Behind the Scenes
Thursday, January 16, 2014
If you’re on Tumblr, you might want to pop Candy Blog on your follow list. It’s just candy photos, posted a couple times a day. Think of it like a visual reminder of new reviews and a few revisits to the archive.
You can also browse the archives for some tasty views:
Wednesday, April 17, 2013
I haven’t tallied up all the figures, but I estimate that at least 3,000 products have been featured and at least 1,700 full reviews. I’ve posted nearly 8,000 candy photos (not to mention candy shopping photos and pictures from trade shows and factory tours).
I work by myself. I take my own photos and write my own reviews. So you can imagine, I’ve eaten a lot over the years, but what’s more staggering is how much I haven’t eaten. Only about 25% of what I buy or receive ends up on the blog. Most of the candy I buy, though some is directly from the candy companies and I do pick up samples at trade shows. I have a company that does my blog maintenance, and my husband helps out as my publisher to take inquiries from advertisers (I have one, so it’s not a lot of inquiries).
When I started the blog, there wasn’t much like it on the internet. I figured if people could review music or movies or hotels, I could review candy in the same way. The only websites out there at the time were Candy Critic (which is Canadian and had taken a hiatus at that time) and Writers and Artists Snacking at Work, which also didn’t update often.
I wanted to fill a hole, be the database of candy that I wanted to read. I wanted someone to open up the candy package and show me what’s inside. When I started this blog, I didn’t embrace new things easily. I liked the tried and true favorites I’d always had and rarely felt the need to go outside of that list.
So, the early reviews were of candies that I’d never tried before, new products or existing products, it didn’t matter. After a while, I realized I needed to cover the things that everyone already knew, because we kept referring to them and needed that static reference point of a post.
It turned out that other folks like to read about candy as well. I haven’t tracked my readership from the beginning, but I’ve had at least 20 million page loads since I did start tracking in 2006. Thanks for visiting! While there were few sites that talked exclusively about candy back in 2005, I was joined by quite a few others. Candy Addict (no longer updating) came along, as a group blog, covering a wider range of consumer items and local candy favorites. Sugar Savvy (also now defunct) covered a large swath of the confectionery world (including a review of every single piece of See’s candy). Individuals have come and gone as well, currently we have Rosa at ZOMG! Candy, The Candy Gurus, and hopefully we’ll see Sera at The Candy Enthusiast back soon. The big media companies are into it as well, you can find candy reviews on Serious Eats and Huffington Post and even the morning shows run segments around the candy holidays. (Check out the blog roll for more sweetness from around the world.)
I’m often asked what my favorite candy is or what the worst thing I ever ate was. I, frankly, don’t remember all the awful things I’ve eaten. I don’t actually have a favorite candy, and the candies that I do love aren’t necessarily the best. Lately I’ve been eating Good & Plenty, Goetze’s Caramel Creams and Trader Joe’s Powerberries in addition to the candies in rotation for review.
What I do appreciate most is that Candy Blog has introduced me to new, wonderful things. Like this Ongotoh (Juntsuyu) pictured above. It’s just a boiled sugar candy, but it’s so delicate and delicious.
Candy has also changed as I’ve been writing about it. It could be that I’m better at finding the good stuff, but I think consumers have also gravitated towards newer concepts like fair trade, bean to bar, organic or all natural and world fusion flavors. (Pictured above, Marich Chocolate Sea Salt Cashews.)
The experience of photographing, researching and reviewing has prompted me to be more mindful about what I eat. That doesn’t mean necessarily that it’s all healthy, but I tend to notice what I’m eating and enjoy it more. I try not to eat foods that either aren’t nutritious or won’t bring me pleasure. (Some might say that’s made me a picky eater.)
It’s not all serious though, I have enjoyed novelties that have come along and some fascinating new products. The chocolate LEGO blocks above were from Legoland, and are made by Chuao out of actually good chocolate (El Rey).
One of the oddest things I reviewed were the Topp’s Wazoo bars. Above is the Blue Razz version, which was launched with a huge ad blitz on children’s programming. There were production difficulties which meant that people couldn’t find them in stores. As part of the blog readers have been witness to marketing mis-steps by major candy companies, like Necco changing the ancient Necco Wafers to all natural and eliminating the lime disk only to revert to the classic artificial version within a year due to customer demand. Similar things have happened with Mars changing the 3 Musketeers and we’ll see what happens with Wrigley’s swapping the Lime Skittle for Green Apple.
So that brings us to the present. I don’t have plans for the blog beyond continuing what I’ve been doing, except maybe a little design or layout refresh. You’ve probably noticed I don’t keep up the pace I used to. There was a time there when I posted eight times a week. Now it’s about three reviews a week, sadly, I am running out of candy to review, unless I get hyper-local or cover more foreign candy. I can’t imagine now having the blog, not amassing candy and not taking picture of it all the time. It’s become such a part of me, I don’t know if I would know what to do with my time.
There may be a book in the future, or perhaps several.
Please celebrate with me, raise a Pixie Stix to toast to eight sweet years on the internet. I wouldn’t be doing this if you didn’t come and read regularly, so for you I am grateful. It’s good to know we’re not alone in our love of candy.
Wednesday, December 21, 2011
I went to Germany last week on a Candy Junket sponsored by German Sweets, part of the Federal Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection. Our group consisted of 10 American journalists & writers and covered 1,500 kilometers and in only five days we saw seven confectionery factories (map).
Though the weather was rather dismal (but expected) with temperatures in the forties and rain the whole week, we still braved the brisk and damp weather to take advantage of the famous Christmas Markets in as many towns as we could. The first one we stopped at was Lubeck, Germany, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Christmas Markets (Weihnachtsmarkt) feature mostly food and hot alcoholic beverages but also a small smattering of seasonal tasties like confections and some giftware like Christmas ornaments, hats, leathergoods and other small items.
One of the most common confectionery stalls that I saw at all three markets was the one that sold fresh candies nuts and gingerbread cookies. The cookies are for gifting and many were decorated garishly with frosting and had little affectionate sayings on them (photo). Most were heart shaped and came in a variety of sizes. Of course they’re horrible for bringing back in a suitcase, so I just looked at them.
The nuts were really appealing, just toffeed nuts of all kinds (photo). Almonds were the most common but each booth had a good assortment of walnuts, cashews and some peanuts. Some had more exotic flavors, the most common was a Christmas spice, but others had licorice or Nutella. The prices were pretty good, a little 100 gram (3.5 ounces) was 2.50 Euro and I believe they would mix if you asked.
The market in Berlin at Alexanderplatz near our hotel also had a small assortment of booths, again, most selling drinks and hot food and a more international fare of gift items (Russian nesting dolls, Indonisian carved bowls) as well as one confectionery stall with a rather large range of traditional candies from Germany and a few that looked more Nordic or Dutch.
The booths that sold Krauterbonbons, and I saw at least three of them in Lubeck, all smelled quite strongly of anise. It was as if they were using aromatherapy to attract customers. Two of the booths looked like they produced the candy right there. They had a copper kettle, a large counter of marble and a small pressing machine that can either cut the little candy pillows from a pulled rope of the hot sugar mixture or mold press them into individual pieces. However, we walked through the Lubeck market twice, once on the night we arrived around 8 PM, then again the next day when we visited the Niederegger cafe at lunchtime. Neither time did I see them making any candy, nor any of the other booths. Perhaps it was all theater, and perhaps it was just something they did in the morning to make their inventory for the day.
As it was my first visit to a Christmas Market, I picked up a small bag of their Krauterbonbons Mischung (Herbal Sweets Assortment), which fit easily in my pocket and I thought would travel well.
Inside the homely little plastic bag were 28 pieces in about ten different varieties. The shapes varied, some were just little pillows, others were rather rustic but pressed lumps and then there were the gems with their ornate patterns. They’re lightly sanded to keep them from sticking.
I can’t say what the flavors were supposed to be, as there was no key and many of the flavors I purchased were not sold separately (so I couldn’t match them up with the photos I took of the varieties in the jars at the booth).
Some were completely foreign to me. The little red puff was at first rather like raspberry, but there was a note of cola and maybe even Dr. Pepper (whatever that flavor is).
The light green flattened rod was pure peppermint. It was quite strong and fresh.
The black one that looks like a stylized corn cob is dark and sort of like molasses but lacking much else in the herb or spice area.
The brown rock looking thing was like a chocolate flavor, it tasted like black bread (Schwarzbrot with an hint of malt. If I had to find an American analogue, it’d be a chocolate Tootsie Pop. I actually liked this one quite a bit, it’s weird getting the flavor of dense, fresh bread in a hard candy.
The amber piece with a bee on it was honey, naturally. It was lovely. It tasted like honey and I wanted a whole jar of these, if not to eat, then just to look at.
There was also a single clear pillow with some black specks in it. It was a light anise and the exact flavor of the smell they were using to attract folks to the booth.
The light green flower with the cross in the center (back right) was rosemary. It was really refreshing, a little like pine and menthol but without any hint of bitterness.
The ribbed one with the cross in the center was like a cough drop, a mix of flavors similar to Ricola. It was minty but not completely peppermint, there was a menthol component and maybe a little touch of honey. The shape was fun to look at, as I kept an example of each on my desk lined up while tasting.
The black one with the hammers on it was like the one that I thought was like black bread, but with a strong note of licorice to it. It wasn’t overly sweet and I found it very soothing, especially with some bland, black tea.
If I had more time and was able to scope better, I probably would have gone back and picked up the flavors that were missing from my assortment. Lubeck definitely had the best assortment of these little lozenges and of course I would have loved to have seen them making them. (Mental note, next time, add “When do you make the candies” to my list of phrases I might need.)
If you’re going to be in Germany in the winter, the Christmas Markets are definitely something you should see, if only for a few hours. I think they’re probably more appealing to folks who eat sausage and drink alcohol but the one we saw in Schmalkalden actually had some fantastic looking cheese and cured meats. The architecture of many of these cities is lit up so I really felt like I was part of the place.
I was hoping to see more of a variety of sweets, but I fully understand the 90% of the Christmas Market is about tradition and the time warp of walking around a square in the dark with pretty lights and a cacophony of sounds and smells. There were no chocolates anywhere, though some of the stalls sold long ropes of flavored licorices and I actually got a giant Smurf gummi at one of them. The smaller the town we went to, the more they felt like they were true community events, not just something made up for the tourists. Their Christmas celebration through Advent, though front and center at every town, felt less commercial and more about community, even if it was temporary.
(Disclosure Note: The trip to Germany was sponsored, so I did not pay for my airfare, ground transportation, accommodations or food while I was there. At the factory tours we were given generous samples to consume on site as well as some to bring home. Any reviews of those products will be noted as to that fact. But I also brought a couple hundred Euros with me and spent them liberally and almost exclusively on candy both from the companies we were introduced to as well as many other Germany/European products that I found in my prowlings of grocery stores, department stores and the factory outlets.)
Monday, January 24, 2011
ISM Cologne is the world’s largest confectionery trade fair. For over forty years it’s featured the best in European candy and biscuits (cookies). About 1,500 companies from 70 different countries around the world come to display their wares to buyers, wholesalers and brokers.
I’ll be attending this year, with a full press pass to cover the show. The show lasts four days, starting Sunday, January 30th to Wednesday, February 2nd at the 4th largest convention hall in Europe, Kolnmesse. The exhibits cover more than one million square feet. (I’m bringing good walking shoes.)
I’m really excited to go to Germany, which has such a rich and varied tradition of candy. They have such a wide array of confectionery traditions, from their invention of the Gummi Bear, traditional devotion to dairy milk chocolate and marzipan and globally known brands such as Ritter Sport, Haribo and Kinder (part of Ferrero).
My journey will begin in Amsterdam, where I plan to spend three days checking out the local licorice and chocolate scene. Then I head to Cologne via ICE (high speed train) on Friday. I’m hoping to spend a day before the show starts visiting local German stores to see how and where candy is sold to get a sense of how confections fit into daily life in comparison to North America. Cologne is also home to the Chocolate Museum, so I plan to get a world-class education on chocolate.
Posting may be a little lighter here for the next ten days or so, but after I get home with my lovely samples and photos, I’ll have lots to share.
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
Sometimes I have stuff that I just do a short review on. In this instance, I just want to tell you about some things that I bought and might have eaten. But I’m not going to review them. You might enjoy the photos and of course feel free to add your review in the comments.
What is it? Haribo Cola Wheels
Why I Bought Them: They were pretty and I love cola as a flavor.
Why I’m Not Going to Review Them: I lost them. I know they’ll turn up, but they were just in a paper bag, so they can’t possibly be fresh now. (But I’ll probably eat them anyway.)
What is it? Bourbon Bit Assortment (Banana)
Why I Bought Them: It’s Japanese. A friend at work gave me a bag of them. In the bag are three varieties, I think Vanilla Creme, Chocolate Creme and Banana Creme. But the wrappers are in Japanese, so I’m only guessing.
Why I’m Not Going to Review Them: I haven’t been able to find them in stores and ended up sharing most of them with co-workers. Still, they’re nice little wafer layers with creme covered in decent chocolate.
What is it? Mehlenbacher’s Taffy Assortment
Why I Bought Them: Back in the spring I went to Paso Robles for the weekend. We stopped at the farmers market in the square and I saw a stand for this taffy. It was so cute and I’d actually read about them online before my trip. So I picked up this big assortment. The pieces are huge, like cigars. The flavors also sounded great, especially Root Beer.
Why I’m Not Going to Review Them: I lost them for a while. I have this horrible habit of tucking candy away in boxes or coolers to keep it fresh, but then forgetting that I had it or where I put it. And now it’s too late to eat them for review.
What is it? Marshmallow Bunny
Why I Bought Them: it was cute and I wanted to take its picture.
Why I’m Not Going to Review Them: It’s just another pink Easter marshmallow bunny made in China. There’s not much else to say any longer about those.
What is it? Hammond’s Peanut Butter Sticks
Why I Bought Them: I got this as a sample at the Fancy Food Show back in January. I’ve been looking for them in stores and online but haven’t seen them.
Why I’m Not Going to Review Them: It was dang tasty, but again, it’s hard for me to review stuff that isn’t easily acquired. But I’ll keep my eyes out, if I see them again, I’ll buy them and review them for real.
What is it? Raleigh Bar from Xocolatl
Why I Bought Them: This was a sample from the Fancy Food Show. The bar is “a layer of honey pecan chocolate nougat, topped with our signature salted caramel.” I thought it was nice, but didn’t really get a great feel for it (it’s kind of tiny, like a large bonbon).
Why I’m Not Going to Review Them: I have this thing about bacon. I know there’s no bacon in this, though there’s a version that has bacon in it. I don’t like bacon. I don’t like pork, I don’t even like meat. I really don’t like it to even be adjacent to my chocolate. It’s my own baggage and it’s not fair, but that’s why I haven’t reviewed a lot of Vosges lately and some other candies that I’m sure are great ... simply their proximity to bacon.
What is it? Boyer Peanut Butter Pretzel - it’s a pretzel dipped in peanut butter and then coated in milk chocolate.
Why I Bought Them: I picked these up as a sample. I photographed them.
Why I’m Not Going to Review Them: I can’t find them for sale anywhere. Or at least that was the problem. I ate them but didn’t make notes well enough for review. Then I saw them for sale while I was in Ohio.
What is it? Madame Chocolat crispy rice squares dipped in chocolate
Why I Bought Them: I went to Beverly Hills late last year to visit Teuscher. Since I’d already paid for parking I took a stroll around for other chocolate opportunities. I went into a little shop called Madame Chocolat and picked up a few items. It was expensive stuff (their fine boxed chocolates) but I also got this crazy little item - it’s not like a marshmallow rice crispy treat. It’s more like sugar sweetened cereal, held together with that crispy syrup coating. Then the bottoms are dipped in very, very good dark chocolate.
Why I’m Not Going to Review Them: I dunno.
What is it? Ethel’s Chocolate Beer Chocolates & Caramels
Why I Bought Them: Last year I also went to Las Vegas to the NACS (National Association of Convenience Stores) Show. Instead of seeing Bill Clinton give his keynote address I went to the Ethel’s Chocolates factory and botanical gardens. I bought a few things there (two different assortments plus some hot chocolate) but never got around to reviewing it.
Why I’m Not Going to Review Them: I thought they were good, and the botanical gardens are charming. But I just couldn’t figure out what else to say about it.
What is it? Xocai Power Squares
Why I Bought Them: I picked up two little squares as a sample last year at the Los Angeles Chocolate Salon (held in Pasadena). I’ve been curious about the chocolate brand for a while now, but they’re like Avon, you have to buy them from someone who sells the stuff and they only seem to sell huge quantities. I just wanted to try it.
Why I’m Not Going to Review Them: I don’t like to review stuff that’s not available for retail. (This is the same reason I don’t cover the Dove Chocolate Discoveries stuff.) I’ve also been turned off by the extreme marketing I’ve seen - especially a lot of email I got early on and comments I considered spam on this site. I took that one bite, but I can’t say that it impressed me enough to eat the rest of it or open the second one. But I couldn’t muster much of a review otherwise.
What is it? North Island Caramels - Strawberry, Guarana & Roast Corn
Why I Bought Them: How could I not buy them? Look at those fabulous packages! I actually ordered them online from AsianFoodGrocer.com
Why I’m Not Going to Review Them: Aside from the packaging, I didn’t have much to say about them. They’re milky chews, not quite caramels. The flavors were good, I especially liked the guarana, which tasted like a cross between cola and bubble gum. But I took a lot of pictures of them, so it seems like a waste to not share them.
Friday, April 9, 2010
Five years ago some good friends exchanged their vows. During the reception I was talking with some of the other guests at our table about chocolate. Someone remarked that I seemed really passionate about candy and I should blog about it.
I went home that night and started a blog. Here it is, five years later and I’ve reviewed at least 1,500 individual candies and tasted probably 5,000 during my travels and attendance at trade shows. There’s still lots more to see, taste and review.
So thank you, sweet readers. I probably wouldn’t have continued if the blog did not grow as it has, the fact that you’re here, reading and responding really makes it worthwhile.
As a big thank you I’m doing some redesign work that I think you will enjoy (such as adding a spot where you can give candies your own 1-10 rating, make custom lists in your profile of favorite candies and better search features).
As a small thank you, I have a $50 gift certificate for Think Geek where you can spend way too much for novelty candy.
To enter the drawing just leave a comment here by Monday, April 12, 2010 at 9 AM Pacific PDT telling me what your favorite post on the blog is. A random commenter will be chosen and will receive a digital gift certificate valued at $50. Anyone can win though I don’t know how useful it’d be if you’re outside of North America.
Oh, and happy 5th anniversary to Robin & Amy!
UPDATE April 12, 2010 5:32 PM PDT: Congratulations to Jeny! She was chosen at random from all unique comments received. I’ve already sent her the digital gift certificate for Think Geek.
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
This spring will mark the 5th anniversary of Candy Blog. Since the website has been largely unchanged since November 2005, I thought maybe it was time to consider giving the joint a bit of a facelift and some improvements.
So, the big question is, what do you want? After all, I write about this stuff partly in service to my readers. (And of course as a selfish excuse to eat more candy than most people should.) I’m not planning on changing the basic mission: review candy and for the most part any content in addition to that might come at the cost of those new reviews. (So if I review 4-5 times a week but everyone wants to see interviews with chocolatiers, then that would cut into the review tallies. I can write a lot in binges, as you may have noticed, but five reviews a week is about as much as I can do well.)
1. Create user accounts. They already exist in the forums, but it’d be nice if you could have your own icon show up on your comments and perhaps track your own comments across all the blog posts and within the forums. (Have a look at how Serious Eats does this as an example.) What do you want to see in the user accounts? More room to show your candy fandom? A place to favorite posts? Add your own ratings?
2. Magazine Style Home Page - where both new reviews are featured as well as some other things like candy photos, candy stores and other candy adventures. (I’m kind of up in the air on this one. I like how organized things are now, but I recognize that it works best for readers who visit regularly, it doesn’t necessarily grab new or only occasional visitors.)
3. Share This functions - so you can quickly grab a bit of a post & link to put on Facebook, Twitter, etc.
4. More helpful organization - maybe create a master database of candies. Right now the search function returns all mentions of a candy, so it’s a little wonky if you want to just find the candy itself.
5. Grand Database (with API) - For years I’ve done the stats box at the bottom of each candy review. Someday, maybe soon, I’d like to export that into a mashable database that will allow display of things like “Candies with low caloric density” or “Highest rated candy made in Germany.”
Right now, since I’m just thinking about these things, the sky is the limit with development. But the other side of the coin is the content. Do you want more reviews of high end candies (because they’re high risk) or more foreign/regional fare? More candy stores, reviews of shopping experiences? Tours of factories? I used to do a “week in review”, is there any interest in that returning? Or are you simply happy with what the blog is, a regular 4-5 candy reviews a week with some occasional other stuff.
So this is your opportunity to respond, request and even vent. What do you like, what don’t you like and what do you wish there was more of?
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
The weekend began without much new candy. The purpose was to get rid of it. What some of you have gleaned over the years as regular readers is that I do product photography on the side for Candy Warehouse. When I’m done shooting the photos, I get to keep the rest. Well, that’s far more candy than I can eat, and even far more than my co-workers at my day job can handle. I even gave away this pile of boxes to Soldier’s Angels for our service folks far from home.
Still, I had lots and lots, so I volunteered to create a Candy Buffet for the National Novel Writing Month‘s annual fundraiser called The Night of Writing Dangerously held in San Francisco on Sunday, November 22nd. Since there were going to be two hundred attendees, each wonderful fundraisers that deserve copious amounts of sugar, I thought a pound per person would be appropriate. So I packed up my car with nine boxes. Three were candy jars and the rest were filled with candy.
I had two cases of York Peppermint Patties from an art director for a commercial shoot here in Los Angeles, Kencraft Old Fashioned Candy Sticks, two gallons of Kasugai Fruit Gummis, Koppers Limoncello Marzipan, Koppers Dark Chocolate Almonds, Koppers Hazelnut Sea Shell Brittle, Salt Water Taffy and Butterfly Candy Tarts. I was worried that wasn’t enough, so I contacted Mars and asked if they could donate something for our good fundraising writers who supported our programs to create writing curriculum for schools & libraries for free and they sent over 1,000 pieces/packages of Snickers, Skittles, M&Ms Milk Chocolate, M&Ms Peanut, M&M Minis and Dove Promises. On top of that, another local Los Angeles event planner had some M&M Premiums in those individual serving boxes for us to pop into the tote bags. Still, I was feeling like we were missing some basic candy food groups, so I spent some of my own money and ordered up 10 pounds of Albanese Confectionery’s World’s Best Gummi Bears, 5 pounds of their Sour Gummi Bears and 5 pounds of the Double Dipped Malted Milk Balls (I should have set a pound aside for myself, they’re so good).
So now I was not only feeling pretty good because our fundraiser raised $33,000 for our programs, I’d also unloaded a bunch of candy that was taking up a lot of space in my house and office. My process of celebration began with ... acquiring more candy.
Bi-Rite Market - 3639 18th Street, San Francisco.
Christopher Elbow - 401 Hayes Street, San Francisco
Miette Confiserie - 449 Octavia Street, San Francisco
The Candy Store - 1507 Vallejo Street, San Francisco
Then Monday morning I packed up my candy jars and headed tried to go to Harry and David near my hotel as they always seem to have fun holiday candies, but they weren’t open yet. I made my last stop:
Charles Chocolates - 6529 Hollis Street, Emeryville
So this isn’t the normal candy review, just a peek behind the scenes at a combination of my obsessions. But hopefully it gives you some sense of what kind of candy lifestyle is behind the Candy Blog. It’s a pretty good life, and for that I am thankful. Thanks for reading, thanks for leaving comments and most of all, thanks for making Candy Blog part of your life. Your support of it enables me to do all this other stuff to spread the sweet joy.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.