Friday, November 11, 2011
In a candy tease last year I mentioned the existence of new flavors of the iconic flavored Tootsie Rolls. The line is called Frooties. They were introduced in the 1970s when actual penny candy still existed. Last year a few new and perhaps trendy flavors were introduced including CranBlueberry as well as Frooties Root Beer.
I finally found some while on vacation back in September at a little candy shop in Cayucos. I bought a handful of them at 10 cents each and ate them without a review. (I was on vacation.)
I kept looking for more, but no one seemed to carry them. Over the weekend I was shopping at Smart & Final and ran into the bag pictured - it contains 360 pieces and almost two and a half pounds. It’s the size of an airplane pillow. Yeah, it was silly, it was $5.99 but I’d already tasted them and knew I wanted to review them. I had no rationale to get rid of the excess after review, no Halloween Trick or Treaters coming to my door. I fully planned to eat them myself.
The candies are small, they’re the smallest size of the Tootsie Roll, a little more than 3 grams each and only one inch long. They were very fresh, soft and easy to upwrap. The wax paper is simple, just twisted at the ends and classic.
They look kind of like Tootsies, they’re brown and don’t smell like much. But biting into one, it’s satisfying. The Root Beer flavors are well balanced, a mix of cinnamon and wintergreen with only the lightest acidic bite like a soda. The chew is smooth and slightly creamy. It’s not sticky and not too sweet. If I eat a lot of them, I get a bit of a warm mouth buzzing sensation, similar to something I experience with wintergreen flavors.
They come in other flavors, but I’m not terribly interested in them. Root Beer candy is hard to find and this strikes the right balance of warm spice and smooth chew. Sure, it’s probably like chewing hardened Ben Gay, but I actually like that. I’m sure I’ll manage to eat all 360 pieces eventually.
They’re made in the USA, certified Kosher in a peanut free, gluten free and tree nut free facility. It does contain dairy though, so it’s not for vegans.
Thursday, November 10, 2011
Wrigley’s which now runs the Starburst franchise of products just came out with a new variety, called Starburst Flavor Morph. They come in both the long single serving pack, a king size and the 13 ounce bag I picked up at Target over the weekend.
The package says that they have Flavor Changing Beads, which sounds kind of high tech and kind of like a feature of cosmetics/hygiene products.
The newest Starburst offers more than just a variety of flavors in each pack - now, consumers will get to experience a variety of flavors in every square. The candy, which features flavor changing beads, morphs from orange to orange strawberry or cherry to cherry lime.
So, basically, instead of four flavors in the package, there are just two.
Cherry -> Cherry-Lime is wrapped in red with white waves on the little waxed paper wrapper. They’re dark pink and at first do taste just like the traditional Cherry Starburst. The Cherry Lime notes come in rather late, and the advertised flavor beads aren’t evident as pops or crunches. The lime notes were actually a welcome transition in the flavor of the chew, the citrus goes well with the very traditional artificial cherry flavor.
Orange -> Orange-Strawberry looks just like an Orange Starburst, but with a few little flecks. However, it smells like a Strawberry Starburst. So the flavor morph in this instance was not really transitional ... the flavor was absolutely orange and strawberry the whole time. I liked the combination, it’s different from the usual citrus or strawberry combinations.
I haven’t been excited or converted from the classic Fruits package by any of the new Starburst introduction in the past 10 years. This version is no different, it’s a novelty. It’s missing the usual variety and the flavor combinations while appealing aren’t radical enough. While it doesn’t say Limited Edition on the package, I don’t expect them to stick around very long.
Starburst are marked as a gluten-free product. They do contain gelatin, so are not appropriate for vegetarians/vegans and are not Kosher. There are no statements about nuts or other allergens on the package though other sources say they’re nut free. A serving of 8 pieces contains 20% of your daily RDA of Vitamin C. I found them expensive as well, $3.14 for a 13 ounce bag of sugar candy is a bit steep.
Tuesday, November 1, 2011
Haribo Maoam have been around for a long time. The early history is a bit murky, but according to Haribo, Edmund Munster (not this one), who ran the Düsseldorfer Lakritzenwerk (Dusseldorf Licorice Works) bought the license for the chewy, fruity candy Maoam and began making it in Germany.
It was packaged as a penny candy, an impulse item with bold, colorful wax paper wrappings in popular flavors like Lemon, Strawberry, Pineapple, Orange and Raspberry. In 1986 Haribo bought the Edmund Münster company and began making the already iconic Maoam fruit chews.
After 80 years on the market, Maoam sweets are found in a variety of formats and features packaging designed to appeal to children (though plenty of adults are fans). They’re sold around the world. The most common packages are probably the Maoam Minis which is a long package that looks like a bar but is actually five different packets of individual flavors. The current flavor set includes: Cola, Orange, Lemon, Apple, Cherry and Raspberry.
There’s a lot of packaging in a Maoam packet. Each piece is individually wrapped, then packaged together in a little stack of five for each flavor, then another cellophane over-wrap. This leaves plenty of evidence that you’ve been eating candy (though the wax papers are mercifully quieter than the cellophane).
Orange They are small, about the same mass as a Starburst. Though the packages are colored, the candies themselves are only lightly tinted. The chew is soft and bouncy. I’d call it a cross between Starburst and HiCHEW. They’re even a little creamy. The orange is a bit like a Creamsicle. It’s a soft orange flavor, not overly zesty, more on the juice side of flavor with a nice zap of tang to it.
Cola is glorious. I would marry these. It’s kind of weird once they’re unwrapped because the candies are white (remember Pepsi Clear?). The flavor is great, it’s a little nutty, creamy but with a snap of lime and that cola flavor. There’s tartness to it and even a feeling of effervescence since there are little tangy spots that give a little jolt of flavor while chewing.
Lemon is tart and smooth without much lemon peel essence to it. They’re quite tasty and have just a hint of a yogurt note to them.
Cherry is a really interesting flavor. It’s different from American black cherry (like Life Savers). It’s dark and woodsy, but also quite tangy and has a little bit of a caustic medicinal flavor to me. There’s no coloring in it, so I can’t complain about that weird aftertaste I get so often.
Raspberry is very fragrant and nuanced. All the notes are there: the perfume, the seeds and the boiled jam.
I picked up this bag of Haribo Maoam Mixx which features a variety of little individually wrapped items. The main character on the front of the package is the Maoam mascot, a big green blob with a hat and riding a bicycle. (He’s the one who cavorts with the fruits on the packages. His character was introduced in 2002.
This bag cost 2 Euros and holds 400 grams (a little over 14 ounces). There’s a lot of variety.
Stripes are little flat taffy, 7 gram pieces. In this package I got a Green Apple version which wasn’t in the little block pack. The flavor is quite American at first, rather artificial, but after the tartness fades away, there’s a realistic apple peel/juice flavor that dominates. I also found a few Strawberry in this shape. They even had little pink flecks in them which tasted just like little bits of dried strawberry. A very realistic flavor and long lasting, smooth chew.
ChewTwo was another version of the Stripes that’s packaged in clear plastic to see that there are two flavors side by side. In this instance they were colored (or else it wouldn’t be very impressive looking to have two slightly different versions of not white).
Joystixx are long pieces, kind of like the Tootsie Roll Sticks. They’re probably double the mass of the little squares. In this form, they’re easy to bite, or take two different flavors and twist them together for a combo.
Pinballs are more than just a shape change. These are slightly fluffier balls of the chewy then coated in a candy shell. Think of them like an easier-to-chew fruit Mentos or giant fluffy Skittle. The flavor was interesting also because the candy shell had little crystals inside, mostly sugar but occasionally a zap of tart flavor. I could have sworn a few of the yellow ones were pineapple, not Lemon. In some cases the candy shell made them sweeter, and of course grainier. I enjoyed the variation in the texture with the shell, but not the graininess.
There were also individually twist wrapped pieces, I think they’re called Happy Fruttis.
I had no idea that Maoam were so good. I’ve seen them a few times before, and tried a few Pinballs but didn’t realize that the regular chews were so flavorful. They are different from other candies in this category too. They’re a softer chew than Starburst or Mamba and not quite as bouncy or smooth as HiCHEW. Also, if you’re a parent looking for a candy without artificial colors, this is a good kid-friendly option. (Though they’re not exactly all natural.) They do contain gelatin, so they’re not appropriate for vegetarians and those who keep Kosher/Halal.
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
While on vacation last week, I made a point of tracking down some locally made candies along the Central Coast of California. First up is Mehlenbacher’s Taffy which is made in Paso Robles, California.
The taffies are sold in long pieces, about the size of a cigar, quite different from the normal nugget or little twist. Each is 1.25 ounces, so I consider it a full serving of candy. The pieces are about 5 inches long and wrapped in a tough, thick cellophane and twisted at the ends.
The ingredients are very simple: corn syrup, cane sugar, butter and then flavorings and coloring (though not all are colored). They’re had pulled in the traditional fashion on a hook and then hand portioned and wrapped. They make 51 different flavor varieties, though none of the stores I found carries more than a dozen.
Here’s a little video from a local TV station about the company:
I first saw Mehlenbacher’s mentioned in a Martha Stewart spread (I think as a suggestion for wedding favors). So when I was in Paso Robles last year, I picked up the assortment you see pictured in this review. Then I ate them and didn’t review them. (Or maybe I lost a few.) So when I returned to the area again, I made a point of finding some more. However, I didn’t match the flavors, one for one. So the photos differ a little bit.
Root Beer is one of my favorite flavors of all time and one that goes really well with taffy. The root beer is good, I liked its blend of earthy flavors like ginger and pine along with a little menthol and wintergreen kick.
Root Beer Float is a twist of caramel and cream colored taffies. The root beer flavor is snappy, with a good wintergreen freshness to it along with a creamy butter and vanilla note to it.
Iced Coffee smells pretty rich, like a sweet, sugary coffee. The flavor isn’t quite that intense and has a creamier flavor than I anticipated (I figured it would taste like black coffee). It’s very much on the bitter and strong side of the coffee flavors, but really watered down with the sugary sweetness.
Peanut Butter was a mild looking, almost vanilla taffy. The flavor was sweet and had a great peanut butter note to it and was very smooth. I could have used just a little hint of salt, or maybe they should make a flavor called Sea Salt Peanut Butter for those who crave that.
Peanut Butter Cup is a twist of both the chocolate flavor taffy and the peanut butter. The scent was like peanut butter and cocoa. The chocolate part of the taffy wasn’t very chocolate (not like a chocolate caramel or anything that intense). It was all very mellow and woodsy, with a slightly chalkier chew from the cocoa and real peanut butter. Like the peanut butter, I think it would benefit from just a dash of salt.
Neapolitan is a twist of the classic strawberry, vanilla and chocolate flavors. The scent of the strawberry dominated, with its soft floral and toasted sugar notes. But the flavor of the twist as a whole was just sweet and pleasant. The chocolate and vanilla didn’t do much and the strawberry was little more than the smell. The chew was soft and lasted a long time with no grainy finish.
Wintergreen was rather medicinal, cooling on the tongue but just didn’t feel like candy. This was a flavor I tried in my original assortment and didn’t pick one up on my re-do.
Hot Cinnamon is a twist of white and red. It was weird. The ingredients said it was only flavored with cinnamon oil, but it had a huge clove note to it, so much that my mouth was literally numb at one point, like clove oil often does. It wasn’t a hot, sizzling cinnamon. I liked the intense flavor and soft chew of it, but I did actually want more of the woodsy cinnamon notes.
Banana is bright yellow and completely artificial tasting, though the label said “banana extract” not artificial banana flavoring. It’s sweet and a little toasty, like a marshmallow. I enjoyed it quite a bit and think it would pair well as a twist for many of the other flavors. (Banana-Peanut Butter-Chocolate might be fun.)
The prices varied quite a bit. The first time I bought them at the farmers market on the square in Paso Robles (Spring 2010), this time I picked them up at Jack Creek Farms in Paso Robles for $1.50 each and some other flavors at Candy Counter in Cayucos for $1.75 each. The Mehlenbacher’s Taffy website (warning, it autoplays music) has them for $1.85 a stick.
On the whole, I’m not a big taffy fan. I appreciate the simplicity of the product, but once the flavor goes beyond a good malty molasses, I lose interest pretty quickly. So many taffies that I’ve tried taste about as interesting as the wax paper they’re wrapped in. This was different, Mehlenbacher’s is definitely doing something different here. It could be the use of real butter or the attention to the pulling of the boiled sugars. I’m still not inclined to keep buying it for an every day treat, but there are a few other flavors I’d like to try and I’m always up for some root beer.
I’d love to see an all natural line from them too, something with natural flavorings (though many are actually naturally flavored with extracts or peanut butter/cocoa) and natural colors - that would really set them apart.
Friday, September 2, 2011
Wonka has a strong tradition of sugar candies, as the brand originated with Sunline, makers of SweeTarts, Pixy Stix and Fun Dip (Lik-M-Aid). One of their legacy candies is Laffy Taffy. It’s just fruity taffy with the added bonus of a joke or two on the wrapper.
Back when I was a kid Laffy Taffy was known as Tangy Taffy and was sold in large flat bars similar to Jolly Rancher Stix (well, bigger than that). They came in intense and artificial flavors like Green Apple, Watermelon and Banana. After the Nestle takeover of Wonka they made some changes, like dumping Wacky Wafers (photo) and changing Tangy Taffy to Laffy Taffy.
Laffy Taffy still comes in bars, but the most common product I see are these little two inch long pieces. Each piece is about 35 calories and is two bites. They come in tubs and of course are a staple of pinatas and Halloween bags.
They’re soft and usually take on the shape of the package, but they’re very easy to get out of the plastic wrapper once opened. It’s a true taffy, there are no egg products in there like Bonomos or Doschers taffy have. There’s a touch of oil, so they’re not completely fat free (about a half of a gram of fat per piece).
Strawberry is pretty, very pink and fragrant. It’s like cotton candy or lemonade. The flavor isn’t very strong, lightly tangy and sweet with a well moderated fake strawberry flavor. There are little snaps of salt and tartness throughout. The chew is long and steady and quite smooth.
Banana - this is an intense fake banana candy. The banana is intense enough that it gave me a cool feeling on my tongue, similar to the effect of nail polish remover in both the tingling and the strange caustic scent. I like fake banana, so the sweetness and weird artificial flavor was fun for me. Your mileage may vary.
Sour Apple - if they called this green apple, I don’t think I’d have much of an issue. However, with the word sour in there, I have certain expectations, such as tartness. This was not sour. It was not even particularly vivid, just a mild fake green apple flavor. The texture is smooth and chewy and there’s a strange salty note to it that bugged me in this instance.
Grape is purple and the taffy version of a grape SweeTart. It’s zippy with a purely artificial flavor that’s a cross between grape juice, straight malic acid and pen ink.
The jokes on them are true groaners like “How do billboards talk?” (Sign Language!) and truly poorly written ones like “What kind of chain is edible?” (A Food Chain!)
I’ve grown out of these, for my fruit chews I prefer something a little tamer and friendly like Skittles. But these have the advantage of being vegetarian (no gelatin) over products like Starburst or Bonomos. They’re Kosher; there are no nut or gluten statements on the package.
Tuesday, August 23, 2011
Chewy, fruity and soft red licorice is just the thing on a hot summer day. It travels better than chocolate and of course the tart and fragrant flavor can give a little burst of thirst quenching without all that pesky drinking.
I picked up this package of Halva Strawberry Finnish Soft Licorice when I was at the ISM Cologne candy far earlier this year. I knew that they sold it at Cost Plus World Market here in the United States, so the brand gets around. The Halva brand is widely sold in Finland and is generally affordable but not necessarily gourmet.
The package is nicely designed, the format reminds me of the classic box of raisins. The stark and modern design uses a lot of white space, a bold photo of the candy (that actually looks like the candy) and some brief descriptions.
Each strip is about one and a half inches long and are soft and pliable, quite shiny. They have a coating of beeswax and oil, so they’re a little greasy. They’re slightly translucent and a light shade of red.
They don’t smell like much, but once I bit into them I got a lot of other sensory input. The texture is soft and chewy, though a little gummy and doughy. The strawberry flavor is nice, it’s very smooth but mostly middle of the road, not deep and jammy like Panda Strawberry Licorice and not crumbly and artificial like Twizzlers either. It’s satisfying in the sense that it fills me up, but irritating that it sticks to my teeth. The red food coloring has no perceptible flavor, so I enjoyed that part. The light tartness kept it all from feeling like it was too sticky.
The base of the candy is made from glucose-fructose syrup and wheat flour. In case you’re wondering if glucose-fructose syrup is pretty much the same thing as high fructose corn syrup, it is except that it’s probably not derived from corn. Use of glucose-fructose syrup is quite rare in American candies, not because of some high standards candy makers have or any health reasons for shunning them. Simply put, many of the sugars that candy makers choose are because of the way they perform physically and chemically. In a soda, HFCS will sweeten and bulk just the same as sucrose. But in a caramel, the free fructose (it’s bonded to a glucose molecule in sucrose and isn’t unbonded until well into the heating process of caramelization) will not work at all as the sole sugar. In the case of a wheat based chew like red licorice, it turns out you can use glucose-fructose syrup quite nicely.
Monday, August 15, 2011
Jolly Rancher (part of Hershey’s) introduced their Jolly Rancher Fruit Chews ten years ago. The chews are individually wrapped and have a texture similar to Starburst or an intense taffy. When I first tried them they were sold in a long stack of pieces, much like Starburst.
When I was at the convenience store a couple of weeks ago I saw the newer packaging which is a little, brightly colored paperboard box. It holds the same amount of candy, 2.06 ounces 14 pieces). The Jolly Rancher Tropical Fruit Chews come in four flavors: Pineapple, Strawberry-Kiwi, Lemon-Lime and Tropical Punch.
What exactly makes these Jolly Ranchers? When they were first introduced Jolly Ranchers became widely known because of their smooth dissolving texture with no air bubbles and intense flavors. Their slogan is Famous for Flavor and when I think of the brand I do identify it with my first experience with Green Apple. The company was founded in 1949 in Colorado, but the national obsession with the candies didn’t begin until after Beatrice Foods took over the candy in 1966 and distributed them nationally.
Hershey’s now owns Jolly Ranchers and has expanded the brand to include Gummis, Lollipops, Jelly Beans and Chews. All feature intense flavors but very generic flavors on the whole with bright colors.
The chews are rectangular, one inch long and 3/4 of an inch wide. They’re soft and pliable and a cross in texture between Starburst and Now and Later.
I was happy to see that I picked a box where Pineapple was the densest flavor. The chew doesn’t smell like anything but has an immediate tart and floral flavor of pineapple. The texture isn’t entirely smooth like Starburst, but retains its flavor and texture, kind of like gum all the way to the end when it dissolves.
Lemon-Lime was quite zesty and has a little sizzle to it, it’s so intense. The flavor is more on the lime side of lemon-lime, but not so tart that it’s unbearable. It reminds me of a Gin and Tonic without the Gin.
Tropical Punch was in the intense red wrapper and was nearly maroon when unwrapped. The flavor is peppery and very much like Hawaiian Punch, strong guava and papaya notes along with some hints of raspberry and pineapple. There was a slight artificial color aftertaste, but it couldn’t really rival the riot of artificial flavors.
Strawberry-Kiwi was pink and looked like bubble gum. The flavor combination was really intense and I could actual perceive the different fruits - the Kiwi was grassy and had notes of the seeds and the strawberry was tangy and with the toasted sugar flavors of cotton candy.
Overall, it’s a good flavor variety to add to Jolly Ranchers line. I question the packaging in a box. It’s nice to pick through the assortment for the flavor I want, but the box was only about half full, so it took up far more volume than necessary. I like the compactness of the Starburst style package, which also protects the pieces very well with double sealed wrapping.
They’re made in Mexico and are not Kosher and have no notice of nuts or gluten or any other common allergen (it does contain soy). It does contain gelatin so it’s not suitable for vegetarians.
Wednesday, July 20, 2011
I consider myself an expert on candy, not just an expert on eating it, but actually what’s going on with candy and the people who make it. I’m on oodles of mailing lists and I read news feeds and trade magazines voraciously. So I’m always a little surprised and slightly disappointed to see a new candy on the shelves that I didn’t know was coming. Really, why would you sneak a candy onto store shelves without at least including it on your own website or a list that you publish in a trade magazine?
I was at Walgreen’s over the weekend (at regular circuit where I also stop at RiteAid and sometimes 7-11) checking to see if there were any new candies to review. Imagine my surprise when I found Limited Edition Twizzlers Pull ‘n’ Peel Grape actually hiding underneath the Watermelon Pull ‘n’ Peel. Not only was it on sale, but there was also a little coupon dispenser, so the regular price of $2.79 was ultimately $1.65.
The package is about 12 inches long, but the Twizzlers themselves are less than 9.5 inches long ... so there’s a lot of useless and deceptive space in the package.
The color is strange and matte, like the other Pull ‘n’ Peel varieties of Twizzlers. (The classic Twizzlers twists look like they’re made of some sort of pliable acrylic.)
Each cable of Pull ‘n’ Peel has nine strands and weights about an ounce. It’s also only 100 calories, so it’s a lot of candy to indulge in for a very low calorie cost. They’re soft and easy to pull apart (though every once in a while I’d break a string while peeling it from the others). The surface is soft and not at all greasy or sticky unless you get it wet, then it sticks very nicely to itself.
Imagine a product that takes the most memorable qualities from PlayDoh and Grape Pixy Stix. You’re thinking, “What fun! It’s candy you can play with!” But it’s not quite an even contribution from its parents, apparently candy genetics has some ideas about which traits are dominant. It has the mild and soft texture of a pliable molding clay but also some of the scent of it. (PlayDoh is also made of a wheat flour base.) But still, it smells like grape drink or Pixy Stix, but the flavor is less grape and more purple. There is some fake grape in there, but mostly the flavor notes come from the strong bitterness and strange inky qualities of the artificial colors. There’s no hint of tartness or anything else, just a mild sweetness.
The chew is good, though the lack of tang gives it a doughy flavor overall. Eventually it dissolves into a pasty puddle in my mouth along with some larger bits that stick to the sides of my molars. There’s a long-lingering aftertaste: a metallic, aluminum flavor.
American Licorice, the West Coast rival of Twizzlers recently re-issued their Grape Vines. I happened to have some sitting around to compare. The flavor of the Grape Vines is actually authentic, it tastes like raisins and concord grape juice, if only slightly. Even eating a few of those couldn’t push that aftertaste of the Twizzlers out of my mouth though.
Twizzlers did a great thing when they made the cinnamon-flavored Twizzlers Fire Pull ‘n’ Peel. Those need to come back and these need to be retired forever. (Except in cases where parents are trying to wean their children off of eating PlayDoh and need these as a positive substitution, but perhaps by prescription from a pediatrician only.)
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.