Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Santos gave me a huge cache of Mentos a few months ago and I’ve been slowly going through them.
Mentos makes two different basic formats of Mentos. Their regular rolls and the Mentos Plus variety, which is fortified with Vitamin C and sold in boxes. As far as I know the Mentos Plus is for the Southeast Asia and Australia/New Zealand markets. (We have boxes of Mentos here in the US too, but they’re usually the sugar free variety.)
The one that caught my eye first was the box of Mentos Plus Tropical Mix. It features Pineapple, Watermelon and Mango.
Recently I had mango citrus and Pine Fresh from Japan, so I was curious how these compared.
The yellow one is Pineapple. It’s fresh, tangy and has that slightly pepperish tingle to it. One of my new favorite Mentos flavors. (I really hope they keep making the Japanese single-flavor rolls.)
Mango is the orange one and it has a mellow, melon flavor to it. It lacks that sort of pine sap taste but has some deeper notes that I couldn’t quite place ... and didn’t really belong in something mango flavored as far as I was concerned. It was more like a jam taste than a fresh fruit taste.
The pink one was Watermelon and I have to hand it to them, this was one of the better watermelon flavored candies I’ve had in a long time. It gets that floral melon flavor just right, only the slightest hint of tartness and then a finish that’s like cotton candy.
The box seems less necessary with single flavors like Mentos Plus Black Currant, I figure boxes are great for picking out just the flavor you want.
But Black Currant is pretty special, at least for Americans, since we don’t have that flavor here much. It’s rather like a combination of concord grape and pomegranate with some violets - a dark berry flavor with a musky flavor element to it.
They’re soft and chewy and a lovely lavender color. It’s taken me a while to get used to currant, but I’m enjoying this edition quite a bit. Not that I’d probably buy it over a citrus like Pink Grapefruit or Pine Fresh.
Though these are not marked Kosher or Halal, they do not contain gelatin or any other animal products.
Monday, July 14, 2008
I feel like I’ve been doing a lot of reviews for candies with health claims lately. I blame it on there actually being a lot of new candy introductions that make health claims. Some tout being fat free, others have beneficial natural ingredients pumped up others are fortified with nutrients not normally found in candies.
Part of this is because of the perception that candy is to blame for the current obesity crisis. Vending machines are being removed from schools and where they still exists, the snacks must pass a rigorous test to be deemed healthy enough to be included. (Some ban high-calorie portions, others put limits on the fat ratio and/or the sugar content. More here.)
In order to maintain their marketshare many confectionery companies are tweaking their candies to stay in the diets of kids everywhere. Sunkist is pretty much synonymous with fruit so it’s a pretty good guess they’d want any candy with their name on it to be regarded as healthy. So they’ve launched some Better For You! gummi.
Not only do they have 100% of the RDA of vitamin C and are made with fruit juice but they also state that they contain 35% less sugar than average leading gummi.
The ingredients go like this:
What’s nice is that Sunkist went with a combination of sugar alcohols (sorbitol and maltitol) instead of artificial sweeteners but still kept sugar and corn syrup as the primary sweeteners here. Sugar alcohols can cause intestinal distress in some people, so I took it very slow with these.
They look gorgeous. No kid is going to look at these and not think that they’re soft and fruity gummi. As a whole they smell like fruit punch.
Each piece is formed like the fruit it’s flavored for.
Cherry - rather medicine-like. Tart and sweet, very soft.
Strawberry - looks more like a shoe tread than a fruit, but still nicely fragrant and fruity, only slightly tangy but basically tasty. There’s a slight throat burn towards the end. These were redder than the cherries so I blame my personal nemesis Red 40, your mileage may vary.
Lemon - I expect great things from a lemon product from Sunkist, which made its name on citrus. This doesn’t disappoint. The shape is perfect, the chew is soft and the flavor is a blend of tartness, sweetness and zestiness. It could be a little more intense, but overall a great middle of the road lemon gummi.
Orange - the little translucent orange slices are just lovely. They smell like orange zest and are surprisingly complex with lots of zest to back up the light tart bite.
So they make a believable candy. And nutritionally? Well the sparing use of the sugar substitutes means that these clock in at a mere 78 calories per ounce. 31 grams are carbohydrates but 11 of them are from the sugar alcohols per 40 gram serving (which amounts to 110 calories). There are no other fortifications ... no crazy fish oil or Zinc or anything to give the gummi a crazy aftertaste. Just 100% of the RDA of vitamin C in every serving.
Though the package says 35% less sugar, it’s not that significant in the whole scheme of things. Regular gummi have about 100 calories per ounce ... but really, how many are you eating? I suppose if you’re eating gummi every day you can save yourself 150 or so calories per week. (Every bit helps!) As long as you’re not sensitive to the use of sorbitol or maltitol.
On the whole only half of the flavors were of interest to me and the very soft texture and threat of an evening in the bathroom isn’t enough for me to buy them again. But they might be right for some folks.
As with all true gummi, these are made with gelatin and are unsuitable for vegetarians. (Note: while Sunkist Fruit Gems are made by Jelly Belly here in the USA, these are made under license from Sunkist by Healthy Food Brands in China.)
Tuesday, June 3, 2008
I like the kind of sour stuff that gets the jaw a-tingling, stuff that has a bit of flavor to go along with the intense acidity. Warheads by Impact Confections makes some pretty intensely sour stuff, but their new QBZ are simply rated sour on their intensity scale. (The Warheads Junior Extreme Sour are two steps above.)
These little gem cubes come in Green Apple, Strawberry, Blue Raspberry & Watermelon. They’re marketed as “bite-sized, sour-coated cubes don’t stick to teeth like many chewy candies.” I picked these up at Walgreens in a cute single serve package.
They are actually little cubes, a bit irregular but brightly colored. They have a little sugary/sour sanding on them to keep them from sticking together.
They have an easy, soft bite, a bit of a cross between a fruit jelly and a gummi (they do have gelatin in them).
Pink: Watermelon - the outer coating is tangy and has that metallic watermelon taste to it.
Green : Green Apple - a bit more tangy than watermelon, it has a kind of double flavor to it. At first it’s quite sour and then has a chemical apple taste. Then the chewy center tastes a bit more like apple juice.
Red : Strawberry - tart but not blastingly so, the strawberry flavor is pretty good.
Blue : Blue Raspberry - a nice fruity, jam taste with the sour coating.
These are definitely edible, not something you’d only do for a dare. The flavor mix is fun though I’m mystified why there’s no orange or lemon in there as they are actually flavors that are supposed to be sour.
They’re fun to eat either way - you can suck the sour powder off and get a really intense tingly kick or chew it quickly to mix the tangy outer coating with the milder, more flavorful center.
I think I still prefer the sour gummi bears, but then again those just had a flavor variety that I prefer. These are also similar to the Albanese Beeps (Caitlin at Candy Addict reviewed them here). Albanese is made in the USA, Warheads are made in China.
Preferences aside, these may be easier to find than other, better gummi sour options or, of course, Sour Patch Kids.
Thursday, May 29, 2008
Please note, I’m not a gamer. I do play, but not enough to be anything more than personally aware of how addictive and fun these things can be, but it takes a special game to suck me in. At home we have an XBOX 360 right now (loved the Lego Star Wars last summer), before that it was a PS2 and before that it was a Turbo Grafx (well, that wasn’t technically mine, I was “storing” it for my brother while he was living in Europe).
I’ve never played the Wii, but I totally see the attraction and I love the selection of games.
To capitalize on the affection folks have for their platforms, Au’some has these cute little Wii Klik-on Candy Dispensers shaped like the innovative game controllers (Wiimote).
It’s just a dispenser, like PEZ, and it comes with four rolls of candy - two Smarties-like rolls and two mini-rolls of Smarties Bubble Gum. The rolls fit in the battery compartment (because they’re the same size as batteries).
In order to load the candy package, just slide the faceplate up and it reveals a small empty space (probably where there’d be some circuitry if it worked). The candies are placed flat then the controller tipped down slightly, the little trigger button on the underside of the top is pressed, and bingo, a piece of candy comes out.
PEZ does not fit in the Wii Candy Dispenser, just like Nintendo Wii games don’t work in XBox 360.
I think the design of the item is pretty cute. I wish it put out really cool candy, it’s like they spent all that time on the plastic box and then said, “Eh, throw some Smarties in there.” It doesn’t even hold a whole roll of Smarties at once (though the battery compartment holding more is pretty ingenious). Filling it with something better would improve the appeal of this.
The retail price on these is $2 or so, but who knows what they’re going for in the wild. I got this one as a sample from All Candy Expo. They can be found on the internet and at places like Urban Outfitters.
Rating: 5 out of 10
On the other side of things, Au’some has another line of candies also themed off of a more classic Nintendo product: Mario Bros. They’re called Nintendo 3D Gummy Candies.
The Donkey Kong & Mario Bros. characters have been around since 1981 and have become recurring characters in the Nintendo game pantheon, so these aren’t some flash in the pan licensing tie-ins. Even if you’ve never played or haven’t in years, most of us have great affection for the little Italian plumber who battles the strange ape named Donkey.
Mario is a hardworking guy. Not only does he hold a contractors license and perform excellent plumbing work, in the original version of the game he was a carpenter. He’s also a superhero. He can rescue a damsel in distress or vanquish an infestation of angry apes all on the clock.
The Mario 3D Gummi is, well, awesome. It’s actually three dimensional. At about 2.75 inches tall, he’s the same height as his gummi brethren, though pretty narrow (I guess he slimmed down for his session with the mold-maker). His little hat has an M on it and he has big work boots.
The texture of the gummis short, that is, biting into it, it’s not at all stringy. It’s more like Jell-O than Swedish Fish.
Mario is Strawberry. He’s sweet and slightly floral, a little tangy and has a well-rounded artificial berry flavor. I think he’s two bites, but it’s up to you.
Donkey Kong actually started this whole thing with his game named after him. Mario was simply known as Jumpman back then. Donkey didn’t have much of a personality either, he was just angry and grabby.
In later years Donkey Kong started wearing a tie, which might have caused part of his anger issue (it was the go-go-eighties, even Donkey Kong learned a lot from Gordon Gecko). But Donkey Kong never really returned to his primary role, this is the sad fate of monsters.
In this gummi Donkey Kong is Orange in both color and flavor. He’s actually rather sparkly. The flavor of the gummi isn’t particularly complex, rather like concentrated Tang.
Definitely one of my favorites and it wouldn’t be a batch of gummis without Donkey Kong or an orange flavor.
Diddy Kong is probably not even technically a Kong. (I think they call him a nephew somewhere, but that’s like saying that humans and orangutans are cousins.) Though he’s some sort of ape, he’s not the same species as Donkey Kong. I think he’s some sort of chimp, as far as I can tell (he has smaller, narrower chest).
But he also wears a cap and tee shirt. While Donkey Kong was the big bad guy in many of the adventures, Diddy is the one who sets off to rescue Donkey Kong, in a way redeeming the Kong family name.
(For a while I thought it was Donkey Kong Junior, feel free to dispute this in the comments.)
He’s a lovely aqua color and Raspberry flavored. Tangy, pretty zesty and flavorful.
Finally we have Yoshi. Yoshi is some sort of baby dinosaur and is one of the only characters who displays any sense of self preservation (when you’re not in control of course) and actually runs from danger.
His large snout makes it nearly impossible to sit this gummi upright (if you feel like lining them all up like some sort of action figure display). I took this photo by holding him in place, releasing my finger, then snapping the shot before he fell over.
While he’s cute and has wonderful detail with his little crest and buggy eyes, the flavor is weird. I think it’s supposed to be watermelon or green apple. It’s kind of metallic but tangy. It’s not bad as long as you don’t get too hung up on what it is.
The Nintendo 3D Gummy Candies are available in bags at grocery stores, drug stores and at other specialty shops. I got mine from CandyWarehouse, who sells them in bulk, just individually wrapped. (Of course you also end up with a 100 of them.) It’s a much better price than most of the smaller packages. Individual wrapping means they stay fresh and you can throw them in a bowl at a party or gaming night.
Rating: 7 out of 10
(If video games aren’t your bag but you think that this 3-D Gummi technology is cool enough to eat, try the Wildlife ones where they also say that they’re donating money to protect endangered species.)
Victoria has a cool list of other Nintendo-themed candies at Candy Addict.
Thursday, May 22, 2008
I know I don’t do many gum reviews, I don’t consider myself a great connoisseur of the stuff. I’m perfectly happy with good old Peppermint Chiklets. But the All Candy Expo box included about 25 packages of gum, here are three that caught my attention:
Glee Gum Bubblegum Flavor: The natural pink coloring here is from beets and I can’t think of a more lovely way for a beet to be displayed. The little chicklets in this case are made with actual chicle, a natural sap from Manilkara trees native to the Americas. Very few gums are made with this natural base these days. Harvesting the gum from the trees is rather like tapping Maple trees for sap or Rubber trees for latex - it doesn’t harm the trees and helps to preserve forest & their inhabitants. (Though they harvest it by making huge gashes in the bark that allow the gum to ooze out for collection unlike the little metal spiked taps that they use for maple harvests, the trees are essentially unharmed.)
I’ve tried Glee before, it’s sold at the checkout at Trader Joe’s and the infectiously cute box tempts me every time. I didn’t care for orange, which seemed grainier and stuck to my fillings, but have had the peppermint a few times since then.
The crunchy sugar shell is lightly flavored, bubblegum flavor is usually fresh tasting, a little like cotton candy with a little dash of root beer. The sugary sweetness doesn’t last that long, then it’s a very mild flavor and a good soft & smooth chew.
I have had some of my amalgam fillings replaced with composite, so I’m not having the sticking problem I used to. I don’t think the bubblegum flavor is for me, probably because it’s not actually bubble gum. (See more about this all natural gum at the Glee Gum website.)
Rating: 7 out of 10
WOWzers Strawberry from Maxim International describes itself on the package as Explosive and Sour Powder Bubble Gum. I wasn’t really sure what it was. At first I thought it was a tube of something like Pixy Stix that you chew until it becomes gum (like a powdered Razzle).
Instead, it’s a long tube of bubble gum (strawberry flavored, in this case) about as big around as a bubble gum cigar. Inside it’s hollow and filled with a white crumbly, crunchy & grainy sour powder (a la Pixy Stix).
It feels overpackaged. It’s inside a long mylar wrapper, which has a little waxed cardstock tray that wraps around three sides of the product. The version I have is 1.2 ounces but the one I teased yesterday are 3.6 ounces (and probably about three times the length). They also come in Fruit Punch, Apple & Grape.
First, the product looks, well, a little odd out of the package. Kind of like a 9 inch long extremely thin hot dog. It’s not made into individual portions, which I’d figure is about 2 inches.
The bite is soft and easy, immediately tangy and grainy. The candy sand dissolves and dissipates pretty quickly. It’s sour and certainly gets the salivary glands working, much in the way the old Quench Gum did. After that wears away with chewing it’s a rather sweet and plain strawberry bubble gum. It’s a very soft chew which takes a while before it’s appropriate for bubble blowing.
These are made in China. I don’t think they’re for me, but it’s a fun new blend of confections and might please some kids.
Rating: 5 out of 10
Okay, I was kind of liberal with the “pink” part of the title. Hubba Bubba Glop Strawberry Gush is actually red when it comes out of the package. It gets pink when you chew it. It also comes in watermelon flavor.
These are already available on stores, I saw them at CVS in Hollywood earlier this week. They come in a hard plastic tube with a flip top. It seems like a bit too much packaging, though I can see a few ways to reuse the tube, which is coded 05 (polypropylene) for recycling. The outer wrap comes off, so it’d just be a plain red tube good for holding extra batteries, more candy, a very small portion of carrot sticks, condiments or some headphones.
While most gumballs are hollow, the glop part of this gum fills that void. The gum has a hard crunchy shell, then the soft and sweet gum then a reservoir of sweet strawberry goo in the center. The goo is tangy and sticky, but pretty flavorful.
It’s a good chewing bubble gum. I don’t think I need the gooey center, but it’s interesting and as long as you know it’s going to be there, adds some more flavor. The bubbles were good, large without being too sticky. A single piece was a good portion for chewing.
(I’m really intrigued by this Cola version available in Australia - regular Hubba Bubba is also available in Cola flavor in other parts of the world.)
Rating: 7 out of 10
Friday, March 21, 2008
Here are a few combo candy-toy items for Easter baskets and beyond:
I thought this little M&Ms mini figure was pretty cute. He’s made of some sort of durable hard plastic, not that cheap thin stuff.
The little figure is full of mini M&Ms. They’re regular M&Ms, not the Easter pastel version, but I’m okay with that.
The most vexing thing about this is the little hat that twists/pops off to reveal the candy. It was like a frelling child safety cap without the insane instructions.
There were a few varieties, including Green, Red and Yellow. I liked the Blue because it felt most like Easter pastels even if he did have some sort of a goofy look on his face. I don’t know if the bunny hats are swappable for other non-holiday novelties.
It was expensive for the scant amount of candy involved, $1.99 regular price. But a fun grab next week on sale, perhaps.
When I was a teenager I had a thing for sheep items. (Well, in college we actually had a sheep living at a house I was renting a room at, but he was more of a lawnmower.)
My obsession caused me to rewrite passages of Shakespeare with sheep in mind:
I’ve kind of moved on from the sheep thing (though if I ever have one I get to name, he’ll be called Fleance).
While this little cheap plastic egg with sheep features was only 99 cents, it also only has give Hershey’s Kisses in them. (At least they’re pastel foil.)
Moving up in price, Candyrific recently expanded their toy/candy line with some M&Ms themed items.
They fall more in the realm of toys than candy containers and are pretty fun combinations.
The first is a set of fans. Candyrific came out with a really good candy novelty a couple of years ago, which is the fan that has little LED lights on it and a candy container in the handle. This new version has the M&Ms characters in various colors holding the fan. The central container at the base of the handle holds .7 ounces of regular M&Ms. (There’s supposedly a version of this for Easter, but I got the year-round version as a sample and haven’t seen the pastel ones with bunny ears in stores.)
The second is a miniature Etch A Sketch that holds a small fun-sized pack of M&Ms.
I have to admit that I enjoy these a lot. I don’t care about the candy inside. I wish that they lit up like the other versions do, but I’m guessing the money they spend on those LEDs in this instance goes to M&MS for the licensing of the characters. But at least they have real M&Ms in there.
They’re well made and even have a real battery compartment that can be opened and replaced for actual lasting play.
I really could have used a few of these last September during that blackout on Labor Day weekend where my house was over 100 degrees inside.
The fan blade is made of a soft foam, and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t hurt myself with it. Maybe if I stuck it in my eye. (Please don’t try that, or if you do, please don’t blame me.)
The other fun item is this little Etch A Sketch with a couple of M&Ms on there. They come in a few different colors, but they’re pretty much the same. I had an Etch A Sketch as a kid and enjoyed it ... actually got pretty good at drawing on it. This one doesn’t work quite as well, the little stylus draws a very thin line, probably a little too thin on the first pass, so I ended up going over my lines twice.
The biggest drawback is trying to clear the Etch A Sketch, which everyone knows involves turning it over and shaking it wildly. With the M&Ms in the little container part it makes a lotta noise and to clear the EAS properly, I broke some of my M&MS.
There is an easy solution to this of course, just take the lid off (the part that has the EAS on it) and just shake that. Like my problems with getting the hat off of the Easter minis, I’m sure a child would figure this out much quicker than I did.
The last item is a bit of a re-review of one of my favorite candy novelties so far, an Easter version of the Gummy Lightning Bugs.
This version has little gummy rabbits and is called Lightning Bunny Candy by Kandy Kastle. They’re all one flavor, instead of a mix. I was worried when I saw that they’re all red, but it’s cool, they’re strawberry, not cherry.
For only 99 cents there are 9 little gummis and the cute purple light up tongs.
The package said that the tongs were redesigned. Actually, it says “New & Improved Tong Included” so they’re better than before and there’s only one. (Tongs, I’m guessing are like scissors and pants and are always plural.)
The tongs aren’t really improved, if you ask me. They’re just shorter than before, probably easier to grasp for little fingers and they don’t stay on as readily, which probably provides a lot more longevity.
This is the kind of exploratory toy that I think is good for kids. It makes them slow down and really look at everyday things in a different way.
I tried them on some other items, they don’t open as widely as they used to, so anything as large as say, a Spearmint Leaf is too big. But small items like jelly beans (awesome!) and chocolate covered coffee beans (boring) are the right size.
I think adding a little toy in an Easter basket is fun. (I think the best one I ever got was a kite, which me & my brother and sister took out to the field across the street behind the cemetery and promptly got caught in a tree within an hour.)
The Hershey’s one isn’t the best toy in the world, but the design is nice. The filled M&M is also nice and certainly well built, but doesn’t offer much opportunity for interaction. I can see it being collectible though. The fan & Etch A Sketch are the best of the bunch, but a little pricier for “candy” items at $3.99 retail, but still a good value for a small toy.
If parents are looking for a way to still have a bit of bounty in the basket, a novelty item that contains a small amount of candy (especially something that can be refilled on a regular basis) is a good compromise. I mean, I wouldn’t have felt cheated if I got one of these as a kid.
They all get a solid 7 out of 10. The Lightning Bunny was made in China, in all other cases the candy was made in the USA, but the toys were made in China.
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
Now it’s Easter season and time to trot out these cute little baby farm creatures. The package calls them Artificially Flavored Marshmallow candies, which doesn’t really explain them that well. Inside there are 10 little pouches that hold 9 or 10 candies in each.
The candies come in two shapes: Chick & Bunny (could you have guessed?). They also come in four colors: yellow, lavender, fuschia and turquoise.
They’re really cute. The colors are vibrant and actually go through and through, the insides are soft pastel versions of the exterior colors.
Each is about the size of a Flintstone’s Chewable Vitamin, but happily tastes nothing like it. They’re not a compressed dextrose candy (like SweeTarts), these are made of sugar and corn syrup (like marshmallows, actually).
They’re very crunchy and have a light marshmallow flavor. Marshmallow flavor? Well, it’s kind of like the lightest fake vanilla and light sugar. Kind of like a tasteless Altoid.
Not really something I want to eat as a candy, but they are really cute and the bags are really tiny, so it’s an appropriate size indulgence. (Heck, each bag has only 36 calories.) They’re probably better as decorations ... on cupcakes ... scatter them around on the table or maybe in a mix of other candies. I suppose you could also use them for a Peeps Mash Up. They certainly maintain the Peeps appeal as being one primarily of appearance.
Just Born raised a bit of a controversy last year when they introduced their Spooky Friends individually wrapped Halloween marshmallows. Instead of being manufactured in Bethlehem, PA, they were made in China. Though the company says that this is the first time they has outsourced their production, it’s not the first time that they’ve licensed their name. Flix introduced the Peeps Lollipop Rings & Slider Pops last year, which are also made in China, just as these are.
Just Born also added new Tulip shaped Peeps to their line this spring.
Thursday, February 14, 2008
IIt has a simple name, Marshmallow Lollipop. t’s a pig shaped marshmallow pop, and it’s pretty big at 3.2 ounces of fluffed sugar and gelatin. They’re made by Confectionery Lane and actually come in some much more attractive versions such as decorated hearts. (Serious Eats has the Winnie the Pooh.)
While the idea of a pig shaped creature holding a little heart that says love may only be compelling to the Cute Overload fanatics, I can see that there may be a niche of people out there that perhaps enjoy food shaped like the ingredients (what is gelatin made of, after all?) or perhaps someone has a nickname of Piglet ... maybe they raise pigs or had one as a 4H project ... oh, maybe they have pink skin!
This sizeable puff has, well, its size going for it. The lettering on it is rather clumsy. The pig’s face is cute enough but the body is kind of hard to understand and of course it’s not really a three dimensional candy, the back side is simply flat.
It smells kind of like Fruity Pebbles. It tastes like, well, tangy latex.
The texture is actually rather nice, very moist and consistent. But the flavor is just awful.
So I thought I’d toast it. It’s already on a stick, so why not?
Since the marshmallow was so moist it became really runny on the inside rather quickly, but the outside toasted up nicely.
But a tart and flavored marshmallow is not the same as a regular marshmallow (certainly not like the lovely marshmallows from earlier this week). Really disappointing. I ate about three bites and threw the rest of it out.
Oddly enough the nutrition label says that a single serving is the whole pop and is 260 calories. (I guess you can’t really cut off pieces and save the rest for later.)
Confectionery Lane sounds like a quaint company, but really they’re just a brand name used by East-West Distributing Co., which is owned and operated by Walgreen’s. There are lots of other cute and thoughtful Valentines gifts you can pick up, even on February 15th. This isn’t even worth free.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.