Tuesday, April 6, 2010
Trader Joe’s usually markets house branded products that are a bit upscale. Their candies usually emulate something you’d find at Whole Foods or the imported bars you’d find at a gourmet shop. This is the first one I can recall that seeks to compete head-to-head with a mass-produced consumer product. In this case they’re going up against Hershey’s, the most popular plain chocolate bar in the United States.
Their new Trader Joe’s Classic Milk Chocolate Bar has some nice looking lines. The plastic/mylar packaging is a comforting shade of milky brown with silver swirls and the word CLASSIC emblazoned across two thirds of the face. It’s 1.55 ounces and retails for 69 cents ... that’s identical to the Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bar.
While Trader Joe’s doesn’t carry any Hershey’s products, they do carry Scharffen Berger, which is owned by Artisan Confections, which is a subsidiary of Hershey’s. I find it a little odd that they’d make a product that’s supposed to be better than the Hershey Bar, but it’s nothing Hershey’s should feel threatened about since Trader Joe’s aren’t ubiquitous and never sell their products at other stores.
Here’s what the Fearless Flyer had to say:
The bar looks pretty good. The sections are easy to break and it has a satisfying snap. It’s not as fudgy or bendy as the Hershey Bar tends to be, but the molding design isn’t quite as compelling.
It smells like sweet cocoa, not rich and not much of a dairy note at first. Biting into it, it’s soft and creamy but very sweet. There’s a nutty and caramel note to it with a light milk flavor. But the chocolate punch is missing for me. While Hershey’s doesn’t have much of a chocolate punch either, it does have a strong tangy, chocolate cheesecake flavor. This just tastes like Easter chocolate to me.
I bet this would make great S’mores and because it’s all natural and Gluten Free, there are a lot more options for who can eat it. I can’t see myself buying it again when they have so many other great chocolate options in the store.
If Trader Joe’s is competing with the Hershey’s Special Dark Bar, it’s not much of a competition. I knew this was going to be better before I even opened the wrapper, I just can’t imagine Trader Joe’s seeking to duplicate a Special Dark. The Trader Joe’s Classic Dark Chocolate Bar has a similar wrapping to the Milk Chocolate version, the color is just a little darker and has pink text instead of citrus colors.
They missed the boat here with the ingredients. Though it’s marked as gluten free, like the milk bar it’s processed on equipment that handles wheat, peanuts and tree nuts - so this is not a solution for folks with allergies. But the substantial issue I have is that it has dairy in it. Way down on the list, after cocoa butter and before the soy lecithin there’s some butterfat. If that wasn’t there, this would be a dairy free and vegan bar. What an awesome achievement that would be.
The back of the package says that it’s a 53% cocoa solid bar. So we’re not talking extra dark, we’re in the realm of sweet chocolate or perhaps semi-sweet. The bar isn’t as attractive as I’d hoped. Though the top looks pretty good, the bottom is swirly and has an inconsistent color. There are quite a few air bubbles. The snap is good, though softer than many dark chocolates I usually eat.
It smells like hot cocoa and marshmallows, the vanilla scent is strong. The snap is good, but a little bit softer.
The cocoa profile is hard to discern. It’s a bit fruity and has a touch of coffee. The finish is clean - it’s not bitter, chalky or dry. It melts well - though not entirely silky it has a satisfying mouthfeel. It has a much fattier melt, in fat there’s more fat in here than a Special Dark bar (14 grams of fat versus 12 grams in a Special Dark).
The package doesn’t say where the chocolate is made, though it doesn’t say that it’s Belgian or French, so I’m going to assume that it’s American. It’s Kosher. If I’m at Trader Joe’s though, I would still go for something else of theirs before this (usually the dark chocolate almonds) and probably these Belgian 3-bar stacks if they still had them.
If Trader Joe’s set out to make a better bar for less than 70 cents than Hershey’s, I’d say that they succeeded. They didn’t actually make one that I’d want, but I’m sure these will appeal to lots of folks.
I wish they came without coloring, I avoid the pink ones because they have an aftertaste. (Luckily The Man picks up the slack.)
Monday, April 5, 2010
One of my favorite chocolate bars as a kid was the Nestle Crunch or Krackel. Both of them went downhill in the nineties (Hershey’s Krackel isn’t even a chocolate bar any longer) but the Nestle Crunch seems to be inching its way back to respectable. About two years ago Nestle released their “Now Even Richer” tweak, which improved the bar but it wasn’t hard when it was so waxy and flavorless before.
Nestle is going for it again with their Nestle Crunch Even More Scrumptious version. Since we’re in a crossover period where both the “Now Even Richer” and “Even More Scrumptious” version are on shelves, I picked up two for comparison.
The bar’s shape and size is exactly the same. Same package design with the familiar red, white and blue colors that have been used for at least 50 years but of course updated from time to time. The mold has the bold CRUNCH lettering that lets you know what it is inside or out of the mylar. I prefer a bar with segments. While pretty molding is nice if you’re eating the whole bar yourself and don’t care about the sanitariness of biting right into it, I usually break my bar into pieces so I can share or portion. Though the ingredients on the old and new version are identical as is the nutrition information, flipping both bars over reveals the most significant difference:
(Now Even Richer version on the left - Even More Scrumptious on the right)
Sometime in the mid-2000s (I think), Nestle started using these little BB shaped & sized crisped rice pieces. Not just in the Crunch bar but also in the 100 Grand Bar. I don’t like them. They lack the irregular air pockets that gives a Crunch bar its more rustic texture. But the big rice pieces are back, I took this as a good sign.
(Now Even Richer version on the left - Even More Scrumptious on the right)
The color of the two bars is slightly different. It could be age, the new formula is obviously a fresher bar though both are within their freshness dates.
But what’s the difference in taste, how did they make it better without actually changing the ingredients or nutritional profile?
Well, it’s creamier. Not by much but the fact that the rice pieces are larger seems to make a difference as well. The bigger crunch makes the chocolate texture difference more noticeable. Is it really that much more scrumptious?, I’d say yes, there is some notable improvement in the creaminess and sweetness level of the chocolate. It still lacks a well-rounded chocolate flavor and texture. It’s far too sugar intense and not chocolatey enough for me, or even milky enough. It’s an entertaining enough piece of candy for the price, but not a satisfying bar of chocolate. It does earn the right to scootch up from at 6 out of 10 to a 7 out of 10. I hope the other holiday versions get this changeover, too.
(I think that’s Jenilee Harrison as the first bar-eater. What I got from this commercial is that it’s a candy bar that white people like.)
Caramel Creams are like cookie dough candy and less like caramels. They’re really filling so they make a great snack. (Original review here.)
Sunday, April 4, 2010
This large marshmallow bunny had fearsome fangs, but it wasn’t until I put him near this sweet and succulent baby bunny that I found out his true intentions.
Yes, it’s true, there are vampire marshmallow Easter bunnies. Beware.
(No, he doesn’t have those evil eyebrows, here’s the package.)
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.