Wednesday, November 16, 2011
A few years ago I picked up a Big Bite Gummy Bear. It’s not the biggest gummi bear available on the market, but they’re easy to find and pretty well priced for a novelty item.
This year the Big Bite family of gummis is expanding with holiday themed shapes. For Christmas they have three: a Tin Soldier (red cherry), a Christmas Tree (green apple) and a Rocking Horse (red cherry). I found the Big Bite Gummy Rocking Horse charming and well designed so I picked that one from the display at Cost Plus World Market. They’re not as big as the Big Bite Gummy Bear (which is 12 ounces), they’re about half that weight at 5.82 ounces.
First, as a Christmas tree ornament, this is a colossal failure. It’s weight makes it too heavy and big to put on a normal tree. But as a party favor, stocking stuffer or table decoration, it does pretty well.
The gummi is constructed of two molded halves that are bonded together. They’re packaged in a clear plastic form (which could actually be the mold) that works as an excellent storage container for the partially eaten candy and also as a more appropriate ornament when you’re done.
Even though it’s not as big as the original Big Bite Gummy Bear, it’s still pretty large for a single portion of candy. (Come on, this is at least three portions.) The texture is soft, the surface is smooth but a little greasy because of the carnauba wax coating.
Out of the package, the Rocking Horse stands well on its own, though she’s (yes, I checked) a little head-heavy and tips forward.
I was disappointed in the flavor selection, but I understand with novelty candies they have to go with what’s most popular. (I would have preferred raspberry or strawberry or maybe something truly holiday themed like cranberry or cinnamon.)
Once I cut off the head, the halves of the candy pulled apart quite easily. The texture is pliable with a smooth flavor. It’s cherry and though not the best cherry gummi I’ve ever had, it was passable. It was light, a little tart and had a nice overall balance. It wasn’t too dark, not black cherry or wild cherry but more of the stereotypical cherry of most candies. (I think Tootsie Pop Cherry is as close as I can think of.) However, the edges of the product were tough and leathery, while the center was a bit softer. I also got a bit of an aftertaste and slight burning in my mouth ... this could be my reaction to the red food dye or just simple paranoia.
The tag lists the ingredients (contains gelatin and not Kosher/Halal) as well as the nutritional information. It was printed so small I had to photograph it and blow it up. The serving size is the whole candy but the calorie count for the whole thing was a rather modest 592 calories. (That Venti Pumpkin Spice Latte with the whipped cream at Starbucks has 520 calories.) But the really surprising part is consuming the whole thing is 10.7 grams of protein.
The candies are imported by a company called Novelty Specialties and are manufactured in China. I’m not enthusiastic about candy (or any food product) made in China because of their lack of accountability when it comes to food safety, though the United States and United Kingdom have their share as well. If I weren’t writing this blog, I never would have purchased, let alone eaten this product (but that goes for a lot of the candies I’ve tried, and sometimes I’m pleasantly surprised).
The price was $3.99, which was the same price as the twice-as-big Big Bite Gummi Bear. $3.99 could buy some very nice, American or German gummis that you could put in a holiday themed package. Just saying. If you’re not planning on eating it and want to dispose of it in the garbage disposal, well, this is better than plastic.
Since writing the review of the Big Bite Gummy Bear, which seem to be widely available, the company’s website has disappeared. (Here’s the page I got when I went to NoveltySpecialties.com.)
Wednesday, October 19, 2011
This new version is amped up in size and has another twist, actual flavors to the candy buttons (the classics may be flavored, but it’s not perceptible). They’re called Candy Sweet Spots and they’re made in China by Greenbrier International, Inc.
The package is big. The strips are 11 inches long and 4.25 inches wide. There are three strips inside, which provides a full 2.4 ounces of candy - I paid a buck for it.
I’ve never seen a package include, perhaps even advertise, the word artificial so much. The name of the candy might actually be Candy Sweet Spots Artificially Flavored. Then at the bottom there’s a little arrow that points up to the candies themselves that also exalts, “Assorted Artificial Fruit Flavors!”
The package goes on to list all of the flavors, right there on top of the actual candies in the see through package. I appreciate the information.
Yes, they are bigger than the traditional paper buttons. For the most part they’re 1/3 to 1/2 of an inch in diameter. The old style buttons are a little less than 1/4 of an inch.
They come in four flavors: Artificial Cherry, Artificial Orange, Artificial Lemon and Artificial Raspberry. There are fifteen Sweet Spots of each flavor on each sheet.
The Sweet Spots are pretty much regularly sized and shaped. The bonus over their traditionally sized cousins is that these come off the paper rather easily. I had no trouble getting them off, no bits of paper stuck to the bottom. But they do leave a little residue of color/candy on the paper (so you can’t reuse the paper for notes or anything).
Cherry (red) is sweet and mild, it has an actual authentic artificial taste to it and even a little note of Red #40.
They’re really not that good as candy, but as something to amuse a small child for a while, they’re okay. They’re also made in China and contain gelatin and artificial flavors and colors.
I would say that they’re a good accent item, but the original Candy Buttons are too. You can peel them off the paper and put them on a decorated cake or cupcake, which is especially useful if you just want to do a plain uncolored frosting and not have to mix anything else. (And easy for kids to do.) Unless you’re looking for something in a larger scale, I’d say move along to some candy that’s actually good. But if you can’t resist the look of these, well, the price is good and the quality of the colors makes them at least a good deal as decorations. Other party ideas include hanging a strip on the wall to make “lickable wallpaper” or as an accent behind a candy buffet.
There’s another version of these called Mega Candy Buttons which are actually even bigger and are Kosher (so probably don’t have gelatin in them).
Monday, September 19, 2011
Flix Candy has introduced two flavors of the frozen treat known as Dippin’ Dots. Today I have the Ice Cream Flavored Dippin’ Candy - Cookies ‘n Cream for review. I can say from the start that these are better than the Ice Cream Flavored Dippin’ Candy Banana Split variety I reviewed last week.
The candy is made up of little spheres of vanilla, creamy confection (fake white chocolate) and little nuggets of chocolate cookies.
The “white coating” ice cream flavored spheres are made of sugar and a large amount of partially hydrogenated palm kernel oil, and hydrogenated palm oil along with some nonfat milk powder and whey powder with a smidge of sorbitan monostearate and polysorbat 60 tossed in. The cookies bits are actual cookie bits with an enriched wheat flour base, sugar and a fair amount of cocoa.
Like my experience with the Banana Split variety, the texture is not terribly creamy and doesn’t have a smooth melt. It’s simply sweet. Taken on their own, they’re really quite horrible and equal to the rating of 2 out of 10. However, the little cookie bits are great. They’re crunchy and salty (there’s 160 mg of salt in a package) and crumbly and with a charcoal cocoa darkness. If I mistakenly got a bag that was all cookies and no cream, I’d have no complaint. In fact, if they did a 90% cookie with 10% cream, I think I’d actually buy these. But that’s not the case. My package was probably 50/50 and that’s too much of the fatty, greasy and sweet balls.
If you like Cookies ‘n Cream candy, I don’t think you can get much better at the mass market stores than the Hershey variety, and if you’re looking for the bite size version, try the Hershey’s Cookies n Cream Drops. (But it would be nice if someone would do an upscale version with real cocoa butter white chocolate.)
I really need to find out where to buy the little cookie bits in bulk. That’s the real find in this instance.
Monday, August 22, 2011
I’ve been on a roll with the Cookie Dough Bites line of products lately. This box of Cookies ‘n Cream Bites says it’s new, but the product was announced back in January 2010.
New! From the Makers of Cookie Dough Bites - Creamy White Chocolatey Balls with Crumbled Pieces of Cookie.
One of the wonderful things about the Oreo type cookies is the deep, charcoal flavor of the cookie itself. It’s not terribly sweet, crisp and with a sandy, crumbly texture that’s just had to beat either as a cookie or as the base of a cream pie. Crumble those cookies up and put them inside other things? Pure brilliance. Some ice creams put in the cream centers of the cookies, but this is completely unnecessary, the vanilla ice cream base takes care of the “cream” part of the Cookies ‘n’ Cream name.
Another dreamy component of the mix of ice cream and cookie pieces is the chaos of it all. In any bite you might get grainy crumbs or a large, dry piece of cookie, so big you can actually crunch it. The texture is inconsistent in the best way possible.
Now that you can see the cross section of these nuggets, you can see where this review is going to go. The center of the candy is a dough ball made up of a white “cookie” base with a few grains of the chocolate cookie. Then it’s all coated with the palm oil, sugar and milk “cream” along with a smattering of cookie bits.
What should have happened was the center should have been the dark cookie and the outside the mix of the cream and more cookie bits.
But I have to review what’s in front of me.
The Bites vary in size, from the size of a Milk Chocolate M&M to the size of a Peanut M&M. They’re kind of grey with little speckles of black from the cookie bits. They smell sweet and milky. The cream coating is fudgy and sweet, but with very little in the way of “melt in your mouth” qualities. The center of the bites are a little on the dough-side, not moist and with a light taste of raw flour. The center isn’t as sweet as the outside and sometimes I detect a little salt in there. The hint of cocoa and true cookies is completely missing. Sometimes I’d get a little sense of them, but only as some sort of rest from the overt sweetness of the cream.
I can say with confidence that these aren’t the worst thing that I’ve had in the Cookie Dough Bites line. But they’re also far from the best. The center of the Brownie Bites would have been far better in this instance. If you’re looking for a chocolate cookie candy without all that pesky chocolate flavor, then step right up. These are sweet and have only a smidge more flavor than the Cupcake Bites (and no artificial colors) so they get a 4 out of 10.
Tuesday, July 26, 2011
In the world of trends in sweets, one of the biggest has been the rise of cupcakes. There are hundreds of blogs devoted to the various iterations of the small baked goods. Of course the trend is not limited to actual cupcakes, there are all sorts of merchandising opportunities as well as spin-off products like Cupcake Bites from Taste of Nature, the same company that makes Cookie Dough Bites.
The box is actively ugly with a mix of styles and cultural references that make little sense to me. First, the color yellow (background) with the pink “frosting” top with sprinkles is The Simpsons (see the movie poster) and the text style isn’t an exact copy but there are definite similarities. Other than that, the fonts are a mess, at least five different ones from different font families, a mix of serif, san serif and handwriting.
The description on the back (which is even uglier as they introduced green drop shadow text in yet another font) says: Bite sized cupcake morsels coated with sprinkles and white frosting. They’re egg free, kosher and made in the USA.
The concept is the same as the Cookie Dough Bites, a little moist nugget of some wheat based, sweet nodule is then covered in a confectionery coating. Here are the ingredients:
I’m just amazed that the White Kreemy Coating product doesn’t have a trademark notice associated with it. And no, that’s not a typo on my part with the listing of the first two ingredients for the white cake nor the lyrics to an Archies song.
The nuggets are unappealing. They look like white molding clay that’s been rolled around in other little bits ... it looks like the aftermath of a Mr. Bill clip.
The matte exterior is soft and has a light sweet scent, like inhaling a cake mix. The Kreemy Coating doesn’t even rise to the level of fake white chocolate, it’s just a stiff, sweet and slightly greasy coating. The cake center is a little doughy with a faint raw flour flavor to it. The whole effect is an absolute replication of bad grocery store sheet cake. Very sweet, mushy textures and no actual flavor to speak of.
The timing of the product is a little late for the trend, but I’m sure the company will still get some mileage out of it, as they’re the only product like it on the shelves. But if you get a chance, maybe try the cupcake bites on sticks that started this craze.
Like the other Cookie Dough Bites products, the theater box comes with a clear plastic bag inside that actually holds the candy (so eating it at the movies involves opening it before the show starts unless you want to make a lot of noise). Though the package notes that it’s egg free, it’s actually made in a shared processing environment so they have an allergen notice for soy, wheat, milk, peanuts and tree nuts.
Monday, July 25, 2011
Back in the roaring twenties there was a new innovation, it was chocolate syrup. Hershey’s led the way, but there were many other brands, such as Bosco, which not only had chocolate in it but also a touch of malt.
I remember Bosco pretty well, I think it was best known on the Eastern Seaboard. Hershey’s was probably the most popular of all, but I preferred Ovaltine since it had a stronger malt flavor and wasn’t so chalky at the bottom of the glass of milk.
I heard last year that Bosco Milk Chocolate Bars were coming out. This was an exciting development. I love how nostalgic brands are being revived and was looking forward to tasting a malted chocolate bar.
Here’s an old series of commercials for Bosco Syrup. The picture quality isn’t great, but the approach to the product and the unabashed joy still comes through.
I finally spotted the bars at Cost Plus World Market, which usually carries the nostalgic candies. The bar is the standard 3.5 ounce large bar. The package says Special Edition Collector’s Series. I don’t know who wants to collect chocolate bars, unless they’re just talking about the wrapper. The wrapper also says that it’s all natural (and Kosher).
The bar doesn’t actually look that good unwrapped. It’s poorly molded, there are lots of bubbles and voids, easily seen when I flipped over the bar when I took it out to photograph.
The ingredients are all natural, it’s true. The list is very short: sugar, whole milk, cocoa butter, chocolate liquor, soy lecithin, vanilla. Remember when I said that Bosco was a malted chocolate syrup? Well, this is not a malted chocolate bar.
So as a milk chocolate bar it’s quite ordinary. You’ll notice the ingredients listed sugar first, it is most definitely sweet. The milk flavors come next and are strong with a slight powdered milk note to them. The chocolate flavors are faint and evoke cardboard, musty and sawdust flavors for me. Frankly, the chocolate tasted no better than the R.M. Palmer stuff I eschew around Easter.
It’s such a disappointing bar. The price wasn’t bad, at $1.99, I’ve certainly spent more in the past. But if you’re buying this for nostalgia, make sure it’s for the package and not the flavor.
The bar is distributed by Praim Group, not a well known brand but you may recognize their other partner, Bloomsberry & Co, which also make ho-hum chocolate in clever packages.
Friday, June 3, 2011
Mike and Ike are jelly bean rods sold in different fruity flavor combinations. The classic version, introduced in 1940, contains cherry, orange, lime, lemon and strawberry. They’re sold in boxes or little single serve bags. They’re, well, ordinary candies but comforting and dependable. Over the years there have been different flavor varieties introduced.
The twist today, is an actual twist. They’re called Mike and Ike Fruit Twists and instead of being a jelly candy, these are a wheat-based chew. That’s right, this is red licorice. The twist on the classic strawberry licorice twist is that these are filled.
Just Born has been making candy in Pennsylvania since 1923 but sometimes they outsource licensed products like this. So this one is made by a company called CandyRific in Spain. So its relationship with Mike and Ikes is pretty distant.
The Mike and Ike Strawberry Fruit Twists come in a green package with a bold Mike and Ike logo across the top. The branding is nicely done to fit with the existing Mike and Ike product line.
The king size package contains six twists. They’re formatted into two bars - each with three conjoined sets of twists that pull apart easily.
The twists are soft and pliable and rather shiny. The scent is a good imitation of strawberry, it reminds me of that strawberry glaze stuff you can get to make pie. The bite is good, not too chewy but still firm. The center of the red tubes is not quite creamy, but soft, like a paste made of Pixy Stix. It’s a little tart and has a mild strawberry punch flavor.
The combination of the two is a satisfying candy. I didn’t care for the artificial coloring aftertaste, which is kind of metallic and bitter.
Mike and Ike jelly candies come in at least eight different varieties and each is color coded. The orange package is my favorite version, Tangy Twister, so I was hoping that the Fruit Twists orange package would be similar.
The orange package is Mike and Ike Green Apple and Watermelon Fruit Twists. Like the Strawberry variety, the package heralds that they’re made with real fruit juice, are low in fat, contain 0 grams of trans fats and are a good source of vitamin C (that’d be 5% of your RDA per twist).
This package contains no conjoined triplets, instead it has six rectangulated twists neatly lined up inside. The red ones are Watermelon, and aside from not having any seams on the side from where they were joined to their brethren, they look exactly like the Strawberry. They smell like, well, ice cream. Not like any flavor of ice cream, just more like the muddled sweet smell of an ice cream shop. The flavor is mild and does actually taste like watermelon flavor. The tangy paste center is a little chalky but passable. The whole thing tasted a bit like modeling clay, there was something rather doughy about it, which could be the wheat flour.
The green ones were Green Apple which had the light scent of apple juice. The flavor was much more like actual apple juice than the Jolly Rancher fake apple flavor most candies go for. The tartness of the center helped out with juicing up the flavor profile. But again, the chew was a bit doughy and pasta like at times.
Overall, I found these lackluster. If you want a less-sour filled red licorice twist, well, this is probably what you’ve been looking for. They do fit well with the Mike and Ike brand, which is basically a mild jelly bean anyway. This product is coming to market kind of late. Twizzlers/Jolly Ranchers already has a version (and has had several iterations over the years) and Wonka has their Kazoozles.
I feel like they’re missing some real Mike and Ike-ness - maybe if they were little bullet shapes and sold in a box and actually came in an array of five flavors.
They’re not listed on the Mike and Ike website under the licensed products. I found these late last year at a wholesale store and then finally found them at retail at Walgreen’s. But I still can’t find much mention of them online, and Mark of Sugar Pressure noticed the same lack of marketing.
Friday, April 1, 2011
There was a time when tubes were the future. You know, back when the radio was being invented. This heyday of tubes continued into the mid-twentieth century and waned as things like transistors, liquid crystal displays and tubeless tires came into vogue. So maybe it’s quaint that so many candies are now being tubularized (that’s a word, promise). I noticed it a few years back with Wonka’s SweeTarts Squeez and Hubba Bubba’s Squeeze Pop. So maybe it is the wave of the future, that the confinement of candy to solid shapes was holding us back from confection perfection.
Something else aside from the fanciful thoughts of the idealized candy containment drew me to Chewbies Liquid Taffy, it was the fact that it said All Natural Flavors and Colors on the front. I actually looked at it in the store before Valentine’s Day and decided not to buy it, but then when I went back for my Easter prowl, I couldn’t resist the call of finding out what Liquid Taffy could be, especially when it was all natural.
I admit, the package looked an awful lot like another tube I already had in my shopping basket, which I shot a picture of for comparison.
The narrow tube is six inches high and holds 2.82 ounces. I picked out the Orange flavor, but it also comes in Strawberry and Apple. The back of the package says a serving is the whole package (280 calories). It also says that the squeezable confection is made in P.R.C. Honestly, I didn’t know what that was, I thought it might be a province or territory in Canada - after all, they keep making new ones and I have trouble keeping up. Nope, it’s the People’s Republic of China. Who puts PRC on a package? Probably people who don’t want you to know their product is made in China.
The ingredients aren’t quite taffy-like: Glucose syrup, sugar, water, palm oil, lactic acid, albumen (egg white), orange juice, soy lecithin, natural orange flavor, natural food color (paprika extract). Most taffy is sugar, corn syrup, corn starch, water, flavors, salt and sometimes a little butter or oil. There’s no egg white in taffy, but there is in nougat. But some other fine taffy-like candies also have egg whites, such as Bonomo’s Turkish Taffy. So again, I was inclined towards optimism.
Taffy is known for its chewiness and the name of the product is Chewbies. So I’m going into this thinking that this Liquid Taffy will be chewy. That maybe it’ll be latexy and have a sort of liquid Silly Putty texture. Or maybe it’ll be like string cheese. I was hoping it had that strange quality of not sticking to things, sometimes candies with oils in them are good at that.
The stuff comes out slowly and is quite soft, but a single touch to the surface and it yields stringy, hot mozzarella stickiness. How the product is supposed to be dispensed and consumed is a bit of a mystery, so I took to squeezing a dollop onto my finger.
First, the scent is quite orangey. It tastes quite tangy and has a good orange flavor that’s both zesty and tart. The texture is smooth but has no chew as it’s far too soft for that. It’s kind of like a thick sauce or slightly gummy yogurt. It got me to thinking that perhaps drizzled on ice cream it might toughen up, so I created a few dollops on a piece of waxed paper and popped it into the fridge for a half an hour. This made it cold. It became slightly firmer, but really no chewier.
My hopes were dashed but the reality of the product’s shortcomings. Though the flavor is decent, the price per ounce is rather high for the fact that it’s a sugar candy and the fact that it’s so sticky when dispensed is more than enough to cancel out any other positive attributes. I don’t actually need squeezable taffy, the plain old wrapped pieces will do me fine in the future.
Sugar Pressure also pointed out this in a store recently: Mallo Pals - marshmallow in a squeeze tube. Maybe the squeezy future is in marshmallow.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.