99 Cent Only Store
Friday, September 12, 2008
The series seems to be color coded, peanut butter is accented with orange. I think orange is the universal color for peanut butter (though I could see yellow working too).
The Peanut Butter Parfait Nips didn’t sound that appealing to me. I wasn’t sure what the peanut butter center would be like. The picture on the box makes it appear as though it’s some sort of caramel sauce flavored with peanut butter.
After cracking one open (yes, with a nutcracker) I found out why these weren’t leaky. The center isn’t gooey, it’s a dry and crumbly partially defatted peanut butter.
The shell was like the Caramel Nips. Sweet, creamy and toasty tasting.
After a while I got kind of tired waiting for the peanut butter flavor, so I crunched it a bit. The peanut butter innards are very sweet, a little greasy (thank goodness for the defatting) and really peanutty.
The combination is nice, but completely overpowers the caramel at this point. Then the peanut butter dissolves away and I’m left with shards of caramel Nip (well, that’s my fault for crunching). Not really much of a winner for me.
Rating: 5 out of 10
Though I enjoy rum as a spirit, I don’t drink it straight and rarely in mixed drinks at all. I think it’s best in sauces and baked goods, so putting it in a candy seems like a pretty good idea to me.
They don’t smell like much in the box. Kind of like box.
The caramelized flavors, the smooth texture and the oh, so fake rum flavor all combines to make a really satisfying treat. I was dubious, but these won me over on the second piece.
Monday, September 8, 2008
I had a vague recollection of the World’s Finest bar that had crisped rice in it, but I don’t know any kids in band to get one from. Lo and behold I stumbled across them at the 99 Cent Only Store and instead of $1.00 each, they were only 39 cents.
A promising start.
I liked the design of the bar too, it’s thick and narrow, which means that I can bite it without making a mess. It’s also deep enough that there might be a nice stack of crisped rice in there for some really good crunch.
I flipped over the bar to check the ingredients, lest the World’s Finest Chocolate company had started using something other than chocolate. Not only is it real chocolate with an easy to understand list of ingredients, however the last ingredient was ground almonds. While this would be a problem for those allergic to almonds, I thought a little nut butter might go really well with the malted and crisped rice.
It doesn’t quite have the malty scent that the Krackel had, but the deep chocolate notes are nice, even a little woodsy instead of a dairy/milk smell. That may be the contribution of the almonds.
The chocolate is firm and creamy though a little grainy but not quite fudgy. The crunches are plentiful and have a mellow cereal taste with a dash of salt.
The bar is, well, adequate. If I were really craving a crisped rice bar, this might be the ticket (especially at this price). And it comes with a $2 off at Pizza Hut coupon. But I think I’m going to keep looking.
Thursday, August 14, 2008
The box is busy and a little confusing. When I hear term fruit snacks, I usually expect some sort of fruit puree candy, like a fruit leather or fruit roll up. But these go on to say that they have a Juicy Center made with Real Fruit Juice & 100% Vitamin C.
The first ingredient actually is fruit juice from concentrate (apple, cherry, grape, lemon) followed by corn syrup, sucrose and gelatin ... then some ascorbic acid and artificial colors later on the list. So really, they’re gummis made with real fruit juice. Which is cool, I love really intensely flavored gummi.
The little packages also say that they’re only 80 calories. Pretty easy really, considering they’re only .9 ounces and have no fat.
Each packet has seven pieces of candy in it. In my experience opening three of the packages, all were heavy on the green and each had only one. Lemonhead has a lot of friends! (And to be fair, the lemonhead on the box is singular and friends is plural.)
Each piece is both colored and shaped like the fruit it’s supposed to taste like:
Purple = Grape - though they may have put real grape juice in there, this tastes like Kool-Aid or grape soda. Tangy, sweet and completely artificial. Not that it’s a bad thing, pretty much like the old Alexander the Grape.
Green = Apple - as the most common one in my assortments, I tried more of these than any other. The apple flavor as really pleasant, kind of like a granny smith. The chew of the gummi part is kind of short and less bouncy than some other gummi, but the flavor center is similarly flavorful and less like a sugar goo.
Red = Cherry - he looked kind of like a pumpkin to me, except for the color. The flavor is pretty tangy cherry, very artificial and rather unpleasant for me.
Yellow = Lemon - nicely rounded, it has a lot of zest to it, a nice soft chew and a mellow tangy component.
As a comparison, I tried some Starburst Gummibursts again and found the Ferrara Pan to be moister plus far deeper and more intensely flavored. But of course the flavor assortment is different (cherry and lemon being the only ones in common).
My big beef here is that there’s no orange. Maybe Orangehead and Lemohead aren’t friends any longer. I also wanted more Lemonheads, because they’re my favorite.
As a healthy snack, well, they’re portion controlled and the worst damage you can do is eat the whole box which’d be 480 calories and of course be stocked up with enough vitamin C to last the week (well, if you were able to store Vitamin C for a week in your body ... a better way is to store it in these little candies and portion them out over a longer period of time). There’s nothing else redeeming about them, so I’m happy calling them candy. Really inexpensive candy.
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
When I was a teenager I discovered Pearson Coffee Nips. Like my other favorite at the time, Andes Mints, they represented a sophisticated taste in an easy to share individually wrapped portion. I’d buy them by the box, usually for about a dollar and they’d last forever.
I wasn’t quite developed enough at the time to drink coffee straight, about all I could stand was coffee floats (hot coffee with vanilla ice cream in it) but I loved the taste of the stuff.
That’s what attracted me to Coffee Nips. They combine the rich coffee taste with a creamy texture and a long lasting hard candy experience. And they were pretty inexpensive.
Pearson Coffee Nips were known simply as Pearson Nips when they were introduced over 70 years ago. But now they’re made in a wide variety of flavors (and some even have flavored goo centers). The Pearson line of Nips was sold to Nestle back in 1989 and looking closely on the package, they’re not even called Pearson any longer.
Even though they’ve changed hands, they’re the same as they ever were. A lump of hard caramel, made from a combination of sugar, corn syrups and milk products and a few tropical oils ... boiled down with some real coffee to become a slow dissolving bit of concentrated coffee. It’s almost a toffee, but more of a hard caramel.
They’re smooth and creamy and not too sweet (though far sweeter than I like my liquid coffee). They’re impossible to chew, which makes them last a long time (though I caution you to not try to chew them as they will cement your teeth together).
They’re an excellent summer candy because they travel well but provide a rich creamy experience and mimic a hot drink that many of us eschew on hot days. (Okay, I only eschew hot coffee in the middle of the day, I pretty much always drink hot coffee in the morning.)
Refreshing. Classic. I’ve never tried the other flavors which include Butter Rum, Caramel, Chocolate Parfait, Dulce de Leche, Mocha and Peanut Butter Parfait. The coffee suits me just fine.
Friday, August 8, 2008
In tough economic times it’s tempting to try to save a little money on items like candy. Buying in bulk is usually the most economical way to go, but some of us also recognize that a 5 lb bag of gummi bears will last as long as a 1 lb bag.
So another option is to find a generic or off-brand of a tried and true favorite. The bargain stores like 99 Cent Only are an excellent place to find these lesser known brands. While it’s understandable to assume that all the candy at 99 Cent Only or Dollar Tree or the like is past its prime, often these stores have special deals with candy companies to make sizes that can come in at their price point, so much of it is specially sized for value. (Well, either that or just be a reliable deal instead of waiting for the snack packs to come on sale at the grocery store.)
I found this line of snack sized candy bars at 99 Cent Only made by Bel. The package is a veritable Rosetta Stone with ingredients lists in English, Spanish, Portuguese and French with some other Arabic script on the wrapper as well. I found four varieties and bought three: Strawberry Burst, Vanilla Cookies and Toffee Taste. (The other flavor was some sort of Peanut Butter, but I stupidly grabbed two of the Toffee.)
Strawberry Burst is billed as milk chocolate compound coating with strawberry filling.
The wrapper is generic and simply says ChocBar. Only in tiny print stamped on the back does it have the expiry and variety (“STRAW”).
I knew going in that these are mockolate, but I also know that there are some decent candies out there with fake chocolate in them, so I was keeping an open mind. It’s a rather thin coating and around the edges I could see the pink nougat filling underneath. But still, it was a nice looking little plank. Each bar is about 2.5” inches long and .75 inches wide.
The nougat is soft and fluffy. It has the scent of berries, but very little taste besides sweet. The mockolate doesn’t add much, but it also doesn’t distract. It’s not terribly waxy or grainy or flavorful. Basically it just seals up the nougat fluff.
It’s, well, just not my kind of candy, even when well done. (Witness the 3 Musketeers Strawberry limited edition from last year.)
Rating: 3 out of 10
Vanilla Cookies is billed as vanilla candy with crispies and cookies coated in chocolate compound
I regarded this one as promising, I thought some Oreo type crunchies in an otherwise bland nougat might be good. (Seriously, why isn’t there a 3 Muskteers version of this?)
The format is pretty much the same as the Strawberry Burst, but a little lumpier, as you can imagine the chocolate cookie crunches are irregular.
The crunches are, well, crunchie. But they don’t taste like anything. The whole candy tastes like the marshmallows from Lucky Charms. While those are fine as little marbits mixed in with oaty sugar sweetened cereal, this is just fake vanilla sweetness with no chocolate crunch relief.
It’s too bad because I thought this was a really good package design for a cheap product.
Rating: 2 out of 10.
Toffee Taste is billed as milk chocolate compound coating with toffee filling.
The wrapper here was identical to the Strawberry Burst. It smelled like sugar cookies, which is a promising thing as far as I’m concerned.
The filling is a fluffed nougat, it looks like peanut butter but actually tastes a bit like sponge candy, but with a definite artificial bite to it. The burnt sugar notes were not authentic and the lack of a good chocolate component to balance it just kind of left this one hanging.
Rating: 3 out of 10.
If you’re looking for candy you can display in your house to demonstrate to people who barely know you that you have excellent self control (let’s face it, folks who you know will know the disposition of your self control, you’re reading a candy blog!), this is the stuff. The outer wrapper is enticing enough that someone might be impressed that you haven’t scarfed down all 12 in the package.
But if you’re looking for a great value, this isn’t it. You’re getting what you paid for, which is twice as much candy, but it’s only half as good as you’d like it to be. The previous week I bought some Almond Joy bars - 8 snack sized bars in the package for 4.8 ounces and only 99 cents ... this package has 12 bars but weighed only 5.5 ounces ... so really not that much more candy even. If you can’t afford to go upscale, at least get stuff that’s tried and true.
Thursday, August 7, 2008
Alert and distressed readers informed me that Hershey’s Kissables have been reformulated and not in a good way.
I was fortunate enough to find both the old variety and the new ones at the 99 Cent Only Store, which is like some sort of time capsule, just dig deep enough into the layers and you can find stuff that goes back to the last century. (Don’t worry, both were still within their expiry dates - made only five months apart.)
First, the Original Kissables, as introduced were called Candy Coated Milk Chocolate. (Original review from 2006 here.)
The ingredients: Milk chocolate (sugar, cocoa butter, chocolate, nonfat milk, milk fat, lactose, soy lecithin, PGPR & artificial flavors), sugar, red 40, yellow 5, yellow 6, blue 1 & carnauba wax.
The taste is familiar. The crunch of the shell is crispy and nondescript but gives way to the inimitable Hershey’s chocolate flavor that’s a little tangy, a bit like yogurt and has a rather interesting rum note to it.
The new version is called Chocolate Candy which is code for chocolate-flavored confection, or candy that contains chocolate but can’t be called chocolate because it has other stuff in it that’s not permitted by the FDA definitions (like more oil than actual chocolate).
The ingredients: Sugar, vegetable oil (palm, shea, sunflower and/or safflower oil), chocolate, nonfat milk, whey, cocoa butter, milk fat, gum arabic, soy lecithin, artificial colors (red 40, yellow 5, blue 2, blue 1, yellow 6), corn syrup, resinous glaze, salt, carnauba wax, pgpr and vanillin.
They look exactly like their old “pure” counterparts (which really weren’t so pure if you ask me). The colors and size are identical. The flavor though, is quite obviously off. The crunch of the shell is familiar, but the flavor of the chocolate lacks any particular pop and feels less fresh. The texture is cooler on the tongue, though has the same fudgy grain that it’s always had.
It’s not that the new formula is bad, but it certainly lacks a pizazz and familiarity that the old ones had. They old ones were like Kisses. The new ones are like, well, nothing much special. Kind of like chocolate frosting. As a mockolate product, well, they’re actually pretty good. These are still far and away better than the Garfield Chocobites or other off-brand/fake chocolate lentils I’ve had.
The ingredient tweaking had some interesting results as well, which show that it’s entirely possible to tell the two apart on taste alone:
..............Original Formula ....................2008 Formula
(This info was taken right from the packages, the Hershey’s website lists strangely different nutritional specs for this size package - where the portion is only 1.4 ounces instead of the full 1.5 ounces in the package.)
So the new ones have more salt and sugars, a third of the calcium but no cholesterol. Ten fewer calories, but also made with all sorts of other replacement oils. Oh, and the new ones also have a resinous glaze, which is shellac, which is on most vegetarian’s forbidden list.
The copy goes like this (set to a cover of I Melt with You):
More fun with new formulas: Check out what Hershey’s has done to the iconic Hershey’s Miniatures collection.
UPDATE: Kissables were discontinued in early 2009. They will be replaced by a new line called Pieces which will come in Special Dark, Almond Joy and York Peppermint. (No straight milk chocolate replacement though.) Look for them in December 2009.
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
The Almond Joy candy bar was introduced in 1946, just after the World War II, when sugar, tropical coconuts and chocolate became more available. The Peter Paul Manufacturing Co was based in New Haven, Connecticut and was already known for its popular Mounds bar.
Peter Paul, then producing out of their facility in Nagatuck, Connecticut was bought up by Cadbury back in 1978, and in a deal ten years later, Hershey’s purchased Cadbury’s American operations. Even though the company has gone through a few hands, the bars are still known by their original brand of Peter Paul. The Nagatuck plant that produced Almond Joy’s from 1948 forward closed last year and production was consolidated to a Virginia factory.
Mounds and Almond Joy enjoy a bit of a corner on the chocolate covered coconut market here in the United States. For a while Mars tried to push into the arena with their already popular Bounty bars from Europe, but they never quite made it.
The standard single serving package includes two small bars. The moist coconut and fondant center is covered in milk chocolate and studded with two almonds each. They’re tucked into a tray to protect them.
The bars smell sweet and a whole lot like coconut. The bite is soft and moist, the mockolate is a bit grainy and fudgy and doesn’t really add much flavorwise but does keep things a little creamier (overall I’d say it’s not back mockolate and the ingredients to indicate there’s real chocolate in there). The almonds, though usually small, are good quality and nicely toasted.
I prefer the Mounds (though I’ve always wished they’d do a Mounds with Almonds) just for the counterpoint of the bittersweet chocolate and the sweet coconut. But the coconut is always a good texture and chew with a nice tropical flavor and satisfying tropical fat content. But it is sweet, a bit too much for me.
Almond Joy holds a place in many American’s hearts because of a very popular advertising campaign in the 80s and their jingle that says, “sometimes you feel like a nut and sometimes you don’t” to distinguish between their two coconut bars. Even though that campaign is long gone, the phrase “sometimes you feel like a nut” still knocks around as a cultural reference.
Almond Joy are also available in a few other formats. They have snack pack size, which is slightly smaller than a single from the regular sized. (A two almond one weights approximately .8 ounces while the snack pack size weights about .6 ounces and sports only one almond.)
There is a third size called fun size, which I only see around Halloween, which looks like it’s from a box of candy. (See Wikipeda for an example.) That also has only one almond, though probably the highest almond to center & chocolate ratio of the three varieties. Easter also brings a large egg shaped version which also sports a solo almond (reviewed here at Candy Addict).
Out of curiosity (mostly because there was a Consumerist posting yesterday), I picked up the Snack Pack and a regular Almond Joy just to see if there was some sort of shenanigan going on here. Consumerist alleged that there was false advertising because there are two little almonds on the package and the description lists “almonds” instead of almond. I can’t really say what the legal situation would be, but I would probably expect that the Snack Pack would simply be the same as a single from regular size.
I can say that this is not a new development. I found this shot from 2005 (back when it was real chocolate too) that shows the single nut on the Snack Pack Almond Joy, so if it were a big deal, I would have expected it to be addressed long before now. While the use of the plural almonds does create a sense of expectation, I’m not sure we also expect a half a coconut’s worth of shreds in there too, even though that’s also depicted in the artwork.
The Snack Pack, which I picked up at the 99 Cent Only Store, as far as I was concerned, was a very good value. Eight of these smaller bars for only 99 cents. They have 80 calories each. The regular sized ones have 110 calories each. It’s pretty obvious that the Snack Pack, even with its decreased almond density is a far better deal than a single bar purchase.
Almond Joy has enjoyed a few alternative varieties through Hershey’s limited editions including Key Lime, Passion Fruit, Chocolate Chocolate and Toasted Coconut (my personal favorite over the classic Almond Joy).
UPDATE 9/30/2008: Almond Joy was briefly made with mockolate but after consumer feedback, Hershey’s switched back to the original chocolate formula.
Monday, July 21, 2008
I was cruising through the 99 Cent Store and noticed a new line of candies called All Gummies Gourmet. I recognized the actual candies as Albanese Candy Company (and this was confirmed in the small print on the back of the package). So finally Albanese are available at stores without going into the bulk candy aisle.
This bag of Fruity Fish caught my eye. Here was a half a pound of red fish for less than a dollar? Could they be any good? A little further down the aisle and there was the good old, reliable Swedish Fish (made by Cadbury Adams), so I decided to see if this designer impostor could fulfill a penny pinchers craving.
The packages are both attractive enough. The Swedish Fish is traditional, pretty much the same package I recognize from ten years ago - yellow with a little scale pattern on it. The All Gummies Gourmet packaging is rather generic - a vibrant blue and bronzy gold. The nice part is that the bottom of the package is clear cellophane and it’s easy to see the candies inside. And they do look fresh, moist and tasty!
The detail on both is nice, they look like fish. The scales, lips and eyes on the Fruity Fish is sharper, but I wouldn’t call one better than the other. So while I consider the appearance of both to be about equal, the comparable-ness ends there.
The fish themselves are about the same size. The Swedish Fish is a bit flatter and therefore weighs a bit less. The Swedish Fish are lighter in color and smell a little like raspberries and cotton candy. The Fruity Fish are a deep red and smell like, well, black cherry flavor with a touch of bitter amaretto. I wasn’t happy about this.
First, Fruity Fish are gummis. That’s right, they’re not jelly candies like the Swedish Fish, they’re full on gelatin-carrying gummis. (I can’t be upset, it does say All Gummies Gourmet right on the front.)
Second, they’re not any kind of berry flavor. Swedish Fish flavor is rather unique, I’ve always considered it lingonberry flavor, though it’s never been officially declared what flavor they are. The Fruity Fish are soft, chewy and have a good mix of tangy and sweet. But the flavor is black cherry, through and through.
So, these are no designer impostor as I suspected. They’re certainly a good deal, as the package heralds Big Value. But they are very jarring if you’re expecting the dulcet berry tones of Swedish Fish. Even though the Swedish Fish cost twice as much, I’ll stick with them ... but only because of the cherry flavor issue with Fruity Fish. They’re still a darn good candy.
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