Wednesday, February 12, 2014
Though they’re called Sweet Treats Cupid Hearts, they’re also marketed and sold for folks looking for themed candy for baby showers. They come in mixes like pink and white and blue and white. I found mine at Jack’s Wholesale Candy in downtown Los Angeles, but I also saw them at Michael’s and some other party planning shops. I don’t know much about this Sweet Treats brand, the candy itself is made in China but the bag says that it’s packaged and distributed by Metro Candy Sales of Vacaville, CA.
The Cupid Hearts have one of my favorite ingredients list of all time:
So, the first ingredient is the bulk of the candy, and when I say bulk, I’m guessing that it’s more than 90%. Maltodextrin is a polyscaccharide made up of many molecules of glucose (it varies depending on the formulation - it could be as few as 3 or as many as 20). So it’s basically sugar but it’s not quite as sweet as the sucrose we’re accustomed to but has all the calories. There’s very little else to this candy. They’re made by pressing the powder under high pressure, like making pharmaceutical pills and then they’re dumped into a big rotating drum (a panning machine) to get a shiny, colorful coating.
My understanding is that these are vegan (though magnesium stearate can come from animal sources, it’s far cheaper to buy the vegetable sourced version).
The pieces are thick and well formed to look like hearts. The colorful glaze, however, is inadequately applied. The crotch of the hearts on the blue ones were predominantly unfilled gaps. I don’t see this as a feature, just lack of quality control. (They were all like that in the store, the pink and white ones also looked the same.)
The bag smells slightly floral, like a generic fabric softener sheet. The candies have a light crunch, the centers are firm but not too sandy but easy to bite. They are all sweet except for that floral flavor, there’s no tartness, no tang, nothing fruity or spicy that indicates they’re food and not toilet bowl cleaner.
As far as I’m concerned, they’re decorative. You can let people eat them, but I don’t recommend it. It’s not that they’re bad, but at 120 calories per ounce, there are far better things to do with your discretionary calories. At $4.00 for 10 ounces ($6.40 for a pound), I also thought they were darned expensive considering the fact that the same store was selling the far prettier Oak Leaf Hearts for only $2.40 a pound. Even the Wonka Heartbreakers are a better deal.
Update: It’s been suggested that they may be more like sachet beads than candy; they should be placed in little gossamer bags, tied with a bow and then left in the car to keep it smelling fresh.
Wednesday, June 26, 2013
It seems like most of the new products I’ve been reviewing are new morsel versions of existing items. (I’m still trying to get the trademark of Morselization.) Today I have Airheads Bites from Perfetti Van Melle.
The category of candy known as Airheads has always been a bit of a curiosity for me. If you’ve never had them, they’re small, flat bars of tangy chew. They’re not taffy or a chew in the same sense as Starburst or Mentos. One of the main constituents is dextrose, which is the same stuff you find in SweeTarts. They really are just soft, chewy SweeTarts.
They come in watermelon, blue raspberry, cherry, orange, and lemon.
The ingredients are interesting:
I had to wonder, after looking at them, what makes them different from Skittles or Starburst? Well, they just are.
The pieces are rounded and rather flat, so they don’t roll around. The coating is shiny but more like a jelly bean’s grainy sugar coating that’s polished than the crunchy sugar shell of a Skittle. The real difference here is the center. It’s pure Airhead. The chew is stiff and grainy but immediately flavorful.
Orange is sweet at first then very tangy and descends into a pleasant and consistent grain before dissolving quickly.
Watermelon is green and quite vibrant. Again, it starts sweet and then gets tart and slightly more artificial. They all dissolve away very quickly.
Blue Raspberry starts very floral and doesn’t get as sour as they others, but is more like a bubble gum flavor.
Lemon is yellow and is weird at first, with a strong household cleaner note that then becomes a rather standard lemonade mix flavor.
Cherry is quite normal and reminded me a lot of Life Savers. It reminded me that I’m getting to like cherry more than I did 10 years ago.
Overall, they are tasty little bits and far easier to eat than the ordinary Airheads bars. I liked the flavor diversity in the single package. I found mine at 7-11, so they’re out in stores now. They come in another version called Airheads Bites Berry.
I was sorry to see that these were not for vegetarians (gelatin). I was also a little surprised to see that they’re made in China, as the factory for Airheads is in Kentucky. Maybe they’re just trying out the product and will make them locally if they’re a hit. There was also no mention of allergens on the label, so I don’t know about gluten for those concerned.
Monday, March 26, 2012
I picked up one of the odder Easter offerings over the weekend at KMart: Mallow Pals Strawberry Squeezable Marshmallow from a company called Hilco. I’ve seen these before, I think they showed up a year or two ago, squeezed confections have been around for a few years now. (Though I also remember a bubble gum that came in a tube back in the early 1980s as well.)
The tube is themed for Easter, in a bright pink and completely shaped like a perched bunny rabbit.
The package is some sort of mylar, it’s flexible and has a foil-like quality to it. It doesn’t hold much, there’s 1.2 ounces and I paid a dollar for it on sale. But marshmallows are mostly air anyway.
The package has a little flat plastic bottom that allows it to stand up (it stands best if it leans against something though). There’s a plastic flip top.
The ingredients are interesting and reveal that this isn’t what I consider a true marshmallow.
Modern marshmallows are made with gelatin. The protein in gelatin will stabilize whipped sugar syrup to hold the airy foam. Egg whites also perform the same in fresh goods, but don’t usually do as well when exposed to air. But still, they’re found quite often in treats, such as the Schokokuss or Mohrenkopf that’s found in the German speaking parts of Europe. The upshot of all of this is that this product is good for vegetarians who have to avoid traditional marshmallow products. (It’s not Kosher though. There are no statements about allergens on the package. It’s made in China.)
The goo has that soft and sweet smell of cotton candy. It squeezes out pretty easily. It’s soft and gooey and slumps over instead of forming bouncy peaks like marshmallow does. It’s pretty sticky as well. The texture is smooth, though there are a few sugary grains in there from time to time.
The strawberry flavor is mild and floral with no tartness and a weird bitter aftertaste that I can only assume is contributed by the artificial coloring. It dissolves quickly.
It’s weird stuff. It’s hard to imagine eating it right out of the pouch, but if I were a kid, I probably would. It’s sticky and can easily get messy. The pouch is easy to grasp, so it’s easy to dispense, though not necessarily easy to control like a pastry bag. It’s very low in calories though and one tube, though it’s supposed to be a serving, could probably be stretched to two if you were looking to limit calories.
It seems like it would be more fun to use as a frothy frosting item to ice cream, cookies, crackers, fruit or maybe even on top of hot chocolate. Sucking it right out of the tube seems a little wrong.
It comes in a couple of other flavors, I saw Green Apple on the shelves and I’ve also seen it listed online in Blue Raspberry.
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
A few years ago I picked up a Big Bite Gummy Bear. It’s not the biggest gummi bear available on the market, but they’re easy to find and pretty well priced for a novelty item.
This year the Big Bite family of gummis is expanding with holiday themed shapes. For Christmas they have three: a Tin Soldier (red cherry), a Christmas Tree (green apple) and a Rocking Horse (red cherry). I found the Big Bite Gummy Rocking Horse charming and well designed so I picked that one from the display at Cost Plus World Market. They’re not as big as the Big Bite Gummy Bear (which is 12 ounces), they’re about half that weight at 5.82 ounces.
First, as a Christmas tree ornament, this is a colossal failure. It’s weight makes it too heavy and big to put on a normal tree. But as a party favor, stocking stuffer or table decoration, it does pretty well.
The gummi is constructed of two molded halves that are bonded together. They’re packaged in a clear plastic form (which could actually be the mold) that works as an excellent storage container for the partially eaten candy and also as a more appropriate ornament when you’re done.
Even though it’s not as big as the original Big Bite Gummy Bear, it’s still pretty large for a single portion of candy. (Come on, this is at least three portions.) The texture is soft, the surface is smooth but a little greasy because of the carnauba wax coating.
Out of the package, the Rocking Horse stands well on its own, though she’s (yes, I checked) a little head-heavy and tips forward.
I was disappointed in the flavor selection, but I understand with novelty candies they have to go with what’s most popular. (I would have preferred raspberry or strawberry or maybe something truly holiday themed like cranberry or cinnamon.)
Once I cut off the head, the halves of the candy pulled apart quite easily. The texture is pliable with a smooth flavor. It’s cherry and though not the best cherry gummi I’ve ever had, it was passable. It was light, a little tart and had a nice overall balance. It wasn’t too dark, not black cherry or wild cherry but more of the stereotypical cherry of most candies. (I think Tootsie Pop Cherry is as close as I can think of.) However, the edges of the product were tough and leathery, while the center was a bit softer. I also got a bit of an aftertaste and slight burning in my mouth ... this could be my reaction to the red food dye or just simple paranoia.
The tag lists the ingredients (contains gelatin and not Kosher/Halal) as well as the nutritional information. It was printed so small I had to photograph it and blow it up. The serving size is the whole candy but the calorie count for the whole thing was a rather modest 592 calories. (That Venti Pumpkin Spice Latte with the whipped cream at Starbucks has 520 calories.) But the really surprising part is consuming the whole thing is 10.7 grams of protein.
The candies are imported by a company called Novelty Specialties and are manufactured in China. I’m not enthusiastic about candy (or any food product) made in China because of their lack of accountability when it comes to food safety, though the United States and United Kingdom have their share as well. If I weren’t writing this blog, I never would have purchased, let alone eaten this product (but that goes for a lot of the candies I’ve tried, and sometimes I’m pleasantly surprised).
The price was $3.99, which was the same price as the twice-as-big Big Bite Gummi Bear. $3.99 could buy some very nice, American or German gummis that you could put in a holiday themed package. Just saying. If you’re not planning on eating it and want to dispose of it in the garbage disposal, well, this is better than plastic.
Since writing the review of the Big Bite Gummy Bear, which seem to be widely available, the company’s website has disappeared. (Here’s the page I got when I went to NoveltySpecialties.com.)
Wednesday, October 19, 2011
This new version is amped up in size and has another twist, actual flavors to the candy buttons (the classics may be flavored, but it’s not perceptible). They’re called Candy Sweet Spots and they’re made in China by Greenbrier International, Inc.
The package is big. The strips are 11 inches long and 4.25 inches wide. There are three strips inside, which provides a full 2.4 ounces of candy - I paid a buck for it.
I’ve never seen a package include, perhaps even advertise, the word artificial so much. The name of the candy might actually be Candy Sweet Spots Artificially Flavored. Then at the bottom there’s a little arrow that points up to the candies themselves that also exalts, “Assorted Artificial Fruit Flavors!”
The package goes on to list all of the flavors, right there on top of the actual candies in the see through package. I appreciate the information.
Yes, they are bigger than the traditional paper buttons. For the most part they’re 1/3 to 1/2 of an inch in diameter. The old style buttons are a little less than 1/4 of an inch.
They come in four flavors: Artificial Cherry, Artificial Orange, Artificial Lemon and Artificial Raspberry. There are fifteen Sweet Spots of each flavor on each sheet.
The Sweet Spots are pretty much regularly sized and shaped. The bonus over their traditionally sized cousins is that these come off the paper rather easily. I had no trouble getting them off, no bits of paper stuck to the bottom. But they do leave a little residue of color/candy on the paper (so you can’t reuse the paper for notes or anything).
Cherry (red) is sweet and mild, it has an actual authentic artificial taste to it and even a little note of Red #40.
They’re really not that good as candy, but as something to amuse a small child for a while, they’re okay. They’re also made in China and contain gelatin and artificial flavors and colors.
I would say that they’re a good accent item, but the original Candy Buttons are too. You can peel them off the paper and put them on a decorated cake or cupcake, which is especially useful if you just want to do a plain uncolored frosting and not have to mix anything else. (And easy for kids to do.) Unless you’re looking for something in a larger scale, I’d say move along to some candy that’s actually good. But if you can’t resist the look of these, well, the price is good and the quality of the colors makes them at least a good deal as decorations. Other party ideas include hanging a strip on the wall to make “lickable wallpaper” or as an accent behind a candy buffet.
There’s another version of these called Mega Candy Buttons which are actually even bigger and are Kosher (so probably don’t have gelatin in them).
Wednesday, August 3, 2011
The company also introduced a line of sugar free, all natural mints called Minteas recently that come in these attractive leaf shaped (or surfboard, take your pick) tins. They’re also expensive, but a little more affordable considering the number of servings in the $2 package. I picked out the Minteas Retreat: Lemongrass Yuzu.
The bottom of the tin says: Get away with the soothing calm of wild-crafted lemongrass and the comforting citrus of Japanese yuzu. Relaxing chamomile offers the perfect antidote to stress. A sanctuary for the senses.
The tin says that they use organic botanicals and fair trade certified, organic white tea. (The fair trade tea is a minor component in the ingredients, the second to the last element, right before calcium stearate. There is also some plain old organic green tea in there.) They’re sweetened with sorbitol and xylitol, natural sugar alcohols that feel cool on the tongue and have fewer calories per gram than regular sugars.
The scent of the candies is quite nice, if you like Murphy’s Oil Soap or other citrus based cleaning products and candles, you’ll love this. Each little leaf shaped piece is a little longer than a half an inch. The pressed tablet candy dissolves or crunches, depending on your eating style.
The first thing I get is a sharp, bitter zest note. It’s not quite lemon and not quite grapefruit. It’s yuzu, which is a Japanese citrus similar to a grapefruit in its flavor components, only it’s usually the size of a lemon or orange and costs about $30 a pound here in Los Angeles. There are more floral blossom notes to it than just oily zest.
The little mint has a slight lemongrass note as well, which is kind of gingery and soft. There are other herbal and tea flavors in there, some green tea, which might also contribute some of the bitterness and soapy notes and chamomile, which always reminds me of catnip.
As far as “mints” go, these do have a long lasting flavor, a sort of jasmine freshness that lingers after the candy is gone. But the flavor while it’s in my mouth is a bit bitter, a little too much for me.
The package says that the product was designed in the USA but made in China. However the website says that the “source” of the ingredients is Egypt for the chamomile (ingredient #5 on the list) and Japan for the yuzu (not specifically listed as an ingredient, but probably is part of the “natural flavors” of ingredient #3. I feel misled about their transparency. If they’re going to say that something contains fair trade and/or organic ingredients, I also want to know where all the other ingredients come from. The website says they’re gluten free but makes no mention of their vegetarian/vegan status or any nuts or other allergens.
Friday, April 8, 2011
I was these The Original Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter Gummy Candy at Cost Plus World Market and again at Target. Since it was only a buck at Target, I decided to pick it up. But it’s not exactly an Easter item, even though it was shelved with the Easter candy. Sure, there’s a rabbit, but not everything that features a rabbit is supposed to be Easter themed. After all, no one goes around saying that the Velveteen Rabbit is an Easter book.
The candies are packaged and sold by Frankford Candy of Philadelphia, made in China and licensed from Frederick Warne & Co of London.
The box holds 1.8 ounces of candy which amounts to five rather large gummy pieces. They’re each in a little compartment in a clear plastic tray. That is sealed in a plastic sleeve and the box is also taped shut. (It’s already known that Peter Rabbit is wiley.) It’s a lot of packaging for very little candy.
The gummis are about 2 inches tall if they’re standing upright with ears pricked. They’re made of various colors of gummy, the body is a mostly opaque light brown and the clothes are wholly opaque white or blue. The other details, such as the eyes and whiskers are made of some sort of frosting or sugar.
They’re thick and soft and quite nicely detailed, though the brown color gives the impression that the flavor will be something like caramel or perhaps cocoa.
Three of the figures were of Peter Rabbit (leaving some limits to the narrative of imaginative play if these are more toys than candy) and one Jemima Puddle-Duck and the Fox who tried to steal her eggs.
The package gives no indication of what flavor they are and neither does smelling them. They smell like styrofoam packaging, cinnamon breakfast syrup and flip flops. The gummis are soft and pliable (except for the frosting whiskers and buttons) and even sticky enough to allow them to adhere to glass. The flavor is probably strawberry, but the plastic flavors pretty much overwhelm them. The chew is smooth though I really couldn’t stand more than a bite or two before wondering if that weird burning sensation in my mouth was from the gummis - it wasn’t like eating too much sour candy, it was more like that feeling of too many chili peppers (without the actual heat).
I’m usually suspicious of the quality of candy made in China. I know that only a very small fraction is made by companies who do not abide by clean and safe practices. But I still get concerned. In this instance, it doesn’t matter that I don’t care for the origination of the candy, they taste terrible. The flavor is so muddled with the plastic notes, it’s hard to imagine that I’m not eating a toy. But as a toy, they’re not too bad, just don’t leave them out in the rain.
Friday, April 1, 2011
There was a time when tubes were the future. You know, back when the radio was being invented. This heyday of tubes continued into the mid-twentieth century and waned as things like transistors, liquid crystal displays and tubeless tires came into vogue. So maybe it’s quaint that so many candies are now being tubularized (that’s a word, promise). I noticed it a few years back with Wonka’s SweeTarts Squeez and Hubba Bubba’s Squeeze Pop. So maybe it is the wave of the future, that the confinement of candy to solid shapes was holding us back from confection perfection.
Something else aside from the fanciful thoughts of the idealized candy containment drew me to Chewbies Liquid Taffy, it was the fact that it said All Natural Flavors and Colors on the front. I actually looked at it in the store before Valentine’s Day and decided not to buy it, but then when I went back for my Easter prowl, I couldn’t resist the call of finding out what Liquid Taffy could be, especially when it was all natural.
I admit, the package looked an awful lot like another tube I already had in my shopping basket, which I shot a picture of for comparison.
The narrow tube is six inches high and holds 2.82 ounces. I picked out the Orange flavor, but it also comes in Strawberry and Apple. The back of the package says a serving is the whole package (280 calories). It also says that the squeezable confection is made in P.R.C. Honestly, I didn’t know what that was, I thought it might be a province or territory in Canada - after all, they keep making new ones and I have trouble keeping up. Nope, it’s the People’s Republic of China. Who puts PRC on a package? Probably people who don’t want you to know their product is made in China.
The ingredients aren’t quite taffy-like: Glucose syrup, sugar, water, palm oil, lactic acid, albumen (egg white), orange juice, soy lecithin, natural orange flavor, natural food color (paprika extract). Most taffy is sugar, corn syrup, corn starch, water, flavors, salt and sometimes a little butter or oil. There’s no egg white in taffy, but there is in nougat. But some other fine taffy-like candies also have egg whites, such as Bonomo’s Turkish Taffy. So again, I was inclined towards optimism.
Taffy is known for its chewiness and the name of the product is Chewbies. So I’m going into this thinking that this Liquid Taffy will be chewy. That maybe it’ll be latexy and have a sort of liquid Silly Putty texture. Or maybe it’ll be like string cheese. I was hoping it had that strange quality of not sticking to things, sometimes candies with oils in them are good at that.
The stuff comes out slowly and is quite soft, but a single touch to the surface and it yields stringy, hot mozzarella stickiness. How the product is supposed to be dispensed and consumed is a bit of a mystery, so I took to squeezing a dollop onto my finger.
First, the scent is quite orangey. It tastes quite tangy and has a good orange flavor that’s both zesty and tart. The texture is smooth but has no chew as it’s far too soft for that. It’s kind of like a thick sauce or slightly gummy yogurt. It got me to thinking that perhaps drizzled on ice cream it might toughen up, so I created a few dollops on a piece of waxed paper and popped it into the fridge for a half an hour. This made it cold. It became slightly firmer, but really no chewier.
My hopes were dashed but the reality of the product’s shortcomings. Though the flavor is decent, the price per ounce is rather high for the fact that it’s a sugar candy and the fact that it’s so sticky when dispensed is more than enough to cancel out any other positive attributes. I don’t actually need squeezable taffy, the plain old wrapped pieces will do me fine in the future.
Sugar Pressure also pointed out this in a store recently: Mallo Pals - marshmallow in a squeeze tube. Maybe the squeezy future is in marshmallow.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.