Tuesday, May 31, 2011
Hershey’s has come out with dozens of varieties of Kisses over the past ten years or so. They’ve filled them with Peanut Butter, Cherry Cordial, Caramel and Coconut while others were flavored like Candy Corn and Mint. The new Hershey’s Kisses Air Delight are the first I can think of that are less than other Kisses. They’re not filled with chocolate, they’re filled with little air bubbles.
Aerated chocolate is nothing new, it’s actually quite popular in other countries like the United Kingdom where the Cadbury Wispa is popular and Japan where the Nestle Aero bar comes at least a half a dozen seasonal varieties. (Hershey’s says that aerated chocolate is a $500 million dollar market segment worldwide.) The new Air Delight line is a first for Hershey’s though. In addition to the new Kisses, there’s also a bar version which weighs the same as a regular bar (1.44 ounces) but has almost 20% more volume.
The Kisses are molded, but look like virtually all other non-classic Kisses. The foil wrapper is silver with brown dots on it. The little flag says Air Delight. They do actually feel lighter than a regular Kiss. The bite is soft or if you’re not a chewer, they do melt much quicker. The flavor isn’t quite the regular Hershey’s milk chocolate twang, but there are some sour notes in there. It’s not quite fudgy, but a little salty and milky. I have to say that just a half a dozen were very satisfying and they go nicely with other snacks like pretzels, nuts or Cheez-its. It’s rather smooth, but I wouldn’t call it rich. The melt is like a chocolate frosting - a little on the sugary side and not enough chocolate and certainly not enough cocoa butter. But it’s candy.
So the chocolate is lighter, because they put air bubbles in there, diluting the chocolate. The same “classic bag” of solid Kisses is 12 ounces. The Kisses Air Delight is 9.4 ounces. A standard portion size (200 calories) is 9 pieces (40 grams). For Air Delight it’s 11 pieces (41 grams). So each Air Delight Kiss is approximately 3.64 grams, while a classic Hershey’s Kiss is 4.44 grams, or approximately 18% lighter.
I like the idea of having an American version of a style of confection that seems to be available everywhere else. The addition of air does make the melt more pronounced and heighten the flavors. It’s also a darn clever way of giving consumer less for the same money. But sometimes we, apparently, want less for our money. The fact that chocolate can hold such a texture is a bit of a marvel, but like many molecular gastronomy novelties, just because you can do something doesn’t mean that it’s good. I’ve had my fair share of aerated chocolate products over the years and find that I’m not particularly enamored of them - but since Hershey’s pointed out that there’s a half a billion dollar market out there for the stuff, I guess it’d be silly of them not to try.
Hershey’s marketing information promises that this will be their largest Hershey’s Kisses Brand introduction in 5 years (I’m guessing the last was the now defunct Kissables) and the largest Hershey’s launch in 10 years. What that means for consumers is a greater likelihood that you’ll actually be able to find them in stores, if you’re looking for them. The Kisses Air Delight are supposed to be on shelves in early June 2011.
Friday, May 27, 2011
Mars had a few tidbits of exciting news with the products for the coming year. Most of it was in their snack foods areas, like Kudos and their Marathon bars (not the old caramel bars). There were a few new items on the candy front though:
Name: 3 Musketeers Bar: Now Richer Chocolate Taste
Name: DOVE Chocolate Swirl Large Bars and PROMISES
For Holiday offerings, Mars & Dove are bringing back many tried and true favorites, like the holiday colored M&Ms and novelty packaged candies. Also be on the look out for single serve bags of M&Ms with holiday characters on them.
Name: Dove Peppermint Bark Promises
Valentine’s Day 2012
There are no specifically new products, just lots of themed packaging for gift giving. Of course most of the focus is on the DOVE line of chocolates, including heart shaped boxes of the Dove Truffle Hearts. Most notably the M&MS Cherry Chocolate Candies will return for a seasonal run. (Available, as far as I can tell, only in the large 9.9 ounce bags.)
Name: Dove Promises Silky Smooth Dark Chocolate & Cherry
I haven’t heard much, but it looks like the Dove Coconut Eggs will return. I base this assumption on the fact that they gave me samples of them.
Thursday, May 26, 2011
Gimbal’s is a Californian candy company that specializes in sugar candies and boasts a low allergen facility. Lately they’ve been introducing a new themed-flavored “Lovers” product every year. The first year it was a heart shaped Cherry Lovers, with nine different cherry flavored heart shaped jelly beans. Last year it was Honey Lovers with sixteen different honey tinted flavors. This year it’s its a bit of a tart twist with Gimbal’s Sour Lovers.
When I first saw the announcement for them, I knew I had to track them down. I had trouble finding Honey Lovers in stores, so I decided to order Sour Lovers online and avoid the store-to-store hassle. I was fortunate to find them featured in a special at CandyDirect.com where they were $7.00 for two 11 ounce bags including shipping. (Little did I realize that the actual shipping, from the San Diego area to Los Angeles would take 12 days, with little communication from the company about the delay.)
The package includes twelve flavors of tart jelly candies with a sour sand coating. The flavors are: Pomegranate, Fuji Apple, Grapefruit, Watermelon, Meyer Lemon, Tangerine, Baja Margarita, Sour Blueberry, Mango, Bing Cherry, Strawberry Daiquiri and Georgia Peach. I’m kind of particular about my sour candy, because I like a lot of intense flavor with the tartness, so these really sounded tantalizing to me.
The heart shapes aren’t as defined or quite as attractive as the Cherry or Honey Lovers, but I thought the size and shape, a sort of thick heart shape, was perfect. The sanding is light to keep them from sticking together, but I found that even in the low humidity of Los Angeles, they did get a bit tacky if they weren’t stored in a sealed bag.
I had trouble telling the colors apart. Since I had two bags, I mixed them up in order to find all of the colors/flavors. I have to say that the guide on the back wasn’t exactly helpful for the colors that had a few flavors associated with them, like the orange/peach, pink/light red/red and yellows.
Pomegranate - I found it difficult to identify this one, so I had to open both bags in order to find the slightly darker red Pomegranate. It has some floral notes that reminded me of raspberry but with more of a tannic bite. It’s missing some of the notes of actual pomegranate juice but still has a distinctive flavor unlike the rest of the pieces in the mix.
Fuji Apple - goes beyond the normal green apple flavor with actual real apple juice and peel flavors in there along with the fake green notes that we come to expect from candy.
Grapefruit - I could eat a bag of these. If they make another Lovers mix, I would pay a premium for it to be a Citrus Lovers. This had an amazing intensity, all of the notes a real grapefruit has from the juicy tartness, zest, sweetness and then that lingering bitterness.
Watermelon - Gimbal’s does a great job with flavors that I often find too artificial from other companies. This watermelon was definitely a little on the “candy” side of things, but really flavorful, floral and of course puckery.
Meyer Lemon - again, get me a bag of these. Meyer Lemons have a bit more of a mandarin flavor to them than the usual Eureka lemons, so they’re the perfect combo of tartness and juicy citrus flavors that do more than burn. (I actually drink Meyer Lemon juice from my back yard tree in a little mineral water - no sugar needed.)
Tangerine - this one sizzles with sour orange, it’s actually a bit more sour than the Meyer Lemon, and also not as zesty.
Baja Margarita - this take on the traditional sour lime really pops, it’s zesty but not all about the sour and I might have even tasted a little hint of salt on it.
Sour Blueberry - this one wasn’t quite blueberry, but I’ve been binging on the real thing. It was more like a sour raspberry, which you know, is also good.
Mango - I had trouble finding this one in the mix as well, and sometimes didn’t know if it was Peach (which is an opaque one). I really can’t say more than I’m not sure I ever ate one.
Bing Cherry - the bing cherry heart isn’t that dark in color, but does have a strong, woodsy flavor like a Life Saver but with far more intensity and tang.
Strawberry Daiquiri this was lovely, though maybe a little too sour, which covers up the great flavors. The floral notes were overshadowed by the citrus, but it’s a daiquiri flavor, so I suppose that’s to be expected.
Georgia Peach - I’m not usually fond of peach flavored candies, but this one has it all, actual fuzz flavor, a zing of sour and the sweet juiciness. It’s like a peach that’s not quite ripe. It has the added benefit of going well with the other flavors (except maybe watermelon).
The candies also have vitamin C in them as well as being made in a facility that’s gluten free, dairy free, soy free, peanut & tree nut free. They’re made with natural flavors and apple juice, but there are also artificial flavors and colors, too. As a true jelly product there are no fats or gelatin in them either (so they’re basically a vegan product since there’s no confectioners glaze or beeswax on them like the hard shell jelly bean versions).
I loved this mix. They’re zippy but have more well rounded flavors that will please adults. I can’t eat too many without burning my tongue, but then again, the intensity is really satisfying so I don’t usually want to eat more than five or six at once.
Full Disclosure: It’s come to my attention that I did not mention when I first posted this review that CandyDirect.com was an advertiser on Candy Blog. We no longer have any sort of business relationship. I made no attempts to hide my identity in the ordering process, though I can assure folks that I received no special treatment one way or the other in the price, shipping, handling or communication process. This post is not a review of CandyDirect.com, I only made passing mention of my experience with the company in the procurement of this candy because I always mention where I get my candy from. (I did subsequently get a free sample of the Sour Lovers from the National Confectioners Association after this review was posted and I ended up giving that bag away unopened.)
Wednesday, May 25, 2011
Since I’m on the topic of classic candies this week (starting with Orange Slices) another favorite are what are simply called the Raspberry. They’re a simple construction that mimics the actual berry quite nicely: it’s a gummi center covered with crunchy colored nonpareils in the approximate size and shape of a real raspberry.
Quite a few companies make them, Haribo’s are probably the most famous, but there’s also a great version made here in the United States by Jelly Belly (they also come in a white grape version called Champagne Bubbles).
Today’s new item is Bebeto Premium, a line of crunchy coated gummis made in Turkey by a company called Kervan. They’re being introduced to the American market at the Sweets & Snacks Expo in Chicago this week. I picked up a few samples in Cologne at the ISM candy fair there in February, and now that I know that they may be available here, I thought I’d review them.
The product line boasts all natural flavorings and colorings. They’re packaged in stand up bags with zip lock tops for freshness and each variety comes with two flavors in the mix. I got to try three of their new varieties: Tropical, Berry & Turkish Coffee
Tropical: The crunchy bits outside are sweet and have a very light fruity flavor. It isn’t until I got to the gummi center that the flavor really developed. The Tropical Ananas (Pineapple) was intense, a good blend of tartness and those pine and rosemary notes that fresh pineapples have. It was more like the fresh flavors than the canned ones. The Tropical Orange was a little more subdued, but with a good dose of zest in there to carry off a fully developed fruit flavor.
ones were rather like I expected. Blackberry starts very sweet with the light, crunchy nonpareils but then gets a good fruit jam kick from the gummi center. The flavor notes were dark enough to be considered blackberry. The Raspberry was more fragrant and floral than the Blackberry and of this pairing, it was definitely my favorite. Happily I also experience no flavor interference from the colorings.
The Turkish Coffee & Mint variety was the one I was looking forward to the most. I know that coffee or anything creamy sounds like an odd match for a gummi base, but I’ve had some wonderful Japanese versions, so I know it can be done well.
As this is an actual Turkish candy from a Turkish candy company, I expected a lot from their Turkish Coffee. The package was a mix of brown and white candies, the brown ones were the coffee (obviously) and white was mint.
The Turkish Coffee pieces smelled wonderful, like strongly sweetened, fresh coffee. The coffee flavor, in this piece, was much more apparent on the outside with the little crunchies. So far, so good. I was enjoying it and looking forward to the more intense coffee center. But that didn’t happen. The center was tangy. Generically tangy, but still with a coffee note to it. It’s like someone tossed a spoonful of lemon juice in my coffee. I thought for a while it was an error, that the little packet I had was a mistake, that they were changing over a production line. But every packet I had (I think I had four or five of these little samples that had three or four pieces each in them that I gathered from several different places - both the press room and the booth for Bebeto) was the same.
Mint was similar. The white crunchies were a strong peppermint with just a hint of spearmint. But the center was tangy. I didn’t mind that as much, I thought of it kind of like a less than zesty mojito.
I love that there are no artificial colorings in these candies. The flavors chosen for this line are great with the exception of the Turkish Coffee. I though the fruit flavors went well together in their pairings. However, the Turkish Coffee was just too weird, when I want a coffee flavored candy, I don’t want too much extra with it. Tartness definitely not a bonus. They’re a little more adult in their packaging and flavor combos, but this can easily be a family candy. I don’t know the recommended retail prices on these, but if they’re comparable to Haribo, they could fit well in the American market. The crunchy coating means they don’t stick together and would look great in a candy dish. I give the fruits a 7 out of 10 but Turkish Coffee gets a 5 out of 10 and should go back to the drawing board.
Tuesday, May 24, 2011
When it comes to classic American candies, the fruit slices are right up there at the top. They’re a simple mix of sugar, fruit flavors and a bit of thickener in the form of corn starch. You can even make them at home, but since the ingredients are so inexpensive they’re a great value as a store bought item.
Brach’s is currently updating their line of candies with new packaging and some new formulas. They’re also adding a twist to some old favorites, including the fruit slices with their new Brach’s Mandarin Orange Slices. In this case they’re calling them Mandarin Orange Jellies Made with Real Fruit Juice.
Personally, I’ve always loved Orange Slices, and their companion jelly candy, the Spearmint Leaves. I never really thought they needed much tinkering, though the best version I think I’ve had are the gourmet Gumdrops that Whole Foods sells that are made with all natural flavors and colors along with some more exotic flavors.
These fruit jellies are lovely to look at. They’re about the size of an actual mandarin section in this case, though a bit more stylized in their format with heavy little segments making them rounded and bulbous. The color is quite orange. I even noticed that the sugar sanding on the outside is colored. (Most jelly slices just have a plain, large grain sugar sanding to keep them from sticking together.)
These were obviously fresh, since they’re a new product. They’re soft but still firm enough to have a stiff bite to them. The smell was great, just opening the bag (or even re-opening the bag) was like peeling a fresh orange. As a jelly they’re smooth and dissolve easily in the mouth. (A gelatin based candy would be chewier and have a longer melting process.) The flavor has many different elements. There’s the typical orange juice note which has the distinct orange flavor and a mellow note of tartness. Then there’s a large hit of zest to the whole thing, a slight bitterness that pops in and then disappears. Incredibly there is something rather “mandarin” about the flavor that made it a bit different from the generic orange. The other item of note here is that the sugar sanding has flavor as well, just a hint of the zest.
They’re soothing. They’re not the most exciting candy in the world, but even with all of my choices (and believe me, at any given moment I have at least fifty different things to choose from), I still found myself eating these.
It’s hard to sell folks on a brand name item for a classic candy where there are so many different brands and generics available. I don’t know if I’d always reach for Brach’s when it came to Spearmint Leaves or Orange Slices, but if the price is the same or close enough, these are a step above.
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