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.
Friday, July 23, 2010
I’ve been tempted for the past few months by the Hello Kitty Lucky Stars Candy at Cost Plus World Market. I resisted, I actually did. But then a package turned up from Sweets & Snacks Expo with some samples and this was among them.
The cute tin is shaped like a Chinese food takeout container, complete with little metal carrying handle.
The tin holds 1.5 ounces of red and white compressed dextrose stars.
The base is 2 inches square, the top is about 2.125, so it has slightly tapered sides. It’s about 2 inches tall as well. The top fits nicely and even has little embossing like the flip top would. The red enameled finish and decoration is very nicely done. Everything is well made on the package, no sharp edge while the carrying handle swings easily.
Both the tin and the candy inside is made in China.
The stars are a shiny glazed compressed dextrose, like SweeTarts, but not actually tart at all. They’re about a half an inch across and rather thick. The mold is nicely shaped, they remind me of little sheriff’s badges. I think they’re the same flavor ... possibly some sort of pineapple. Of course the red ones taste like red food coloring, which I suppose is better than the taste of cadmium or lead that probably comes from licking the actual tin.
They’re crunchy and satisfying, like tiny Sprees without the tangy note.
If you’re buying this candy, you’re buying it for the packaging. Which is fine, it’s a cute little tin and it would be great for something like rubber bands, paperclips or those weird scented erasers. The little plastic bag inside only fills up half the tin anyway. It’s easy to refill with anything else.
Sunday, July 11, 2010
South Africa Marshmallow Footballers are made by a company called Sweet Cred based in the United Kingdom, which sounds more like an casual clothing company than someone who makes confections. They specialize in gummies, sour ropes and marshmallows along with novelty shapes and holiday themes. The candies themselves are made in China.
Inside the package is a tray with eight little pockets to hold the Footballers. Yes, eight. Not eleven. Maybe it’s a metric conversion thing. You don’t get a whole team.
It’s only 88 grams (which means each candy is just 11 grams) but a huge package - about the footprint of a sheet of A4 paper.
The marshmallow figures are wearing the uniform colors of the South Africa national team. But that’s about as far as the resemblance goes. They’re mostly “peachy” looking guys, but a few are what I’d call “violet putty” color, certainly nothing like the real team. Did you look at the photo there? Yeah, none of them have green hair or huge, puffy noses.
As decorated marshmallow candies, there’s a lot more to them than just the ordinary sugar crusted Marshmallow Peep. These are frosted in several colors and then coated in a sugar crust. They’re a basic strawberry flavor as far as I can tell.
The marshmallow in the center is whatever color the footballer’s flesh is, but it’s all the same flavor after that. The hair, stripes, eyes, smiles and shoelaces are frosted after the sugar crust and are quite a bit more crunchy. The clothing is simply chewier than the marshmallow.
The texture is soft and latexy, it has a nice foamy chew to it but it’s very sweet, even when I took bites without the sugar crusting. Each piece feels like a lot of candy - it’s about three inches high and only a little over a third of an ounce. Kids will probably enjoy them, especially those fascinated with soccer (football).
The candy reminded me of so many other Chinese marshmallow candies I’ve had. It’s passable stuff and in the case of Sweet Cred, they’ve gone the extra mile and are sourcing beef gelatin, so these are Halal.
As with many of the novelty marshmallows I’ve had, I think they make better edible decorations than actual edible products. So for cupcakes or a cake or just a fun buffet in celebration of the World Cup, these would be great. They’re probably also great for giving to kids with vuvuzelas, if only to make them stop for the minute that it takes for them to gobble these.
These were sent to me by a wonderful reader (along with some other items I’ll get to reviewing, like premium nougat).
Monday, June 28, 2010
Back around Easter I got a hold of some stunning looking 3-Dees gummis from Au’some. Of course those are a seasonal item, so I wanted to try their year round products. What sounded even better was their 3-Dees Natural Fruit Snacks. They’re large, three dimensionally molded gummis made with natural flavors and colors plus a little vitamin C. They come in four different animal shapes. On top of that Au’some donates 3% of their proceeds to the Wildlife Conservation Society.
The back of the box has fun facts about each of the animals. Not the ordinary stuff like “elephants are big” instead I found them interesting for all ages, like “An elephant’s ears can be used to cool the body on a hot day.” and “Polar bears paddle with their front feet and steer with their hind feet when swimming.”
The box is pretty big, bigger than it probably needs to be, but formatted more like the fruit snack boxes in the breakfast cereal aisle than the candy packages.
The ingredients are printed in large type on the back, not the micro print down the side of the box. The first ingredient is a mix of fruit juices that includes pear, strawberry, apple, blueberry and orange from concentrate, then sugar, water, rice syrup, gelatin, citric acid, pectin, buffered lactic acid, spirulina and safflower extracts, sodium citrate, ascorbic acid, natural flavors, purple carrot extract and turmeric (both for color). They’re made in a nut free facility but it doesn’t say anything about the gluten status.
They’re called fruit snacks, but from the ingredients (and having eaten them) they’re gummis, just with a little bit nicer list of ingredients than the standard Trolli or Haribo available here.
There are eight little packets that hold about a 1/2 ounce (.56 ounces) portion - which is 50 calories. This portion is two gummis. Sounds kind of stingy, but they’re quite beefy. The flavors are Strawberry, Blueberry, Orange and Apple. They random colors and come in four shapes: Tiger, Polar Bear, Elephant and Chimpazee.
The gummis are amazingly crafted. They’re large, easy to handle and of course nicely detailed on all sides. Most stand up, like little pliable & edible statues.
Orange is quite tangy and juicy. It’s not quite zesty. The texture is soft and more like eating a very firm Jell-O than a German-style gummi. It’s moist and squishy and has a kind of crumbly bite ... not soft enough to liquefy through the teeth though.
Blueberry was red, rather like the strawberry one, but the taste is distinctive. The flavor is immediately a believable blueberry, a little like iced tea and a little like blueberry jam or pie. There’s a boiled sugar note to it, which I enjoyed. It’s a little tangy, but sweeter than the orange. There’s a little bitter note in there, like tea or sometimes the skins of blueberries can be.
The big difference between these and the Easter or Valentines ones, besides the ingredients is that they don’t come in little molds. The naturals ones get a little squished up, so for some of them I had to kind of help the trunk of the elephant or the chimpanzee had bad posture.
Apple was also an amber color, which makes sense because that’s what apple juice looks like. The flavor was a combination of the tangy “green apple” from Jolly Rancher and the more sedate and syrupy flavor of apple juice. There was an almost-fizzy bite to it that I liked. It was one of those candies that didn’t taste like an all natural compromise - completely mainstream in every way.
Strawberry was also reddish like the blueberry. I know the chimp is orange ... so pretend. It’s like a middle of the road strawberry jam. No seeds but a definite berry/floral vibe. It’s not as intense as the others, but just as pleasant.
The packaging didn’t wow me, but I’m guessing since children are the target here. The fact that they’re already in pouches in respectable portions is an attractive option for parents. I liked all of the shapes except for the Chimp. Of course I’d want a dolphin or sea lion or something, but maybe they’ll do a marine mammal version of them.
They’re less like fruit snacks and more of a true gummi, so again, less of a compromise for parents who don’t want artificial colors but still want their kids to feel indulged with a treat. They’re not terribly sticky either ... though everyone knows a six year old has magical powers to make everything sticky. (Don’t let small children play with them though, as they could be a choking hazard.)
While these are natural and sold as fruit snacks, there’s another version that’s not all natural that are sold in move theater style boxes. Inside they were individually wrapped. (I didn’t take a photo of them for review - but I found them at Walgreen’s, so they’re easier to come by.)
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
I’m sure some folks recognize it, it’s a Super Mario Power Up Box. Inside this mystery block are eight power ups: Starman, Super Mushroom and the gold coin in the form of Snerdles.
Next question: What are Snerdles? They’re are a candy mosaic made by Au’some. Chewy fruit strips covered with tangy, crunchy candies. Think of them like a Nerds Rope, but flat with the Nerds forming an image.
Au’some introduced Snerdles about 10 years ago and they appear on the market from time to time. The last time I heard of them was when they did a limited edition for Marvel back in 2003-2005 including Spiderman. They also made a generic version which was little squares or strips with images of the different flavors of fruit on them.
The promo material I got last year said: Each candy fruit strip is decorated with tiny and tart crunchy candies for an amazing mouthful of texture. I was fascinated and really wanted to see them in person.
Each Power Up Box holds eight individually wrapped Snerdles. Each weighs 11 grams (.39 ounces). They’re not quite square - they’re 2 inches high and 1.75 inches wide and about an eighth of an inch thick (without the toppings).
They absolutely look like the box illustrates. The translucent fruit squares have designs made from little crunchies in different colors. They’re not quite as perfect, but the effect is quite cute and all of mine were faithful and easy to identify. They come in three flavors to go with the designs (though they’re not matched at all, any color can be any design). Blue Raspberry is Aqua, Strawberry is red and Apple is green.
It doesn’t smell like much out of the package. The fruit bar is a little sticky but very pliable. There’s a little pull to it, but it’s not at all a gummy.
It’s not quite fruit leather, it’s not as pulpy as that.
Goodness, this was realistically like an apple. The peel flavors and actual flavor of a granny smith were in there. The second ingredient is pear puree, so it really is fruity.
Really authentic scent of strawberry jam. It’s tangy and sweet with just a hint of grape in the background, but mostly a vague strawberry flavor. The candy pieces provide a crunch and flavor somewhere between a nonpareil and a Nerd. They’re tangy and sweet, but not quite flavored. They’re crunchy but have a slight starchy and chalky afterglow.
I found I could just bite them and eat them that way, but like a fruit roll up or fruit leather I did play a bit. I rolled some up, with the crunches on the inside to keep them from falling off (they’re little devils inside a keyboard). I also pulled some apart, so the mosaic was distorted, like the scattering of galaxies after the Big Bang.
The crunchies just sit on the top, they’re not pressed into the fruit square.
Blue raspberry was certainly an odd color, an ocean aqua. It had an appealing scent, a mixture of floral berries and limes. This one was more tart than the others, though I can’t say that any rise to the level of sour candy. The flavors were like a berry jam, though not subtle or nuanced. Just straight ahead real berry flavor.
These really are an inventive candy. They’re not quite a fruit leather and without the nutrition panel I can’t say exactly whether I’d call these a snack or a candy. The fact that they’re made with a substantial amount of fruit puree should make parents happy and the cute designs and inventive package should make any kid who gets these the envy of his friends.
Made in a no peanut facility but no other notations of allergens on the list (such as tree nuts, eggs, milk, wheat/gluten). They’re also Kosher. Full ingredients: Sugar, pear puree from concentrate, dextrose, corn syrup, tapioca starch, citric acid, apple fibre, sodium citrate, artificial flavors, pectin, maltodextrin, carnauba wax, colours. They are made in China, though it says “Made responsibly in China.” I talked to some folks at the company, it’s a family run business who supervise the manufacture of the candies themselves so it appears that there’s more oversight than a company that outsources the production. They have more information on their website.
The box is easily reusable, it’s a 2.5” cube with a well fitted lid. I think you can peel off the top sticker and then throw change in there or game tokens or just keep refilling it with different candy. I don’t know the true retail price, I expect a box like this will be under $2.00, but on the internet where licensed merchandise can go for more, they might be around $3.
Aggrogate had a roundup of many Nintendo-themed candies, including Snerdles.
Friday, March 26, 2010
In my attempt to try everything this Easter I bought some pretty stupid candies. The Jumbo Gum Ball Eggs are pretty high up there. It wasn’t so much that it’s a stupid purchase (it was only 99 cents) but that it’s a stupid product.
But let me go backwards a bit. I have a definition for candy. It’s kind of long and includes a list of criteria. One of them is that the product needs to be ready-to-eat. This means it doesn’t need assembly (though might benefit from it) and doesn’t require implements or tools, especially ones not provided.
They are 2.25 inches tall and weigh about 1.75 ounces each. Yes, they’re hollow but they’re about a third of an inch thick.
A gumball the size of a small chicken egg requires tools. I used a saw.
I was able to stand on one of them without smashing it. After chewing the slice I’d cut off the top I did manage to smash and pull apart the larger piece by stomping on it and then prying it apart. It’s tough stuff. The package says that a single serving is half an egg, but of course gives no clue about how to sever it yourself.
The candy shell is thick and crunchy and the gum inside is rough and leathery, kind of like playing with thick rawhide. It smells slightly like Juicyfruit gum. The overall flavor is sweet with a light fruity and tangy note that disappears quickly as the sugar dissolves with chewing. The flavor is inconsistent and has cinnamon and bubble gum notes from time to time. It’s an all sugar gum, which tend to lose their flavor quicker than the artificially sweetened ones. That’s fine with me, I like to chew mine up, make a few bubbles then toss it out and put in a new piece.
It does work as a bubble gum, but certainly not very well.
They’re fun to look at and would make nice decorations. For a child they’d be a frustrating mess. If you lick it the blue colored shell will run (and could stain clothing or upholstery). A parent or older child would need to help with creating manageable bites - so really I don’t recommend this for anyone under the age of 14 and of course must caution folks when using tools like saws or a serrated knife to cut this open.
Again I come back to saying that these are probably better than plastic stuff for decorating, though obviously they’re not waterproof.
They’re made in China under the house brand of CVS. They also came in pink (photo of them on store shelf here). I admit that I’m concerned about the safety of the food colorings because of the origin of the product but I have no facts to support that.
Tuesday, March 2, 2010
At a CVS in Hollywood last week I spotted an exceptionally odd Marshmallow Pop among the Easter candy. It was blue and kind of the flounder version of some sort of plush animal - the face was all on one side of the profile. I thought it was a manufacturing mistake - I took a photo of it and made fun of it on Twitter.
Then I was in another CVS, some 50 miles away over the weekend and found another display (pictured here), this time with a half a dozen of these same strange light blue marshmallow creatures. So of course I had to buy one. It was only a dollar.
It’s a large marshmallow pop. On top of a plastic stick is perched 2.46 ounces of powder blue, sugar sanded marshmallow with hand-decorated frosting features. The packaging is simple, a clear cellophane bag - the back has some imprinted nutrition facts and CVS house brand satisfaction guarantee. You can guess where this review is going.
He’s about 5 inches high, 4 inches wide and about 1 inch thick.
But what is he? My first impulse is that he’s a plush version of the Quiznos creatures called Spongmonkies (here’s a video, but turn down your speakers before clicking). But this guy’s teeth are too good, oh, and he’s not furry. My second thought is that it’s a dinosaur, especially because the dentition indicates a carnivorous creature - some sort of Tyrannosaurus rex perhaps. The anatomy isn’t quite right. Look at how big his front legs are - well, there’s also that part where he’s crossed one arm across his chest and the other one is dangling like the elbow is dislocated. (Maybe he’s fallen off his bike and is holding his boo-boo, crying and running home to his mama.)
Then there’s the legs ... is there a leg missing? Is that a tail or a foot that’s also dislocated and facing backwards.
Is this actually some sort of roadkill? Pre-flattened with broken and missing limbs?
Anyway, let’s move on to the actual performance of the product as an edible.
It smells like some sort of raspberry - like an array of body washes and scented creams from Bath and Body Works. It also reminds me of a medicated pet shampoo I used to use (on my dog).
The sugary grain on the outside is substantial, far greater than I would have expected (and messier). It’s not like the fine stuff on Peeps, this is sparkly and gritty sugar.
The flavor of the marshmallow is well rounded, much more like those strawberry gummi puffs than a marshmallow. The texture is latexy, chewy and bouncy. The raspberry is both floral and tangy, sweet but not cloying. The blue goes all the way through and there’s a hint of an aftertaste to go with it. About a half hour later I was wondering if I’d been eating air freshener and forgot. The frosting bits were hard, crunchy and disconcerting - I wasn’t sure if it was unglazed porcelain sometimes.
A few bites in and I thought I’d eaten a little bit of the packaging. Little soft plastic bits (but it was wrapped in cellophane and this was nothing like that). The chunks, as far as I could tell, were unmixed gelatin globs. Flavorless and a little gummy, but probably perfectly edible. But not acceptable.
The nutrition label says one serving is the entire pop. While that’s only 240 calories, there’s no way I could eat more than the three bites shown. I stopped because my curiosity was satisfied, not my craving for a sweet.
It’s not horrible, but it’s really, really bad. While I enjoy novelties that might not be very palatable, they’re usually fun to look at. This is just frightening. The marshmallows are made in China, and since this is a house brand at CVS, there’s really no way of knowing where or how it was manufactured. I tried a similar product a few years ago from Walgreen’s house brand, a Valentine’s Pink Marshmallow Pig.
POSTED BY Cybele AT 1:48 pm
Monday, February 22, 2010
Au’some has a line of 3-Dees Gummy candies, that are just what they sound like. They’re three dimensional molded gummy candies and much larger than the standard gummi bear. I reviewed the Super Mario Brothers version a few years ago (along with their Wii controller candy dispenser).
The seasonal versions of the gummis are in special shapes and flavor combinations for the holiday. The Easter 3-Dees Gummy version features two shapes (sitting rabbit and dancing chick) and three flavors (strawberry, orange and mixed berries).
Each package contains six candies, one of each shape in one of each flavors. They’re in a little tray that keeps each one separate and molded to their shape. The fun is when you pop them out of their molds.
The packaging does an excellent job of keeping the candy protected and in the best possible condition for play. I can’t say that it was that compelling when I first looked at it, it really didn’t convey the stunning look of these out of the package. (Here’s another version of the package that you might see in stores.)
I admit that this review is actually more about the pictures, and I also admit that the photos that follow makes these little guys look far larger than they are (blame it on my new camera lens). Each weighs between a quarter of an ounce to a third of an ounce. The rabbits are exactly one inch high and one inch on the longest side of the base.
As a 3D candy they actually stand up, like a little injection-molded plastic toy.
When they say that they’re three dimensional, they’re not kidding. The rabbits, if you can’t tell so far, were my favorite. The middle seam was nearly undetectable. The nicely formed face even had little buck teeth that I could see when looking carefully. The little tucked back ears are simply charming.
The dancing chick isn’t quite as compelling for me, it was harder to tell what was going on, but the figure reminded me of that penguin in Happy Feet. This little chick is a bit rolly-polly and kicking up one of his feet.
The flavors are right up my alley. In this case that means that red is strawberry instead of cherry. It’s nicely tangy and has a rounded floral berry fragrance. It tastes exactly like strawberry Jell-O.
The texture for these gummis is what I’d call short. Some gummies are stringy - if you pulled on the gummi it’d stretch quite a bit before it pulled apart. These gummis are more like actual gelatin desserts. Biting into them they pull apart into little nuggets. Pull them and they break apart with clean surfaces.
Though they’re not a chewy gummi they are intensely flavored and exceptionally smooth. The blue-green color is Mixed Berries and in this case it actually tastes like berries. There’s a good jammy raspberry flavor. It’s tart, floral and not too much like generic fruit punch. In the case of this one there was a slight note of the blue food coloring (a little metallic) but that didn’t detract from it.
The orange flavor is disappointing, only because Haribo has raised the bar so high. It’s sour in the right way, but the overall flavor is that of orange-ade. There are no zest notes that kind of carry it over into the whole orange flavor. Still, the flavor and texture worked well together.
The hesitation on this product is that it’s made in China. The package says “made responsibly in China and I do believe that there are plenty of ethical and conscientious food makers in China - I just don’t know how to tell who is who. The size of these gummis still means they should not be given to very small children - but you probably already know that.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.