luxe Milk line of premium milk chocolate late last year. I started seeing it on store shelves in last fall, especially at Cost Plus World Market, which usually has a great selection of both their bars and the bags of the squares.
I already tried the Luxe Milk Crisp late last year while on my search for the ideal crisped rice bar (it’s pretty good!).
Now I have a full bag of the Premium Assortment which includes Milk Chocolate, Milk chocolate with Almonds, Milk Chocolate with Hazelnuts and the Crisp.
The package explains how Ghirardelli is different, because they control all steps of production, from bean selection, roasting, refining and conching. I’m pretty sure even subpar chocolate goes through controlled steps ... just that the raw materials and standards are a little different.
The all natural formula for Ghirardelli’s Luxe Milk does sound promising: sugar, whole milk powder, cocoa butter, unsweetened chocolate, soy lecithin and vanilla.
The color is creamy and light, much lighter than I usually take my coffee with cream.
The scent is less like chocolate and more like caramelized sugar and meringue (a kind of toasted protein smell).
The bite is rather soft, but not as fudgy as lesser chocolate such as Hershey’s.
The flavor is, well, quite milky. The texture is very smooth and silky and the melt is creamy. However, the flavor has a distinct dried milk taste to it. There’s also a little sour tang to it, not as pronounced as Hershey’s but certainly it leans towards that end instead of the hot chocolate flavors of Dove or Nestle’s Milk Chocolate. The saving grace is that they’re not overly sweet or cloying.
I’ve had quite a few of these squares over the past few months, starting with some sample squares at the Fancy Food Show and I have to say that I don’t care for it much. It worked very well with the malty notes of the Crisp and the texture is certainly great.
Rating: 6 out of 10
The Luxe Milk Almond has crushed almond bits in it. The square is a bit thicker and it’s actually bigger than the plain square (.528 ounces versus .375).
The almonds are pretty big and do go well with the milk flavors of the chocolate. The smooth texture is highlighted well by comparison. The nuts have a dark roast to them so the toasted almond flavors come out well and stand up to the strong dairy component.
Rating: 8 out of 10
This piece is also .528 ounces. The hazelnuts are wonderfully toasted and have that grassy and buttery crunch to them that goes so well with milk chocolate. No hint of stickiness.
Rating: 8 out of 10
Overall, I like the fact that someone is paying attention to milk chocolate, which has a rather bad rap as being some sort of starter chocolate instead of valid gourmet confection. The plain isn’t my style, but certainly not bad quality ... but it’s also possible that I’m just not a plain chocolate persons ... most times I feel like a nut.
Friday, May 22, 2009
Some of the best candies are not from the big candy makers, they come from innovative new companies and of course the wonderful regional & specialty confectioners. Here are a few items coming down the pike from them:
Description: Roasted premium sunflower seeds drenched in cocoa and covered in dazzling delicate sugar shells.
Notes: There are already plenty of companies making candy coated-chocolate sunflower seeds. But I suppose ubiquity would help. Sconza makes some very nice panned candies, so I’ll definitely try them. But the “cocoa” part is a bit disappointing. I think to guarantee real chocolate I might stick with the Kimmie All Natural ones (and no artificial colors).
Name: Cherry Lovers Fruit Chews
Brand: Gimbal’s Fine Candies
Description: Made with REAL Cherry Juice and are naturally high in Antioxidant Vitamin C. Featuring nine incredible juicy cherry flavors - from orchard fresh Bing Cherry, to New York Cherry Cheesecake and luscious Cherry Chocolate, these candies can’t be beat!
Notes: I know, it’s odd that I’m posting about a cherry product but I’m actually excited about this. I got a sample bag from the folks at the National Confectioners Association and they look great. They look like the See’s Cinnamon Hearts I had earlier this year but come in a variety of flavors & colors. A beautiful assortment for a jar or dish especially for Valentine’s Day.
Name: Quench Fruit Blast
Brand: Quench Gum
Description: Quench Gum “Sugar Free” Fruit Blast - Same great taste and now sugar free!
Notes: I liked that the gum doesn’t have aspartame in it (though I don’t know what they’re using for sweeteners if not aspartame or sugar). It’s nice to see the sports, mouth quenching gums making a comeback.
Name: Zachary Assorted Chocolates
Brand: Zachary Confections
Description: Our Assorted Box Chocolates have a brand new look! Milk and Dark Chocolate covered cremes and caramels.
Notes: My experience with Zachary is limited to their jelly & fondant products, mostly for Halloween (candy corn & jelly pumpkins). I’ve regarded them as a low end brand, which is fine for sugar candy, so I don’t know which way these boxed chocolates are going to go.
Name: Indulge Cherry Creme Cluster
Brand: Brach’s (Farley’s & Sathers)
Description: We are also offering the Brach’s(r) Indulge(r) Cherry Cr?me Clusters in a gable box for the consumer looking for a great new item for their cherry-loving friends!
Notes: Brach’s actually has a whole new line of these Indulge products. Some are just classic Brach’s products like Bridge Mix and chocolate covered nuts. But this one sounded pretty interesting - cherry fondant with nuts covered in chocolate. (Not something I’d eat.) I have samples of other items in the Indulge line and will post a full review soon.
Description: Yum, yum, yum, give me some Zum(r)! New liquid center Zum(r) chewing gum keeps your taste buds guessing all the way to the wacky sour apple-cherry core. Chomp into some Zum(r) for a flavorful, sweet-sour blast!
Notes: I have a sample of this (no photo yet). They’re sold in a blister pack and appear to be mega-looking Freshen-Up styled pieces. What I liked on the wrapper was that it was made with real sugar, not artificial sweeteners.
Name: MelloWorld Marshmallow Novelties
Brand: MNT Trading Inc.
Description: Melloworld marshmallows is classified as novelty due to its presentation and combinations i.e. some are filled with flavored jam, others are sandwiched between a fruit flavored gummy belt, others are twisted to resemble a rope, some are filled into a mini ice cream cone filled with fruit flavored jam and others are shaped in various shapes like bear, duck, rabbit & flower shapes etc.
Notes: I thought the packaging from this company was really cute. As far as marshmallows go, there aren’t many choices on shelves beyond the regular white ones which are more of an ingredient than a candy. (I am rather fond of strawberry marshmallows.)
Name: Get Silly Ice Cream Candies
Brand: Get Silly Ice Cream
Description: The amazing, new, innovative unmeltable ice cream treat. Get Silly Ice Cream Candy is made from 100% real ice cream, tastes like 100% real ice cream, IS 100% real ice cream. You can have an ice cream experience throughout the day without ever having to worry about it melting. One bite of Get Silly Ice Cream Candies and you will experience the creamy, velvety taste of traditional ice cream whenever you want, wherever you are. Following our wildly successful launch of America’s #1 pelletized ice cream IttiBitz, Get Silly Ice Cream is releasing a brand new candy version.
Notes: I’ve never tried Dippin’ Dots so I think I’m missing something here about there being any rankings for the category of pelletized ice cream. (Which sounds like a way to weaponize dairy products to me.) I’m not sure if it’s actually candy or not ... the rules aren’t quite clear and the way the product is served isn’t either.
Name: Fun Sweets Cotton Candy
Brand: Fun Sweets
Description: Fun Sweets offers an Award Winning line of cotton candy in shelf-stable transparent containers. We are proud to supply the country’s leading retailers and entertainment venues and would like the opportunity to be your cotton candy choice as well.
Notes: I don’t think anything will ever rival real fresh cotton candy made in front of you. A fun, well designed little bucket might be nice, especially for kids, who haven’t learned the difference. (And I have tried this so I can’t say that it is an actual wad of cotton candy instead of a fluffy ethereal cloud.)
All images courtesy of the respective manufacturers
Thursday, May 21, 2009
Mars has recently become one of the kings of limited editions. But that doesn’t mean that they’re not innovating new candies, too. On Tuesday at All Candy Expo they held a press conference and announced their slate of new products and releases.
Name: M&Ms Premiums Chocolate Candies
Notes: I mentioned these yesterday and already have a sample in hand of the Triple Chocolate variety. However, I’ve not tried nor seen the Dark Chocolate version before. I’m wondering if they’ll be like Dark Chocolate M&Ms or more like Dove dark chocolate. The retail price will be $1.29 for a 1.2 ounce box. The press release says they’ll be on shelves this spring. Anyone spotted them in the wild?
Name: Snickers Transformers
Notes: This is pretty much the same as the Shrek Snickers which had a green nougat. I didn’t care for how I though the food coloring changed the flavor of the bar. On another note, Nougatbot is a trademarked name for Mars.
Name: Limited Edition Snickers Fudge
Retail customers who join the fudge craze will be a part of a $215 million growing fudge market (according to 2007 Mars Sensory RGT Research). Consumers are sure to love the combination of their favorite SNICKERS(r) brand and the nostalgic taste of rich fudge.
Notes: They should be hitting the shelves in August. I have a sample (though it’s kind of smashed) and will post a review closer to the release date.
UPDATE: Review of Snickers Fudge bar is here.
Name: Limited Edition Coconut M&Ms
Notes: On the list of M&Ms flavor variations they should come out with, this wasn’t even on my radar. Not that I’m not happy to hear it. I have a sample and will post about them soon. Early thoughts are that they’re not bad, but I think they might have been better in dark chocolate. They should be hitting the shelves in August.
UPDATE: Review of Coconut M&Ms is here.
Other new products announced I’ve covered previously. They include: Dove Silky Smooth Milk Chocolate with Peanut Butter, Fling Chocolate Fingers, M&Ms Strawberried Peanut Butter Chocolate Candies, M&Ms Disney Memorable Moments.
Then there’s the Real Chocolate Relief Act ... I haven’t blogged about it and I probably won’t do anything beyond this mention of it. Basically, you can go to their website on Fridays until 9/25/09. They’re giving away a quarter of a million coupons for a free candy bar each week. It seems like a lot of work for 75 cents that you don’t get it for 6 weeks. I can’t decide what they can or will do with your info besides get an awesome cross section of the American population and who will fill out a form for less than a dollar. If that’s not a demonstration of America’s capability to delay gratification, I don’t know what is. (Kind of makes you think we’re gonna be okay.)
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
The biggest, most exciting bit of news to come from Hershey’s this year as far as new products has to be their new Pieces line:
Like Reese’s Pieces are a lentil shaped & candy shelled version of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, I’m sure that Pieces will merely be “inspired by” the flavors of these popular candy bars. I loved the little Hershey’s Bites that were discontinued, and realize now that these will not be a real replacement for those.
What they do look like though are:
Hershey’s Special Dark Pieces - a dark chocolate lentil. The packaging looks like they’ll be dark red, maroon and brown shells. (Hershey’s Special Dark Pieces review here.)
York Pieces - a dark chocolate center flavored with peppermint (not a fondant center with a dark chocolate veneer). These look like they’re dark blue and white shelled. (Hershey’s York Pieces review here.)
Almond Joy Pieces - milk chocolate, coconut and almond. The shells here look like blue, beige and brown. I’m not sure if it’s actual bits of coconut and almond or just the flavors. (Almond Joy Pieces review here.)
Other items rolling out now:
Hershey’s Bliss Chocolate Bars - New Hershey’s Bliss chocolate bars feature a smooth, creamy texture for an indulgent personal chocolate experience in Dark Chocolate and Milk Chocolate with a Meltaway Center.
My thoughts: as I mentioned in the post about packaging, these are looking an awful lot like Dove.
My thoughts: I got a few of these in a box from the folks at the National Confectioner’s Association and now have a whole package for review that came with this press release. I’m having trouble telling them apart from the Hot Cocoa and Chocolate Truffle Kisses, but I’ll work on it.
My thoughts: it’s a fun idea! Combine a bit of dark and milk chocolate. (Sometimes I mix dark & milk M&Ms.)
Hershey’s 100 Calorie Whipped Vanilla Bars - Hershey’s extends its portion control offerings with the introduction of the Hershey’s 100 Calorie Whipped Vanilla Bars. Combining the decedent flavors of vanilla and chocolate, the new bars offer a balanced indulgence in one convenient pack.
My thoughts: I’ve pretty much stayed away from the 100 calorie bars for review, but I have to say that they’ve done some nice work at providing some tasty options that aren’t just smaller sized regular candies - they’re new from the ground up.
Later this fall you can also sample:
Hershey’s Bliss White Chocolate with Creamy Meltaway Center - Hershey’s Bliss will introduce a white chocolate expression to this decedent chocolate line with the launch of Hershey’s Bliss White Chocolate with Creamy Meltaway Center. The new individually wrapped, bite-size chocolates will be available in laydown bags.
My thoughts: If it’s really white chocolate, I’m going to be really interested. Hershey’s used to make good white chocolate products and I’ve love to see them return to it. (The old Cookies ‘n Cream bar used to use cocoa butter.)
Hershey’s Cookies ‘N’ Chocolate Miniatures - Hershey’s Cookies ‘N’ Chocolate Miniatures offer a delicious flavor assortment with three unique miniature chocolate varieties in one laydown bag, including Hershey’s Cookies ‘N’ Creme, Hershey’s Cookies ‘N’ Milk Chocolate and Hershey’s Milk Chocolate.
My thoughts: as mentioned above, the Cookies ‘n Creme used to have cocoa butter in it, but since they took it out, I haven’t been terribly interested in it. I do enjoy the cookies and milk chocolate but love, love, loved the Cookies ‘n Mint and would think it’s a natural item to include in this mix.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.