Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Das Foods which is already known for their cute little caramel morsels has expanded into the gourmet lollipop market. (Did you know there was a gourmet lollipop market?)
Their initial offerings are petite pops that look suspiciously like ordinary lollipops you’d get at the doctor’s office after bravely taking an injection without crying or biting the nurse.
These, however, are made in decidedly grown up flavors and with all natural ingredients.
This amber pop looks rather blah, like an all natural candy usually does.
It doesn’t mess around though. It didn’t smell like much, kind of like lemon, but maybe like tea. The first sensation I got when putting it on my tongue was a zap of ginger. Spicy. The tangy lemon entered and brought its companion bitterness with it (I guess that’s the naughty part, bitterness is like a lack of gratitude but sometimes a reminder of what we have).
It was a cross between a cough drop and a ginger hard candy. The spicy feeling on my lips, tongue & throat lasted quite a while.
The ingredients are pretty impressive: sugar, rice syrup, citric acid, crystallized ginger pieces, citric acid, lemon oil, natural ginger extract
Unlike many pomegranate candies, this is just a light and natural pink, like a garden rose. It smells rather woodsy - like tea in a sandalwood or cedar box.
The flavor is tangy and bit like a mellow cherry or raspberry. But then the orange kicks in. Instead of the juicy flavor it’s all about the zest here. There are little bits of orange zest as well, they give it a less than smooth melt on the tongue but also vibrant pops of flavor.
This dark brown pop was opaque. It smells a bit like a bowl of brown sugar - just lightly toasted.
The texture is just a smidge less smooth but the caramelized sugar flavors come out right away. It’s a little salty and not very sweet overall. The butter or cream components are missing ... so it’s more like a brulee topper for me than an actual hardened caramel. But that still kept me happy.
For an all natural hard candy, they are extremely expensive. Right now the variety pack is going for $3.99 for 4 ounces on the Das Foods website. (Each pop is about a half an ounce and there are 8 in the package. So they’re $16 a pound or 50 cents per pop.)
If you’re going through morning sickness or have motion sickness problems, the ginger pops are an excellent option. The caramel pops are a nice take on the hardened caramel, I appreciated that they weren’t too sweet. The orange & pomegranate didn’t thrill me, but I think I was detecting more bitter citrus oils than most folks probably would. I don’t mind it at first, but it does leave a weird taste in my mouth.
In addition to the flavors reviewed here there’s also one called Man Bait which is Bacon & Maple. (I gave it to Amy, who thought it was pretty tasty, much more on the maple & smoke side and not much else from the bacon ... for the record she’s one of those people who doesn’t like her syrup to get on her bacon.)
Expensive but certainly unique. If you’re going for really vibrant flavors and all natural ingredients, these may be a great option. They’re certainly a fun impulse item at a cafe or gift shop but I don’t think I’m crazy enough about them to buy a whole box.
Half the time the stuff being announced in as new products aren’t really new. They’re just repackaging. Not that I have anything against that. I love a clever and useful boxes and tins and of course an engaging and colorful wrappers.
First thing that I noticed a few years ago is nostalgic packaging. The first one I heard about was a retro version of 3 Musketeers, Snickers & M&Ms sold at WalMart stores. Then I started seeing Hershey’s special packaging.
This year Just Born is into the act with nostalgic boxes for their most popular products: Mike and Ike, Hot Tamales and Goldenberg Peanut Chews.
Is the candy different? Did they go back to the original recipe or something? No, pretty much the same.
But I have to say, the Goldenberg’s Peanut Chews (review) taste a lot better than Chew-Ets. Maybe it’s that these were extra fresh ... or that it’s the first King-Size package I’ve had since I moved to California. (Though they were a sample from All Candy Expo folks, all the other above items pictured were from my personal stash.)
First, Mars is going to be making their M&Ms Premiums (review) available in single-serve boxes. Pretty hot looking. I like the flip top, I like that the box was jam packed with the little triple chocolate premiums.
I don’t have much info otherwise though ... I’m hoping they won’t be much more than the price of King Size M&Ms. (They are 1.2 ounces, not as much as a regular bag.)
Hershey’s is also creating a bar format of their new Bliss line (review).
I got this sample of the new Hershey’s Bliss Rich & Creamy Dark Chocolate Bar, it’s about the equivalent of five little Bliss bites.
Look familiar? Yeah, not that different from the format of the Dove chocolate line. Kind of sad how much they look alike.
Even though it feels like stuff is getting smaller and more expensive, I did find one bright spot in the news (in addition to the awesome new products, of course).
Instead of the classic tray the LifeSaver Gummis (review) now come in a 2 ounce single serve pack (“With 33% More Gummies”). I saw these at them on shelves at the 7-11 already.
The thing that I learned that was so surprising is that LifeSavers Gummis are the number one selling gummi in the United States. Not Haribo (who have been doing it far longer) or even previous domestic brands like Trolli or Black Forest. Nope, LifeSavers.
The final news nugget is the renaming of Crackheads to Jitterbeans (well, that’s not entirely true, you can get them with either name). I reviewed them last year and Candy Addict’s Brian even appeared on TV to talk about the branding of the product (advocating a name change ... and this is a pretty good choice).
The package is kind of intimidating. The same size as a regular Lemonheads box ... but this one advertises that it has as much caffeine as 6 cups of coffee. I haven’t counted up the beans, but I’m pretty sure that four would be my limit and never to be eaten after noon if I wanted to sleep.
There are probably lots of other associations we’re all going to be making when we see the stuff on the shelves. (Especially when the old & new styles are sitting side by side.)
What have you noticed so far?
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Today is the start of All Candy Expo, the national exhibition of candy & snacks sponsored by the National Confectioners Association. Over three days over 450 exhibitors will sample their wares on the show floor while tens of thousands of candy store owners, chain store buyers, wholesalers & distributors will will walk the aisles. It’s an awesome and intimidating place to be, it makes me a bit giddy and also overwhelmed (there’s so much!). Once again my dayjob prevents me from attending so I’ll sit here and remotely broadcast items of interest.
Here are some new product announcements:
Name: Wee Glee
Name: Sour Patch Chillerz
Name: Black Forest Juicy Oozers
Name: Goetze Gourmet Caramel Creams Licorice
Name: Sour Punch Bits
Name: Caramel Apple Pops
Name: Werther’s Original Creamy Caramel Filled
Name: Ghirardelli Luxe Milk Chocolate
All photos courtesy of the manufacturers unless otherwise watermarked
For the past few years M&Ms has linked up with blockbuster movies to make Limited Edition M&Ms. Shrek (Mega M&Ms), Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull (Mint Crisp M&Ms), Pirates of the Caribbean (White Chocolate M&Ms) and Star Wars (Dark Chocolate M&Ms). This summer is no different with the release of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.
To tie into the movie about aliens that are two kinds of robots in one (more than meets the eye) Mars is introducing Limited Edition Strawberried Peanut Butter M&Ms.
Not only are the candies inside of the “you’ve never tasted this before” variety, they’ve also made seven different versions of the wrapper. Pictured above is The Twins - Pack 7 of 7.
What is a strawberried peanut butter M&M?
They’re pretty much the same as the regular Peanut Butter M&Ms: a peanut butter center covered in milk chocolate and a hard candy shell ... except here the milk chocolate is strawberry flavored.
I admit at first I squintched up my nose at the idea. Then I thought about PB&J (which is ideal with concord grape and white bread on one side, but also fabulous with sunflower wheat bread and raspberry jam) and it kind of made sense.
The colors are red, brown and yellow.
There were no clever motifs on the printing, just the regular M imprint. Except the yellow ones had some red splatter on them (I’m guessing that’s red transformer motor oil).
The strawberry flavor is just that, a flavoring applied on top of the inherent flavors in the peanut butter and the chocolate. The chocolate flavor is pretty much overwhelmed by the floral and sweet berry essences. The peanut butter grounds it pretty well, it’s mostly smooth, rather soft and has a good salty pop towards the end.
They’re not my favorite M&Ms ever, but I had no problem eating the whole bag. They feel about as relevant to the movie as last year’s mint crisp was to Indiana Jones.
I’ll leave you with a photo of the Bumblebee Transformer. Because I had it (hey, I work in Hollywood, I see a lotta stuff):
Monday, May 18, 2009
With the wild popularity of the Twilight series of books by Stephanie Meyer, it was only a matter of time before the first book was made into a movie. And of course its success means a licensing agreement was reached for some candy.
Considering the fact that the story (I’m doing spoilers here) is about vampires and love, candy hearts are a natural choice.
Necco’s Sweetheart conversation hearts were released as a limited edition: Sweethearts Forbidden Fruits. Instead of just getting a box branded with a few characters on it and maybe some new sayings, these little hearts are also in different flavors themed for forbidden fruits plus have some sort of sparkling Dracula dust (pearlescent pigment) on them.
The candy seems to have been timed with the DVD release, not with the film in the theaters. Still, I never did find them in stores (perhaps I should have been looking in video stores, but I have a Netflix subscription ... which makes me think there should be a Netflix for candy).
The candy hearts don’t look terribly different from the regular Valentine’s version. Except the colors are different. The pearly coating (that looks like it’s glitter on the box) is pretty darn mild, I mistook it for chalky powder.
The flavors are:
The sayings on the hearts vary in their legibility. They seem to be lighter but clearer on the pearly ones but bold & smudgy on the uncoated.
Sayings that I was able to tease out were: Soul Mate, Bite Me, Secret, I (heart) EC, Live 4 Ever, Dazzle, With You, Lamb, Bad Guy, You R My Life, Always, I Trust You, I Love You, Forks.
Oddly enough, as noted above in the photo, some were blank. I didn’t know if this was intentional, like some sort of heart that only vampires could read. Or maybe there’s a version of the Twlight books that are choose your own adventure and I’m in charge of this heart’s message.
As far as a limited edition offering, they’re a rather bland revision of conversation hearts, but they’re rather ordinary to begin with. The execution of the lettering and the “dazzle dust” were weak. But I liked the box design (though I’ve only seen this one in person) and think that it’d be a fun item to have while watching the movie with friends. (As long as you had some snacks on hand that were actually good to eat.)
Like all Necco conversation hearts, these have gelatin in them, so are unsuitable for vegetarians/vegans/those who keep Kosher or otherwise eschew pork. (I have no idea how the Twilight vampires feel about pigs.)
Friday, May 15, 2009
Seems like sticking goo inside classic candy categories is the confectionery trend for the late aughts.
Mars introduced the Starburst Gummibursts in early 2008, which were pretty much just a Starburst branded version of Fruit Gushers (which isn’t called a candy because it’s not sold in the candy aisle, it’s a “fruit snack” but has virtually identical ingredients).
Starburst has now expanded the new product line to include Starburst Sour Gummibursts.
The original tart but not sour came in strawberry, lemon, orange and cherry. This new assortment comes in Strawberry, Watermelon, Green Apple and Orange Tangerine.
Unlike the originals these are covered in a granulated sour powder. They also seem a bit softer. Unlike packs of Starburst chews which have a regular proportion of each flavor, Gummiburst are random. And by random I mean that the luck of the universe means that whatever flavor is your favorite will be shorted in your packages. I’ve opened four packages and only one had Orange Tangerine in them. The one for this review broke down like this: 4 Strawberry, 5 Green Apple and 1 Watermelon.
Pink = Watermelon: I don’t like eating unripe melon and usually shy away from the stuff that’s really close to the rind. So sour watermelon isn’t exactly one of my top sour flavors. This had a wonderful sweet aroma, like summer picnics & lip balm. The chew on it was nice but it was absolutely sour which overpowered most of the watermelon-ness at that point. (Though this depended on how much goo was in the centers - the center goo is flavored but all sweetness.)
Red = Strawberry : this also had a nice floral scent, so I had no trouble telling it from the rather similar looking watermelon. The flavor is stronger than the watermelon but still just as tangy. Very sweet center.
Green = Green Apple: this is definitely a winner on the sour apple front. The flavor is artificial but with a nice dash of real apple juice notes. The juicy center provides a bit of relief from the tartness.
Orange = Orange Tangerine: I didn’t get to eat many of these, but they smelled divine, had a great mix of tartness, super-sour and zest. Juicy & lip smacking good. The center was especially deep in its variety of flavor notes.
Some liquid filled candy can go wrong inside the package. There are plenty that I’ve had recently that have at least one leaky or exploded candy, which gets the rest of them moist & sticky. These all seemed in great condition.
Unlike the regular Starburst Chews, these have no additional Vitamin C. They are pretty low in calories though (as are all gummi products). The little 1.5 ounce package only has 130 calories. Since they’re packed with so much flavor and the pieces are pretty meaty, they might be a good candy option for someone watching calories. (They’re also gluten free but not vegetarian because of the presence of gelatin.)
Thursday, May 14, 2009
It’s marketed as candy with benefits in this case a bit of fortification with 500 mg of calcium. The candy balls are also made with all natural ingredients, so no artificial colors or flavors.
The package is rather large considering the amount inside. The wrapper is over 6.5” long, that’s an inch longer than an M&M package (so think of this like a King Sized pouch) but only holds one ounce. (However, when I talked to the folks who are just starting up the company, they designed the bag before knowing exactly how big & heavy the portions would be and will probably alter this during their next production run of wrappers.)
That said, I think the package design is nice - it’s bold & seems friendly and appealing.
The candy is made of a crisped rice center surrounded by milk chocolate and then a hard candy shell. There are 10-12 per bag.
The most noticeable flavor at first is the cereal notes of the rice then there’s a bit of milky flavor from the chocolate. The chocolate flavors come across as a kind of cocoa breakfast cereal. The calcium part is completely undetectable. Not a hint of unusual graininess, no weird mineral aftertaste. I find it hard to believe that I’m getting half my daily RDA of calcium ... but that’s what it says. They’re sweet and definitely crunchy ...
My only hesitation with them is availability and price. Right now they’re for sale on place online (healthysnackstore.com) and are about $1.70 a package when sold by the dozen. It’s far cheaper to just down Tums for the calcium. However, if you have a kid that you need to get that extra calcium into or are an adult who just needs a little help with boosting your mineral intake the caloric hit isn’t even that bad because of the scant portion size - only 130 calories a bag. I felt pretty satisfied ... and strong.
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
At the same time I bought the Sunspire Peppermint Pattie, I also picked up both of their Coconut Bars.
Sunspire makes premium candy with all natural ingredients, nothing artificial. In my experience with their products they tend to use evaporated cane juice instead of refined sugar and often use unsulfured molasses as a sweetener. They also eschew genetically modified sources so most of the products I’ve seen use a rice syrup when needed instead of corn syrup. Besides the malty, earthy flavor that molasses usually adds, I have no problem with sweet & satisfying candy being made from these elements.
Add to that Hershey’s decision to move manufacturing of Mounds, Almond Joy and York Peppermint Patties to Mexico, I thought it’d be cool to find an excellent American-made substitute for folks who want to buy more local. (Though in my case Monterrey, Mexico is a bit closer than Hershey, PA.)
Instead of the two piece style of Almond Joy or Bounty this is a long, one-piece bar, a bit thinner. The rippled milk chocolate enrobing is glossy and appealing.
The almonds in this bar are not whole ones popped on top like Almond Joy, they’re crushed & mixed in with the moist coconut flakes.
I didn’t really see the almond bits in there, but the color was a bit more on the cream-colored side than the dark chocolate & no almond version (see below.)
The bar smells pleasantly like coconut and unpleasantly like Hershey’s Milk Chocolate often does - a bit gamey & sour ... rather like baby vomit.
But I pushed on, because I actually like the taste of Hershey’s milk chocolate, even though I can’t take the smell of it for very long.
The flavor of the milk chocolate is tangy, it’s like acid reflux but in the convenience of a pre-packaged bar. It’s terrible. I can’t eat it. I tried several times, it’s just too awful for me to stomach. (I even waited a couple of days, just in case I was the one who wasn’t feeling well.)
Then, as some sort of deja vu, I lured Amy into my office to try it. (Remember, not only does Amy have no problem spitting things out, she also has a hate-hate relationship with Sunspire’s Sundrops.)
I understand personal preferences for certain flavors, it’s rare for any candy product to induce a verified gag reflex.
Rating: 1 out of 10
It’s a simpler bar, just a firm coconut center, lightly sweetened and some dark chocolate enrobing.
The enrobing on this one looked similar, though there were a few bloomed spots. As the expiration date was March 2010, I felt pretty safe eating it.
The chocolate is slightly bitter, not extremely creamy but has its own decent flavor. The center is firm and chewy, more like an uncoated coconut bar than something soft & moist like a Mounds.
This tastes like no compromise candy. All natural ingredients, not organic but at least not genetically modified or overprocessed. The ingredients are vegan however they were made in a plant that processes wheat, peanuts, tree nuts, milk, eggs and soy. Kosher.
The price is a bit steep and to be honest, if I’m going for a candy bar when at Whole Foods or similar stores, there’s very little that could pry me away from the Q.Bel wafer bars. But if I was in the mood for coconut, the dark bar is notable.
Rating: 7 out of 10
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.