These are chewy.
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.)
Monday, October 17, 2011
The Lemon Ginger Yuzu Gummy Pandas are described on the little gusseted stand up bag as exotic yuzu paired with invigorating ginger and lemon rich in vitamin C.
Like many other Bissinger’s candies, these are quite expensive. Some American made gummis sell for as little as $2.00 a pound (the Albanese World’s Best Gummis at dollar stores) where these are about $16.00 a pound, however, Bissinger’s does offer a bit more in the way of unique flavors and premium ingredients. As part of their naturals line, the Lemon Ginger Yuzu Gummy Pandas are made from organic sweetners. They also use all natural ingredients including natural colors and flavors. They’re also advertised as gluten free. The only weird thing in the list was fractionated coconut oil, which is the second to the last item, which means it’s probably the coating that keeps the gummis from sticking together.
They smell quite citrusy, like a combination of key limes and grapefruit. The Yuzu is related to grapefruits and has a definite pomelo note to it, bitter and a little bit on the pine side. The ginger provides a wonderful woodsy and warming note to the cold bitterness of the oily citrus. Lemon kind of mellows it all out.
The gummi texture is soft and bouncy, moist and overall rather sweet and smooth.
I love yuzu, citrus in general and ginger. Plus, these are nicely made gummis. But I’m still not able to love them. Partly because of the price and partly because of the brand. So as a candy taken in a vacuum without any other information, they’re an 8 out of 10, with all the other baggage, they’re barely more than a 6. (Continue reading if you like for more support for that, or just move along to the specs box at the bottom.)
On the whole, my confidence level in Bissinger’s is rather low. I’ve tried contacting them multiple times over the years and got conflicting answers about the gelatin origin and kosher status previously, and in the past month I’ve only gotten a reply to a tweet, neither of my emails with simple questions have been answered.
One of my concerns is with accurate labeling. They sell a variety of foil wrapped hollow “chocolates” around the holidays, including Halloween. They have them on their website and at Whole Food stores, so I’ve seen them in person. I believe that these are not actually made by Bissinger’s, but by Confiserie Riegelein of Germany. (Previous review of their Halloween Chocolate.) Bissinger’s affirms on their website that they use fair trade cocoa. Riegelein will not be fair trade until 2012 and there is no fair trade markings on the package in stores (just mentioned on the website). The biggest issue is that they’re calling this confection chocolate. By US FDA standards, it does not meet the definition because it contains whey, considered a filler ingredient. So it is labeled inaccurately. I’m really surprised that Whole Foods permits this sort of liberal misuse of the word chocolate and the addition of fillers in a product like chocolate. Also, if this is made by Riegelein, it’s made in Germany and there’s no indication of that on the packaging - again other violation of Whole Food’s policies and standard labeling in the United States. Finally, back to the product at hand, the package says Gluten Free and then says it’s packed in a facility that also handles wheat (and eggs, soy, milk, peanuts and tree nuts). So is it gluten free or not?
Friday, September 30, 2011
There are two standard axioms for innovation in candymaking: Making it Bigger Makes it Better and Covering it Chocolate Makes it Gourmet. For the most part they’re true.
Albanese Confectionery didn’t invent the gummi bear and didn’t innovate chocolate covered gummis. But that doesn’t mean that they can’t do it well and possibly better than most other confectioners.
The Milk Chocolate Gummi Bears assortment is interesting, first that they’re pretty big. I can’t say for sure, but the bears seem bigger than the standard, but that could be the chocolate coating messing with my ability to gauge their size. The other interesting thing about the assortment are the flavors of the gummis in the center. Albanese has gone with flavors that complement milk chocolate: Orange, Strawberry/Banana, Raspberry, Marshmallow, Strawberry, Apricot.
Of course you’ll never know which you’re getting when you pick one out, kind of a fruity roulette.
Like all of the Albanese gummis, these were soft and flavorful, quite chewy and smooth. The chocolate coating is thin and sweet with a strong milky flavor. (I know that Albanese uses Wilbur Chocolate for their malted milk balls, so I wouldn’t be surprised if this is also Wilbur’s couveture.) The bouncy nature of the gummi goes well with the quick melting chocolate.
Albanese sells their chocolate covered bears for about $6.00 a pound online. Chances are pretty good if you’ve found a candy store that sells individually flavored gummi bears (with an A on their bellies) that also carries chocolate covered bears then you’ve probably seen these. If you’re looking for a chocolate treat that’s not so high in calories, these are a great option. They clock in at only 106 calories per ounce, which is very low for a chocolate coated item. The individual pieces and variations in flavors should make for a lean treat that doesn’t feel like a compromise.
They’re far and away better than the Muddy Bears that come in theater boxes and I prefer them to the Koppers version (but these do have artificial colors in them). Still, the top chocolate covered gummi in my heart are the Japanese Gummy Choco.
Friday, August 19, 2011
One of my favorite Japanese products are the Meiji Poilful. They’re not as easy to find in the United States as some other Japanese candies and are often quite expensive for a sugar candy. Every once in a while Meiji issues a new flavor variety. I found this Poifull Mint at the Japanese grocery store a few weeks ago. It features two flavors, Lemon and Muscat with an added dash of Mint.
These are not mere jelly beans, though they look like it. Instead they’re gummi beans. Inside the typical grainy sugar shell there’s a small gummi. Like gourmet jelly beans, the center is flavored, not just a plain sugary center.
I have to say that I find the flavors a little odd. The idea of mint and lemon is not that uncommon, though it’s something I associate with cough drops more than candy. (Though I admit that I do eat cough drops like candy sometimes.)
Lemon & Mint (yellow) starts out very tangy and zesty but the mint comes in like a strong menthol. It is absolutely like a cough drop but could probably use a little touch of honey to put it over the top. I liked the intensity of it, I was satisfied with one or two of them as the zest and menthol lingered.
Muscat & Mint (green) is much more subdued. The white grape flavor is tart and robust, with notes of grape juice and grape skin in there. The mint tastes more like mint than menthol, though still has that same cooling tingle. I still find it a strange and incongruous combination that I wouldn’t choose as a single flavor package, but I can enjoy as part of a mix.
Overall, I love how intense and authentic Meiji makes all of their fruit flavored candies, these are no exception. They’re a little fringe but make a nice change up for a little mouth freshener that’s different from Altoids. The box is nicely designed, unlike some other Meiji products where the box isn’t full, this one is and has a nice little flip top with a dispenser hole for sharing easily.
On a side note, one of the hazards of buying these import candies are the little translated labels they put on them. The box is quite small, but the label is even smaller with microprint. I had to take this photograph and then zoom in on it in order to read the label.
Thursday, August 18, 2011
Storck is a German candy company that makes some fantastically chewy stuff, such as Reisen Chocolate Caramels, Toffifay, Werther Caramels and Mamba fruit chews. While Germany is the homeland of gummis, it’s strange to see such a large, established candy company suddenly get into the crowded gummi market.
I found a fun new, and unlikely place to shop for candy. It’s a gas station convenience store simply called Food Mart near my mother’s house in Glendale, CA. I’d filled up with gas there many times before (because it was one of the least expensive places in the area, clean, well maintained and had soapy windshield cleaner). One day when I actually went into the store I was shocked to see a huge selection of international candies. They carry German products including the most popular items in the Kinder line, Ritter Sport bars (including the seasonal varieties), British bars (Mars, Cadbury, Maltesers) and a really wide selection of American candies.
So I picked up this little package of Storck Mamba Gummies which are called funny fruity gummies and feature banana, orange, raspberry, pineapple, watermelon and cherry flavors. They feature real fruit juice in the ingredients and no artificial colors.
What I thought was interesting about this flavor assortment was the fact that it included banana, not a common gummi flavor. After I got the little package home (it’s only 1.5 ounces) I noticed that I didn’t have the full assortment of flavors. Above is everything inside the packet, four different flavors.
The texture is soft and pliable, they don’t stick together though they do have a little touch of oil on them. The shapes are tropical, little palm trees, snakes, a chameleon, sharks and something that’s either a raspberry or a puffer fish.
Banana (yellow) is tangy but with that creamy banana flavor. It was less artificial tasting than some other banana candies that have more of a caustic flavor. This was pleasant and soothing.
Pineapple (clear) is tangy, floral and jammy all at once. It’s an excellent rendition of pineapple.
Raspberry (deep red) was by far the most common flavor in my package, which is just fine with me because these are well done. The flavor is a mix of the boiled sweetness of raspberry puree with a light touch of the woodsy seeds and a note of iced tea in there. It wasn’t overly tart like some “blue raspberry” versions of the fruit.
Watermelon (pink) was quite authentic, at least as far as watermelon candies I’ve had this summer. It had a sort of rind taste to it, not just the sweetness of the flesh. Watermelon really isn’t much of a flavor as an actual melon, it’s more of a texture.
So, I missed out on Orange and Cherry in my package. I think I scored overall, as these were all nicely done. The fact that it’s a small package (only 130 calories) with no artificial colors makes it a pretty light treat for kids.
Wednesday, August 10, 2011
I found this package of new Life Savers Gummies Collisions at the drug store. It’s not listed on their websites.
The concept is pretty simple, each piece has two flavors, divided longitudinally. There are three sets in the package: Raspberry Lemonade, Cherry Watermelon and Pineapple Punch. Two flavors in one gummi isn’t really new, gummi worms have been doing it for years. Here we have the worm eating its tail to form a hoop of gummi.
Each piece is just shy of one inch around. They’re easy to identify and all were nicely molded. Life Savers gummis are quite soft and pliable. They’re also pretty big, clocking in at about 4 grams each while most gummi bears (using Haribo as a standard) are about 2.2 to 2.5 grams.
Raspberry Lemonade is yellow and red. The raspberry flavors are really interesting, because I got a lot of the seed notes along with the floral overtones. But the lemon only gave up a smidge of zest, no actual tart lemonade vibe in there.
Pineapple Punch is half aqua and half yellow. It smells mostly of punch and unfortunately also tastes of fruit punch. I was hoping for some of that inimitable Life Savers pineapple flavor, and the yellow side did have a little hint of it, but it was dominated by the artificial punch flavor. There was a slight sizzling, effervescent intensity to the flavor. It was sweet and had a lot of guava notes with a little hint of mango, papaya and of course the pineapple.
Cherry Watermelon is light green and red. This one definitely had the strongest scent, which was the watermelon. The watermelon flavor was also strong in the candy, even when eating the cherry half. It reminded me of a slightly thinned out Jolly Rancher. Tangy, sweet and with a sort of rind flavor. The cherry gave the whole thing that slight woodsy flavor. Mostly I think they missed the boat on the cherry thing: Life Savers wrote the book on Wild Cherry, they own that flavor. It should be in here, if they have a cherry something, it should be the iconic Life Savers Wild Cherry.
There was a sameness to each of the varieties, I didn’t taste a distinction between the two sides. So that means instead of having six flavors in the bag, there were really only three. That’s not an amazing diversity, however, if you like all three flavors, that means you’re never going to be disappointed at getting any particular version. I didn’t care for the watermelon & cherry one, so a third of the bag would have been disappointing for me.
Thursday, August 4, 2011
I know there are a lot of blogs out there that review candy these days, but somehow I feel alone in my obsession for licorice. (And I feel sometimes that I’m alienating my non-licorice loving readers by featuring something black every week.)
I picked up this cute little can from Van Slooten called Flowers & Butterflies Mix of Sugared Liquorice. It’s Dutch and as far as I could tell, was a mix of salted and sweet licorice much like the previous little can I picked up and reviewed of Licorice Figures. It seemed a bit pricey, something the size of a can of beans that cost $3.99, but they really packed the candy in there, it’s over a half a pound at 8.82 ounces.
The mix inside was as described, at least six different shapes and as far as I could tell, three different varieties.
Gummi Flower & Tulip is chewy and dense but with a very mild flavor. It was mostly a toasted sugar flavor, sort of like a marshmallow and some light anise. That was it. I liked it and I ate them all. At first I didn’t realize that the tulip was the same as the flatter 10 petal flower. But once the tulips were gone (yes, I ate them first), I figured it out.
Butterflies are a great medium brown color with sparkly grains of sugar. There are two shapes for the butterflies, but I found the texture and flavor to be the same with them. I expected a griotten flavor and texture, which is a light and airy gummi with a salted licorice flavor. These did have that brown sugar and salted licorice flavor but with instead the texture was sort of tacky and chewy. I can’t say that it as quite a gumdrop, but it definitely wasn’t a gummi marshmallow. I enjoyed these, the salt was quite noticeable but not so much of the ammonia aftertaste taste that I don’t care for.
Gumdrop Flower is really chewy and has a strong molasses flavor. Aside from the grainy sugar coating, it’s quite smooth. I enjoyed it at first, but then there’s a tangy element that creeps in along with something metallic, then I got a hit of the ammonia. As long as I alternated them with the other versions, I found them passable. Ultimately I was left with a dozen of them in the bottom of the can.
I would eat these again, especially for the milder gummi varieties. They’re also pretty and I like the compact, easy to open and close package.
Candy Gurus tried their Fruit Gums called Fun & Sun Fruit Gum
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
A few years ago Brach’s came out with Soda Poppers, which were licensed soda flavors (from the Cadbury Schewppes line) in hard candy form with gooey chewy interiors. Since Trolli and Brach’s are owned by Farley’s and Sathers, it’s no surprise that they’ve come out with a line of gummis called Trolli Soda Poppers.
Each piece is shaped like a little can with the name of the soda embossed on it: Cherry Cola, Root Beer, Lemon Lime, Orange and Cola.
Upon opening the bag I was greeted with a scent that reminded me of a box of cheap soap and aftershave. There are hints of lime and the soft powder smell of wintergreen but mostly it’s a soap and dated smell of the seventies.
One of the novelties I enjoyed as a child was the self serve soda fountain. Naturally, as a tween, I knew that I could design a better flavor than all the soda companies in the world with only their soda as a source material. Even at that time I was a frugal person, so all mistakes were consumed, even though there were free refills and I probably could have dumped that mix of lemon-lime, root beer and grape soda. Not all candy flavors should be mixed and since many candies have strong scents, they probably shouldn’t be in the same bag together.
Cherry Cola is quite subtle and a bit masculine. The cola flavor is pronounced enough that I could tell this wasn’t just straight ahead cherry. The cherry notes are woodsy and black while there’s a light tangy finish to the whole thing. I really didn’t like it at all, it was medicinal and too perfumey.
Root Beer in many cases is mistaken for Cola in candy mixes because of the similar caramel color. In this case they mark each candy with the name, and the fact that Root Beer is two words means that even poorly molded pieces are easy to distinguish. I love Root Beer flavor and one of my favorite all time candies are Root Beer Barrels. The hard candy version provides all the flavor of a whole glass of soda in one little piece of candy. In the case of this gummi, it’s really not that dense. It’s more tangy that rooty, with more cola notes than the soft sassafras and wintergreen.
Lemon Lime is the color of Gatorade instead of the refreshing colorlessness of Sprite or Seven Up. The flavor is a mere hint with less of a citrus tang than the Root Beer. The zest is missing so what’s left is rather like a bland cleaning product.
Orange is actually like orange soda. It’s completely fake and rather like Jell-O or Tang but still pleasant and different enough from a regular Orange Trolli Bear to make me believe that I’ve purchased a different product.
Cola is such an underrepresented product in candy, I was really hoping these would be a good. The flavor was bland and not enough strong enough to be considered watered down. There was a hint of lemon in there, maybe a little snap of cola nut, but mostly it was a let down.
There’s nothing that emulates sodas, such as effervescence or even a foamy texture (but there’s also no tooth dissolving phosphoric acid, so we can celebrate that). Though there was nothing offensive about the flavors, the combination of them in one bag was off-putting (and actually stunk up my candy drawer). So while I might have wanted more intense flavors, I can only imagine what sort of smell that would create. I don’t drink soda, so my only way to get those classic soda flavors is through candy ... this isn’t the candy that does that. I’ll stick to the hard candy version (which lacks a Cola flavor) or just Root Beer Barrels.
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