Wednesday, April 21, 2010
I’m sure some folks recognize it, it’s a Super Mario Power Up Box. Inside this mystery block are eight power ups: Starman, Super Mushroom and the gold coin in the form of Snerdles.
Next question: What are Snerdles? They’re are a candy mosaic made by Au’some. Chewy fruit strips covered with tangy, crunchy candies. Think of them like a Nerds Rope, but flat with the Nerds forming an image.
Au’some introduced Snerdles about 10 years ago and they appear on the market from time to time. The last time I heard of them was when they did a limited edition for Marvel back in 2003-2005 including Spiderman. They also made a generic version which was little squares or strips with images of the different flavors of fruit on them.
The promo material I got last year said: Each candy fruit strip is decorated with tiny and tart crunchy candies for an amazing mouthful of texture. I was fascinated and really wanted to see them in person.
Each Power Up Box holds eight individually wrapped Snerdles. Each weighs 11 grams (.39 ounces). They’re not quite square - they’re 2 inches high and 1.75 inches wide and about an eighth of an inch thick (without the toppings).
They absolutely look like the box illustrates. The translucent fruit squares have designs made from little crunchies in different colors. They’re not quite as perfect, but the effect is quite cute and all of mine were faithful and easy to identify. They come in three flavors to go with the designs (though they’re not matched at all, any color can be any design). Blue Raspberry is Aqua, Strawberry is red and Apple is green.
It doesn’t smell like much out of the package. The fruit bar is a little sticky but very pliable. There’s a little pull to it, but it’s not at all a gummy.
It’s not quite fruit leather, it’s not as pulpy as that.
Goodness, this was realistically like an apple. The peel flavors and actual flavor of a granny smith were in there. The second ingredient is pear puree, so it really is fruity.
Really authentic scent of strawberry jam. It’s tangy and sweet with just a hint of grape in the background, but mostly a vague strawberry flavor. The candy pieces provide a crunch and flavor somewhere between a nonpareil and a Nerd. They’re tangy and sweet, but not quite flavored. They’re crunchy but have a slight starchy and chalky afterglow.
I found I could just bite them and eat them that way, but like a fruit roll up or fruit leather I did play a bit. I rolled some up, with the crunches on the inside to keep them from falling off (they’re little devils inside a keyboard). I also pulled some apart, so the mosaic was distorted, like the scattering of galaxies after the Big Bang.
The crunchies just sit on the top, they’re not pressed into the fruit square.
Blue raspberry was certainly an odd color, an ocean aqua. It had an appealing scent, a mixture of floral berries and limes. This one was more tart than the others, though I can’t say that any rise to the level of sour candy. The flavors were like a berry jam, though not subtle or nuanced. Just straight ahead real berry flavor.
These really are an inventive candy. They’re not quite a fruit leather and without the nutrition panel I can’t say exactly whether I’d call these a snack or a candy. The fact that they’re made with a substantial amount of fruit puree should make parents happy and the cute designs and inventive package should make any kid who gets these the envy of his friends.
Made in a no peanut facility but no other notations of allergens on the list (such as tree nuts, eggs, milk, wheat/gluten). They’re also Kosher. Full ingredients: Sugar, pear puree from concentrate, dextrose, corn syrup, tapioca starch, citric acid, apple fibre, sodium citrate, artificial flavors, pectin, maltodextrin, carnauba wax, colours. They are made in China, though it says “Made responsibly in China.” I talked to some folks at the company, it’s a family run business who supervise the manufacture of the candies themselves so it appears that there’s more oversight than a company that outsources the production. They have more information on their website.
The box is easily reusable, it’s a 2.5” cube with a well fitted lid. I think you can peel off the top sticker and then throw change in there or game tokens or just keep refilling it with different candy. I don’t know the true retail price, I expect a box like this will be under $2.00, but on the internet where licensed merchandise can go for more, they might be around $3.
Aggrogate had a roundup of many Nintendo-themed candies, including Snerdles.
Another Chuao bar, made with exquisite Venezuelan chocolate. This was coffee and anise which is an amazing combination.
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Yesterday I reviewed the new Necco Clark Bar with real milk chocolate and the Necco Clark Dark Bar with real dark chocolate. At the time I also purchased and compared the two other nationally available chocolatey peanut butter crunch bars: Nestle Butterfinger and Hershey’s 5th Avenue.
The bars are all roughly the same size and barring any sales, the same price. All are nationally available, and though Clark used to be hard to find, all of the bars here were purchased at RiteAid, a national drug store chain. Honestly, there are probably two main reasons to chose one over the other: flavor preference and ingredients.
The ingredients and concepts are very similar. A crunchy layered peanut butter crunch log is enrobed with chocolate or mockolate.
Necco Clark Bar (introduced by D.L. Clark in 1916-1917)
Noticeable molasses flavor, fresh roasted nuts but not overly salty. The texture varies from bar to bar, some are more hard-candy-like and others have a more crumbly layering with stronger peanut butter notes.
Nestle Butterfinger (introduced by Curtiss in 1923)
The center, when compared to the others, is obviously artificially colored. The scent of the bar is overtly “buttery” but without any real source. The coating is chalky looking and matte, without any ripples or variations. The crunch of the center is dense, though there are layers it’s a tightly wrapped bar. This gives it a density and satisfying weight. The mockolate coating is dreadful and the worst part of the bar. Salty and butter-flavored center has a good peanut butter flavor that at least covers the watery cocoa flavors of the outside.
Hershey’s 5th Avenue (introduced by Luden’s in 1936)
In earlier versions of the bar it was real milk chocolate and there were several almonds on top of the peanut butter center under the chocolate coating. The change over to a high-quality mockolate was about 4 years ago. The center of the 5th Avenue is by far the one I prefer. It’s like a bundle of spiky peanut butter crunch needles. They melt in your mouth with a burst of molasses, peanut butter and salty flavors. The mockolate is actually pretty good, though often very soft and pasty. The chocolate flavor of it is well rounded and the texture, though fudgy, is smooth.
If it were still in its original formulation, the 5th Avenue might still be the #1 bar for me. But given Clark’s new all natural and real ingredients, I have to go with the Clark Bar Dark and then the Clark Bar. Butterfinger comes in a distant #3 (or #4 if we’re using both Clark bars).
Licorice Buttons remind me of one of those Fisher-Price Corn Poppers.
Monday, April 19, 2010
Necco is re-evaluating much of their classic candy line. It started with the Necco Wafers, which went to all natural ingredients last year. Then early this year Sweetheart fans were in for a shock when they went for more intense flavors and colors. The newest development is for a product that isn’t what Necco is known for, candy bars. The Clark Bar is now all natural and uses real chocolate.
The new Clark bar now has no preservatives, no artificial flavors or colors and most importantly, they use real chocolate to coat the crunchy molasses and peanut butter center. They’ve also created a dark chocolate version.
The Clark Bar was introduced around 1916-1917 by D.L. Clark of Pittsburgh who already had a thriving candy business, but needed something in bar form, especially for soldiers that had lots of portable energy. Like many candies created during wartime, this one stuck around after when the veterans sought out the familiar and satisfying flavors. The candy company made many different kinds of bars over the years but the only other to survive to the present is Zagnut (now made by Hershey’s).
In 1955 the Clark family sold the business to Beatrice Foods. In 1983 Beatrice foods spun off their confectionery division to Leaf. However, Leaf ran afoul of the locals when they wanted to move the candy factory so they sold it the local Pittsburgh Food and Beverage Company in 1991 (along with Slo Pokes & Black Cows which were part of the Holloway company before being bought up by Beatrice along with a separate deal for Iron City Beer). I lived in Pittsburgh at the time, this was huge news. What happened after that was more than mismanagement or miscalculation, it was a fraud worthy of a feature film. Finally Necco swooped in 1999 to rescue the closed factory and abandoned bar.
Throughout the years and many owners the Clark bar has changed. While I can’t say that new formula is a return to the original, it’s certainly on paper an improvement over the others from my lifetime.
For those of you not as obsessed about these sorts of things, skip on down to the present day Clark Bar photo area for the current review.
Ingredients in the 1950s (source) - made by D.L. Clark
Ingredients in the 1970s (source) - made by D.L. Clark a division of Beatrice Foods Co.
Ingredients in the 1980s (source) - made by Switzer Clark, division of Leaf, Inc.
Ingredients in the 1990s (source) - made by D.L. Clark and Clark Bar America
Ingredients in the 2000s (source) - Made by Necco
Ingredients in 2010 (from the wrapper) - Made by Necco
It certainly sounds like Necco has reverted to a more wholesome recipe. But all the marketing in the world is no good if the product is inferior.
The first change is the wrapper, it’s bold and masculine; it reminds me more of Matchbox cars than candy. The second is the size. The previous version of the bar was 1.75 ounces, and now it’s 2.1 ounces. This not only puts it on par with other candy bars of its type (Butterfinger is also 2.1 ounces) but also edges out bars like Snickers.
The bar his handsome with a beautifully rippled chocolate coating. The plank is substantial at 5.5 inches long and 1.5 inches wide. It smells sweet and peanutty, just what I like in my crunchy molasses peanut butter bars. The crunch is great, mostly flaky and easy to chew without sticking to my teeth or descending into taffy. It’s buttery without being greasy. It’s a little salty without being savory.
There were hints of smoke sometimes in the bars that I didn’t care for, I wasn’t sure what that was. But they were definitely fresh, no hint of rancid or off peanut oil flavors. The milk chocolate did an excellent job here of pulling it together with a creamy texture. The cocoa flavors weren’t intense, but felt kind of like “I’m having chocolate milk with my peanut butter sandwich.”
The Clark Dark Bar has similar ingredients, in this case the dark chocolate is called Sweet Chocolate. It lists sugar, chocolate liquor, cocoa butter, butter oil, soy lecithin and vanilla extract. It’s really too bad about that butter oil in there, otherwise this would be an excellent vegan bar - maybe if enough folks write in they would change. The one thing I noticed though that was refreshing was that the weight of the dark bar is the same as the milk chocolate one. In most other milk/dark duets the dark is lighter (Snickers Dark, Special Dark, M&Ms Dark).
The dark chocolate is sweet, and without the milk to mellow it out, it’s noticeable. The good thing is that there’s a light bitterness to it that hooks into the molasses and earthy roasted peanut flavors. I preferred the Dark version ultimately.
The texture of the bars varies as I’ve found with most candies of this type. Sometimes the center was flaky and nicely layered, but at least one (the milk one in the close up) was a little less layered and more hard-candy solid. The flavor profile remains the same. The molasses and peanut butter flavors go well together. It’s a deeply flavored bar with sweet and salt, smoke and toasted sugar all backed up by the rib-sticking satisfaction of peanuts.
Read more about the history of the Zagnut from the Bewildered Brit.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.