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.
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
What’s so different about them is that they’re individually wrapped. Oooh .... you know what that means? They’re not conjoined. There’s no little sticky spot where they’re separated from their row of quadruplicate siblings.
It also opens up the possibility for some diversity in a single package. This bag of 54 individually wrapped Peeps has three different shapes: Googly-Eyed Green Mummy, Purple-Eyed Jack ‘o Lantern & Shrugging Ghost. (There are other mixes that have skeletons, bats and spiders.)
While I love the idea of being able to give out fun little sugar puffs to kids for Halloween, I feel like they may think it’s a practical joke when they try to get the little packets open. Let’s hope their parents let them have scissors, because that’s what I resorted to.
I thought these would be the same as regular Peeps, and I happened to have some regular Easter Peeps around for comparison. Here’s what I found:
Spooky Friends taste like vanilla, regular Peeps taste like lightly toasted sugar.
Spooky Friends are not as fluffy and some are tacky & stiff. (Mostly the Ghost.)
Spooky Friends insides are colored, the Pumpkin is slightly peach and the Mummy is lightly green. (The Ghost is still white.)
Spooky Friends are smaller than regular Peeps. (This means that each has fewer calories though, at only 28 each instead of 32 for a conjoined Peep.)
The main thing that detracted from any recommendation for Spooky Friends is that they’re not as puffy and therefore do not work with Peeps Mash Ups as well. I rather liked the light vanilla flavor, but I missed the springly-lofty texture. They also didn’t seem to get stale as easily, but I’ve only had them for a week ... poking holes in each package in order to let them get dried out isn’t really that practical either. They have their selling points but they’re still not going to get a better rating than the original.
At about 9 cents a marshmallow, they’re cheaper per item than the Frankford Marshmallow Pals, but they’re more expensive per ounce. Since they’re both made in China, I can’t see why you wouldn’t go for the more detailed Frankford Marshmallow Pals ... unless you don’t like coconut flavor.
The package notes that Peeps are Gluten Free.
UPDATE 10/31/2008: It does not appear that Just Born continued this product. I have not seen it for 2008.
Monday, October 15, 2007
Here’s a jolly little set of marshmallows just for Halloween: Frankford Marshmallow Pals. They were pretty affordable, just $1.99 for a package of 18 individually wrapped marshmallows - that’s about 11 cents each. That’s always the tough thing about marshmallows ... you can’t just open a bag of Jet Puffs and toss them in trick-or-treaters’ bags, even though they’re pretty cheap. So the little wrappers help quite a bit on that front.
Shaped marshmallows are certainly nothing new and Just Born with their Peeps line may be the epitome of seasonal marshmallows. But Frankford has definitely come up with something that sets it apart.
There are four different shapes in this mix: Jack O Lantern, Green Dracula, Even Greener Frankenstein Monster and Orange Witch.
Each is decorated with frosting, and may I say they did a really good job. Though some of them were a little smashed inside the package, they puffed back up again pretty well. The sugary coating also kept them from sticking to the wrapper. Each face has little frosting eyes, often hair and an expression on its mouth. They all look slightly different, when I pulled out all the Draculas, some looked slightly Asian, others downright fierce and one a bit cross-eyed with something of a dorky smile.
The color of the face is the same color of the marshmallow through and through. (Unlike Peeps, who are only colored on the outside.)
The marshmallows themselves as firm but moist. They have a latexy quality that gives them a very long chew. The flavor is lightly coconut, which I found pleasant and summery. Honestly, I prefer my marshmallows to taste like something. The frosting added a little crunch and it was a relief to find out that it wasn’t waxy like the eyeballs on Peeps.
Though I’m not really keen on eating marshmallows alone, the flavor helped. The really cute attention to details and vibrant colors swayed me. As an indulgence, they’re quite low in calories (being mostly air and having no fat): 38 calories per Pal. They contain gelatin and are not suitable for vegetarians. The package does not mention gluten or nuts though there appears to be no wheat/nut products in the ingredients.
These were made in China.
Thursday, October 4, 2007
I’ve seen them at Japanese grocers and Aji Ichiban before, but never packaged just for Americans. And certainly never in these sassy little three puff portions.
Enter GudFud. They’re here to bring us the Asian foamy sweets. They’re packaged to look like they’re Japanese (terribly cute and with Japanese characters on the label, what they say, I know not) but they’re actually made in China. I tried some before and wrote about them here.
I’ve never considered jelly and marshmallows “food”, but perhaps I can start thinking of them as “foood.”
The little individually wrapped Fruit Jelly Stuffed Marshmallows are a bit smashed when inside the package but fluff back up pretty quickly. There’s a lot of packaging, which I guess I didn’t notice at first because it’s mostly clear. The fruity ones were cute and once unwrapped, completely identical on the outside.
The jelly center is where things get different. The jelly is smooth and soft, not quite flowing, but not quite firm like an “orange slice” would be. Really, kind of like the jelly you’d spread on your toast. The flavor is mild, a little tangy, not terribly complex ... just, well nice.
The mix of fruit and marshmallow isn’t really great in my mind. So I tried toasting a package or two. They toasted nicely, though the center didn’t get that molten consistency that I’m used to with Jet or Kraft marshmallows. The marshmallow skin puffed well and browned (well, one caught on fire, but consider it a sacrifice to the marshmallow fire god). Still, the toasted flavor and jelly didn’t really grab me either.
So what about a Chocolate Stuffed Marshmallow. Though each of these are the same, the little packages still have a different little character on them. Each with a different reaction to getting a chocolate bar stuffed into their cranium.
The chocolate filling isn’t firm, it’s soft and easy to bite. It still doesn’t have a lot of chocolate oomph to it, more like a chocolate cream.
I like that the package has three marshmallows in it and you might be able to just pick them up where you buy candy bars. For those on calorie-restricted diets, a single package with three marshmallows is only 50 calories and practically no fat. I don’t know how satisfying they’d be, you might burn more calories opening all the wrappers than you’ll take in from the treats.
I expect they’ll start showing up in stores soon (they pretty much debuted at the All Candy Expo). If they came in large bags they could be fun Halloween treats. (You can buy a box of singles through their phone order system.)
Check out Sera’s review on Candy Addict.
Wednesday, August 8, 2007
Oh, the lovely commenters here are blessed, blessed friends to have told me of this Mentos assortment ... the assortment of my dreams!
Citrus candies are my absolute favorite and of course the Pink Grapefruit Mentos are divine. There are parts of the world where you can get these, Mentos Plus Citrus Mix. They’re fortified with Vitamin C and come in an assortment of three flavors: orange, pink grapefruit and lime.
At first I was thinking, Lime? Why not Lemon? But they pulled it off, a Lime as spectacular as Pink Grapefruit is. It’s zesty and slightly bitter but doesn’t give me any images of housecleaning products. Just clean, clean limes.
Orange was nice and juicy. Not quite zesty enough for me, but far and away better than the American Orange Mentos that we get in the regular mixed Fruit roll here.
Here’s another curiosity from the label. The Fuji Apple ones I reviewed didn’t have gelatin in them (and were halal) but mentioned Gellan Gum. This box has no gelatin or gellan gum, instead lists starch and gum arabic as the thickeners. It also bears the halal seal. I find it amazing that Mentos have so many different recipes worldwide. (This package also contains 2.5% fruit juice.) If you don’t have any problems with sugar these look like they’re vegan (no beeswax or insect-derived colors) but please read all labels as I’m finding that this may not be the case with every package.
The package is about 1.5 ounces (42 grams) and I counted 18 pieces in the box. The vitamin C content is 4 mg per piece.
These should definitely be made available in America. If they’re not going to give us rolls of the Pink Grapefruit, they should really include them in a mix like this. They’re just so darn pretty, too. Repackage them for weddings in little clear boxes to show off the delicate pastels and they could knock Jordan Almonds out of favor.
Special thanks go out today to Santos for bringing me these three lovely (if now empty) boxes of Mentos. These were made in China for the Philippines. I think they also sell them in Australia. Has anyone else spotted them for sale in their area?
Tuesday, July 31, 2007
Today I’m sampling the fantabulous and refreshing Mentos Fuji Apple.
The Green Apple Mentos that are pretty easy to find domestically (sometimes they’re labeled for Canadian sale and say Pomme Vert), but they’re definitely not the same thing. The Green Apple Mentos taste like that wonderful artificial green apple. Kind of plastic but puckeringly pleasant.
The Fuji Apple Mentos are a lovely off white color, like the inside of a freshly sliced apple.
Fuji Apple, well, is awesome. It replicates that crisp apple flavor so well. A little bit of the apple skin and a lot of the tart tingly flavor of real apples. They say they have “nature identical flavors” in there on the ingredients, for whatever that’s worth. If you’re a candy swapper or planning a visit to Asia and looking for something inexpensive to bring home for your pet-sitter, this might be the thing.
This candy was made in China and labeled for the Philippine market.
The Mentos USA website says they have a “Flavors of the World” store, but they are sadly lacking in the really great flavors they do offer overseas. Oh, how I wish that they did carry the true global varieties. Japan, Philippines and China all carry this flavor and it’s possible you can pick them up in Australia easily. I haven’t seen them in the Asian markets in Los Angeles (but I haven’t looked very hard since Santos always hooks me up).
Note: these Mentos have no gelatin in them as the American and European ones do but contain something called Gellan Gum instead as a thickening agent. They are not certified Halal or Kosher though (I have some others that I’ll post about that are Halal). Maybe some vegans can weigh in on whether Gellan Gum (derived from bacterial cultures) is on the approved list.
Another curiosity ... in the US Mentos are usually called Chewy Mint on the package. Just about everywhere else they’re called Chewy Dragees.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.