Wednesday, August 17, 2011
Cadbury Adams, makers of Swedish Fish and Sour Patch Kids have introduced a new product to their line of jelly candies. Sour Patch Kids Berries are a variety of four berry flavors of the classic chewy jelly candy covered in sour sand.
There’s no mention of this product on the Sour Patch Kids website, and the package is rather scant with details as well. There are four colors for the candies, but there’s no mention of the flavors. I think they’re: Cherry, Blue Raspberry, Strawberry and Grape.
The regular Sour Patch Kids come in four flavors: orange, cherry, lemon and lime. The Sour Patch Fruits come in watermelon, orange, lemon, lime, grape and cherry. Then there are the individual flavor packs like Watermelon, Peach and Cherry. It seems like cherry gets a lot of attention from the Sour Patch family, here it is in three different assortments plus a package all of its own.
Sour Patch Kids are a simple construction, a firm jelly candy is molded and then coated in a sweet & sour sand. They’re small, so one is a good bite.
Grape (Purple) is a great sour flavor. This grape is just like a jelly version of Pixy Stix or SweeTarts. There’s a lot of fake grape flavor to go along with the sour.
Cherry (Red) is as I expected, tart and sharp with the strong woodsy notes then sweet and a little on the medicine side, especially as the food coloring kicked in.
Strawberry (Pink) this was the flavor I wasn’t quite sure about. It’s soft and floral and more delicate than the others, perhaps even a little citrusy.
Blue Raspberry is a well rounded flavor. It’s quite tart at first then morphing into a sweet and floral berry flavor that’s reminiscent of the Swedish Fish.
Here’s something that’s been bothering me for years. Sour Patch Kids don’t look like kids. They don’t look like much of anything except maybe shaving brushes. There are little characters on the package, but I’ve never quite been able to make them out. Jelly Babies manage to look like their little characters on the package, so I know the molding technology allows this. Even Swedish Fish do an excellent job of looking like little fish.
It’s interesting to see a new mix of flavors for the Sour Patch Kids, even if the actual flavors are not new. There’s nothing earth shattering here or innovative, just a limited mix that might appeal to folks who don’t like the citrus flavors in the regular Sour Patch Kids or Sour Patch Fruits.
Thursday, July 14, 2011
It’s their new Air Delight Aerated Milk Chocolate. I’ve already covered the Air Delight Kisses, which were sent to me by the National Confectioners Association back during The Sweets & Snacks Expo. The bar was supposed to go on sale shortly after that in June nationwide. Believe me, I tried to find it. Southern California may be the first for movie premieres, but we’re often the last for candy rollouts. I tried Walgreen’s, RiteAid, Target, Ralph’s, Gelson’s, Von’s and CVS. Eventually, by mid June the Kisses showed up at the drug stores, but I still couldn’t find the bar. Even more frustrating, the CVS store I was in was advertising the bar on their PA system ... but didn’t actually have it in stock.
I finally found it the other night at a different CVS, and on sale (buy 2 and get 1 free).
The package describes the bar as:
Finally, an end to the effort! I bet you didn’t think about how much effort it actually was to melt things in your mouth. You know, the opening and closing and then application of heat. All of that is solved with this new chocolate bar ... it’s so light, it practically inserts itself into your mouth. Wait, no. No, it doesn’t. You apply the exact same effort, except for the possible fact that this bar weighs 1.44 ounces instead of the 1.55 so it is actually a lighter bar.
The bar is thick but also a bit more narrow than the standard Hershey’s Milk Chocolate bar. Both bars I picked up were unbroken and unblemished. They have six narrow segments that cleave off easily to reveal the little air bubbles within.
Since the bar is aerated, the snap and bite is softer. It’s not that it’s melted or anything, it’s just quieter or something. It does seem to melt quicker and has a stronger scent (perhaps because of the increased surface area on the exposed surfaces). The flavor is undeniably Hershey’s Milk Chocolate. If you don’t like the sweet, caramelly and tangy flavor of Hershey’s, you’re really not going to like this. The fudgy cheesecake flavors are more noticeable now that the texture matches that more closely. It’s really filling, I was surprised. I took each section as two bites and took quite a while to eat it. It felt like a lot more chocolate than 1.44 ounces.
As far as the success of Hershey’s aerated bar, I’d say they’ve done a great job. It’s exactly what you’d want if you wanted a bubbly Hershey’s milk chocolate experience. I found it far too sweet and gave the back of my throat that “acidic burp” feeling. So if you’re looking for a satisfying actual chocolate experience, you might want to step up to something a little higher quality. But if you’ve always wanted a Nestle Aero bar that you can buy at your local store without the import premium, this may be your thing.
This bar was made in Mexico. There’s no allergen statement anywhere on it (though it does actually contain dairy and soy, so you know those for sure).
Tuesday, February 22, 2011
Wrigley’s (part of Mars) has quietly released a new variety of Skittles called Skittles Blenders. They feature blended fruit flavors.
The package is bright yellow with sky blue accents. I’m not sure if Blenders requires an exclamation point at the end or a tornado like the package shows. Unlike the Crazy Cores introduced about two years ago that have contrasting flavors for the shell and center, these flavor combinations are completely combined.
The package smells a lot like the Tropical Skittles at first.
Blue - Melon Berry Burst (tm) - the aqua blue Skittles have a distinct flavor that’s just like Tropical Punch but tastes nothing like the melon or berry mentioned in the name. It’s tangy and certainly vibrant.
I’m underwhelmed by this new version. There were two flavors that I picked out to eat, which left 3/5 of the package uneaten by me. I have nothing against the invention of new flavors or new flavor combinations but the fact that all of these are trademarked leads me to believe that there were more intellectual property lawyers involved in the creation of this candy than actual candy makers. I wish Wrigley’s/Mars would just stick to really great flavors instead of these strange mixes. They make a Citrus Mix for Australia, why won’t they give those a try in the United States?
The package states that they are gluten free and gelatin free. It also reminds you to do your part and dispose of the wrappers in the trash. Skittles are fortified with vitamin C and a package 40% of your daily recommended amount.
Wednesday, July 7, 2010
There’s a part of me that thinks that marshmallows aren’t candy at all. It’s probably because the traditional dusty marshmallow puffs are sold in the baking ingredient aisle in big bags instead of single serving packets.
But maybe I should rethink that; it appears that Campfire has. I spotted this little 1 ounce bag of Campfire Mini-Marshmallows at the CVS at the beginning of summer and thought it was a fun idea. Sure they’re far more expensive than the big bag a few aisle away. This was 50 cents for one ounce and the big one pound bag is about $2 - so maybe I’m a schmuck. (The same applies to plain chocolate bars and chocolate chips.)
While the bag only holds one ounce, it looks pretty bountiful. The packaging is just a miniature version of the large bag but does mention prominently that it’s a gluten free food. It also says “naturally fat free” and while that’s natural, some of the other ingredients aren’t, like the artificial flavor and tetrasodium pyrohosphate.
It’s a boy with a marshmallow head wearing a little backpack and yellow shorts. He’s waving and I guess that’s all okay. But he’s also wearing a navy blue tee with a flaming marshmallow on it. I suppose it’s like any other kid with a Metallica concert tour tee, but it’s a little skewed by the fact that we do actually consume fire roasted marshmallows more often than fire roasted human skulls. (If the research I did is true.)
There’s not much else to say except that these are teensy little marshmallows that I associate more with winter than summer. They’re the perfect kind to toss into a cup of hot chocolate. For roasting over a campfire, well, they’re too small however for a microwave version of S’mores they might do well. As an easy to eat treat they’re pleasant but that’s about it. Like most grocery store marshmallows, they have a powdery starch coating. They smell sweet and a little like plain vanilla (but not very complex like a good vanilla bean).
They’re squishy and a little fleshy and yield a good chewy bite. I prefer mine a little firmer, so I left the package open for a week or so until they were firm and dry. Since they’re so airy, an ounce feels like a lot and if they’re savored properly it’s a good diet candy since there’s less than a hundred calories in a bag. (With regular sized marshmallows it takes about 4 to equal one ounce.) If you need a quick marshmallow fix and a big bag of the giant ones is too much, well this is a good option. They’re probably fun to add to other snacks, like trail mix or popcorn at the movies.
Marshmallows are made with gelatin so are not appropriate for vegetarians. They say they’re gluten free but no other allergen status like nuts or dairy is mentioned on the package
Friday, June 25, 2010
The Peter Paul Mounds bar is a classic. It’s a simple moist coconut center covered in dark chocolate. The bar was introduced in 1920 by Peter Paul in New Haven, Connecticut and quickly became one of their best sellers. Though Peter Paul made other bars over the years, the only two that remain are Mounds and the sister milk chocolate and nut bar, Almond Joy. In 1978 Peter Paul merged with Cadbury and then in 1988 Cadbury sold it off to Hershey’s, who continues the production today keeping the Peter Paul name on the product.
The candy is rather like a long version of a chocolate you’d find in a mixed box instead of a candy bar. The format of two pieces in a single package goes back to the 40s and remains today even though the wrappers have changed over the years. It’s one of the few bars that still has the little paperboard tray, and I must say that I appreciate it when it comes to getting the candy out and the fact that mine nearly always look pristine.
The dark chocolate coating is simple, with some slight ripples on the top. The pieces are rounded and have a great feel to them - easy to get out of the package, easy to bite and with two pieces it’s easy to share.
The dark chocolate can’t contain the coconut aroma. It’s a fresh and clean smell. The bite of the chocolate is good, it’s thick enough to hold the coconut and there are never any little leaky spots. But it doesn’t flake off or make a mess. The coconut is soft and chewy, moist and rather sweet at first. The dark chocolate keeps that sweetness from feeling too sticky and adds a woodsy and dark cherry note to the whole thing. The coconut has a long chew and usually tastes very fresh, though often not much more than that (no grassy fresh notes).
It’s a great combination and it endures because of its simplicity as far as I’m concerned. It’s one of the few candy bars that I still pick up on top of all the other candy eating that I do. I wish the ingredients were a little “purer” as there are things like hydrolyzed milk protein and PGPR in there that I can’t recall eating as a child.
And of course no discussion of the Mounds bar would be complete without a mention (and inclusion) of the classic jingle “Sometimes You Feel Like a Nut, Sometimes You Don’t.”
Friday, March 26, 2010
In my attempt to try everything this Easter I bought some pretty stupid candies. The Jumbo Gum Ball Eggs are pretty high up there. It wasn’t so much that it’s a stupid purchase (it was only 99 cents) but that it’s a stupid product.
But let me go backwards a bit. I have a definition for candy. It’s kind of long and includes a list of criteria. One of them is that the product needs to be ready-to-eat. This means it doesn’t need assembly (though might benefit from it) and doesn’t require implements or tools, especially ones not provided.
They are 2.25 inches tall and weigh about 1.75 ounces each. Yes, they’re hollow but they’re about a third of an inch thick.
A gumball the size of a small chicken egg requires tools. I used a saw.
I was able to stand on one of them without smashing it. After chewing the slice I’d cut off the top I did manage to smash and pull apart the larger piece by stomping on it and then prying it apart. It’s tough stuff. The package says that a single serving is half an egg, but of course gives no clue about how to sever it yourself.
The candy shell is thick and crunchy and the gum inside is rough and leathery, kind of like playing with thick rawhide. It smells slightly like Juicyfruit gum. The overall flavor is sweet with a light fruity and tangy note that disappears quickly as the sugar dissolves with chewing. The flavor is inconsistent and has cinnamon and bubble gum notes from time to time. It’s an all sugar gum, which tend to lose their flavor quicker than the artificially sweetened ones. That’s fine with me, I like to chew mine up, make a few bubbles then toss it out and put in a new piece.
It does work as a bubble gum, but certainly not very well.
They’re fun to look at and would make nice decorations. For a child they’d be a frustrating mess. If you lick it the blue colored shell will run (and could stain clothing or upholstery). A parent or older child would need to help with creating manageable bites - so really I don’t recommend this for anyone under the age of 14 and of course must caution folks when using tools like saws or a serrated knife to cut this open.
Again I come back to saying that these are probably better than plastic stuff for decorating, though obviously they’re not waterproof.
They’re made in China under the house brand of CVS. They also came in pink (photo of them on store shelf here). I admit that I’m concerned about the safety of the food colorings because of the origin of the product but I have no facts to support that.
Tuesday, March 2, 2010
At a CVS in Hollywood last week I spotted an exceptionally odd Marshmallow Pop among the Easter candy. It was blue and kind of the flounder version of some sort of plush animal - the face was all on one side of the profile. I thought it was a manufacturing mistake - I took a photo of it and made fun of it on Twitter.
Then I was in another CVS, some 50 miles away over the weekend and found another display (pictured here), this time with a half a dozen of these same strange light blue marshmallow creatures. So of course I had to buy one. It was only a dollar.
It’s a large marshmallow pop. On top of a plastic stick is perched 2.46 ounces of powder blue, sugar sanded marshmallow with hand-decorated frosting features. The packaging is simple, a clear cellophane bag - the back has some imprinted nutrition facts and CVS house brand satisfaction guarantee. You can guess where this review is going.
He’s about 5 inches high, 4 inches wide and about 1 inch thick.
But what is he? My first impulse is that he’s a plush version of the Quiznos creatures called Spongmonkies (here’s a video, but turn down your speakers before clicking). But this guy’s teeth are too good, oh, and he’s not furry. My second thought is that it’s a dinosaur, especially because the dentition indicates a carnivorous creature - some sort of Tyrannosaurus rex perhaps. The anatomy isn’t quite right. Look at how big his front legs are - well, there’s also that part where he’s crossed one arm across his chest and the other one is dangling like the elbow is dislocated. (Maybe he’s fallen off his bike and is holding his boo-boo, crying and running home to his mama.)
Then there’s the legs ... is there a leg missing? Is that a tail or a foot that’s also dislocated and facing backwards.
Is this actually some sort of roadkill? Pre-flattened with broken and missing limbs?
Anyway, let’s move on to the actual performance of the product as an edible.
It smells like some sort of raspberry - like an array of body washes and scented creams from Bath and Body Works. It also reminds me of a medicated pet shampoo I used to use (on my dog).
The sugary grain on the outside is substantial, far greater than I would have expected (and messier). It’s not like the fine stuff on Peeps, this is sparkly and gritty sugar.
The flavor of the marshmallow is well rounded, much more like those strawberry gummi puffs than a marshmallow. The texture is latexy, chewy and bouncy. The raspberry is both floral and tangy, sweet but not cloying. The blue goes all the way through and there’s a hint of an aftertaste to go with it. About a half hour later I was wondering if I’d been eating air freshener and forgot. The frosting bits were hard, crunchy and disconcerting - I wasn’t sure if it was unglazed porcelain sometimes.
A few bites in and I thought I’d eaten a little bit of the packaging. Little soft plastic bits (but it was wrapped in cellophane and this was nothing like that). The chunks, as far as I could tell, were unmixed gelatin globs. Flavorless and a little gummy, but probably perfectly edible. But not acceptable.
The nutrition label says one serving is the entire pop. While that’s only 240 calories, there’s no way I could eat more than the three bites shown. I stopped because my curiosity was satisfied, not my craving for a sweet.
It’s not horrible, but it’s really, really bad. While I enjoy novelties that might not be very palatable, they’re usually fun to look at. This is just frightening. The marshmallows are made in China, and since this is a house brand at CVS, there’s really no way of knowing where or how it was manufactured. I tried a similar product a few years ago from Walgreen’s house brand, a Valentine’s Pink Marshmallow Pig.
POSTED BY Cybele AT 1:48 pm
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
As we’re in the middle of Candy Season one of my favorite things to do after a holiday is to see what’s on sale from the previous holiday and glance at the early merchandise on the shelves for the next one. The Epiphany usually marks the emergence of Valentine’s Day candy. I scour the aisles looking for something new. So when I saw the new packaging for Necco Sweethearts I thought they’d expanded their line. They have been offering an all-chocolate version, Spanish language version and lately a Tart version. I thought this new fruity array was an addition.
I bought them but didn’t open them, just tossing them on my pile for review. Then the comments started trickling in from readers, who were finding my old review and weighing in on the changes. It appears that it’s a complete replacement for the classic Necco Sweethearts (see my review of them in 2008).
There are so many things wrong. Let me start on the front of the package.
The Official Candy of Love
Does Love have a governing board that can decide these things, like the Olympic Committee? No, no it does not. Love, Freedom, Justice and Anger ... these concepts and emotions are boundless and cannot have anything official about them. Invoking any sort of official in association with them is false advertising. Love does not do endorsements. (Unless Necco would like to step forward and show me their contracts with Love.)
New Package Design
I actually like it. It’s bold but still soft and, yeah, a bit feminine and childish. At first I though the colors of the hearts were a little too vivid, but after seeing the actual candies inside, I’m setting that aside. The choice of Love Bug as the statement on the featured heart is a bit odd.
It’s marked in a black stamp there in the upper right corner, 99 cents and the package holds 7 ounces. Can’t really beat that, especially when the little boxes are usually selling for 50 cents for one ounce (though sometimes on for as little as 20 cents each). Not terribly attractive but kind of makes me nostalgic for the time before bar codes.
Lack of Branding
The front of the package does not bear the name of the maker. The name Necco isn’t actually on the package anywhere ... just New England Confectionery Company under the nutrition facts panel (followed by the web address of www.necco.com). The previous years’ packaging does have Necco and its logo featured prominently both on the front and the back of the packages.
It’s January 13, so a little more than a month before Valentine’s Day. Valentine’s candy has been in stores for at least a week. On the back of the package is says for baking, gifting, craft ideas and more visit mysweethearts.com. You know what’s on that page as I write this? It’s a placeholder about some sort of iPhone app. No promised recipes or craft ideas ... not even any mention that would be what I expect to find it there. (See screengrab.)
The New Flavors - Show You Care ... 6 Delicious Ways to Share!
Strawberry, Grape, Green Apple, Lemon, Orange and Blue Raspberry.
I’m not going to break the flavors down one by one. What was nice about Necco Sweethearts was the subtle sweet flavors, nothing exciting, they were simply pleasant.
The new flavors are a blend of sweet and tart. The texture is smoother than the usual compressed dextrose candy like SweeTarts, because this is made with mostly sugar and corn syrup instead of dextrose (which is just a powder form of glucose and has a different mouthfeel).
The citrus flavors are completely artificial with a tangy note that is wholly un-citrus and more like a chemical. The pink ones taste like a combination of lipstick and the old wintergreen ones, which is just a disgusting mix. Grape has as much clove flavor in it as food coloring though the mixture is nearly palatable.
These do not show I care ... these show that I have no regard for my lover or friend’s expectations of what a heart shaped candy should taste like.
It’s as if Necco took all the artificial colors that they aren’t using for their new All Natural Necco Wafers and pouring it all into these improved Necco Sweethearts. Simply put, they’re a mess. (Now, I would’ve been thrilled if the conversation hearts were also going to be all natural, what an awesome innovation that would have been.)
Once I opened the bag I was in trouble. The smell is a blend of Love’s Baby Soft and strawberry candles. And if I were just sniffing the bag, well, yeah, I have to expect that. But this thing made my car smell, they make my office smell. When I’m done with this review they’re going in the trash someplace where I am not.
The one thing they have improved upon was one of my beefs with them previously. They production quality is better. The pieces are well formed and most especially the printing is clear. Sure about a quarter of them aren’t printed square in the center, but they’re still readable.
The sayings are cute. They’re using the heart symbol quite a bit. Hey Baby, Smile, Sweet Love, Dream Big, You Rock, Puppy Love, Meet Me, Love Me, Hug Me, Kiss Me, For Ever, Ask Me, even Marry Me
I’m not saying they shouldn’t make these, someone probably likes them, but they should be an additional product in the line, not a replacement for the iconic original.
UPDATE 1/27/2010: It’s been a few weeks and it seems that the response posted here has been overwhelmingly negative about the flavor change (few have mentioned the new texture).
So I talked to Jackie Hague, the Vice President of Marketing for Necco who navigated this new change (along with the All Natural Necco Wafers, which I fully support). We had a great talk about candy in general (she worked for Mars for 20 years and was responsible for many of the limited edition M&Ms that so many of us have loved over the years).
First, you can still get the classic Necco Sweethearts. The change over was made mid-way through the production schedule. So the first part of the production run was the classic flavors (Banana, Wintergreen, Orange, Cherry, Grape) and then they switched over the ingredients and equipment for the new formula. They are sold at very few stores, basically the discounters: Dollar Tree, Dollar General, Family Dollar , 99 Cent Only, Freds , Odd Lots, Wakefern and Sav A Lot. (The image shown here is the classic flavors on the left that I found at Dollar Tree and the ones on the right are the new flavors/colors - here’s what the package looks like.)
Second, Ms. Hague said that the changes were made based on consumer feedback. The most common requests from folks who wrote or called were for a softer texture and for more intense & modern flavors. Banana was not well liked, apparently yellow is not ordinarily expected to be banana. The texture was introduced first with the Twilight version of Sweethearts (though future versions won’t have Passion Fruit) as well as the tangier, more vibrant flavors.
So the takeaway from this would be, if you don’t like the new flavors, make sure that Necco knows that. Return the product, write to them or call. I wouldn’t expect a whole lot in return (a canned response) but I do think that they log the feedback - it’s in their best interest. (Ms. Hague also said that they’ve assigned more people to help out with the feedback process, so perhaps the responses will be more appropriate instead of a copy/paste FAQ.) Ms. Hague understood my frustration with not just the lack of information but the contrary information provided by the website and candy packages and it’s apparent they’re working on that.
The Necco website’s Sweethearts product page used to say this, “One thing Sweetheart lovers can count on each year is the candy’s simple, familiar formula. The basic recipe has never been changed. Both Sweethearts and the familiar NECCO Wafers use the same batter—sugar, corn syrup, gelatin, gums, coloring and flavoring.” However, they’ve finally updated their websites to reflect this new change and have omitted that statement that they honor the time-tested flavors ... because they were tested by time and after about a hundred years, even as the #1 Valentines candy selling 8 billion hearts a year, they lost. Necco thinks that this new version will appeal to more people, which is possible, but it’s clear it’s not the same people who have been buying them.
Update 2/10/2013: Both versions of Necco’s Conversation Hearts are on store shelves this year. By far the most ubiquitous are the newer fruity version, but I did find the almost-classic “Conversation Hearts” at Walgreen’s. The old ones are called Conversation Hearts, not Sweethearts. I’ve only seen them in the little boxes, only as singles (not in the shrinkwrapped five packs and no bags).
The classic version has white (cinnamon), green (lime), yellow (banana), pink (cherry), purple (grape) and orange (orange). So they’ve eliminated clove and wintergreen. It’s too bad. The texture has returned to the crunchier version. The colors are more vibrant and the printing just as inconsistent.
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