These are chewy.
Friday, August 6, 2010
One of the most exciting parts of my recent trip was a visit to a real, working candy factory. I didn’t get a special tour or anything, but I always like to get close to the source of candy - even if it’s through a wall of glass. The Albanese Candy Factory is easy to get to, at the junction of I65 and RTE30. (Though Google Maps took me on a far more direct but slower route through the neighboring Indiana towns from I80.)
The factory is nicely situated with a large parking lot and a charming “house” entry for the candy store and tour portion of the facility. Entering the space, at first it just looks like a huge candy store - probably about 2,000 square feet of not just Albanese Candy, but oodles of other bulk items in bins, novelties and classic favorites from all sorts of manufacturers. At the back of this space is the tour.
No photos were allowed of their candy factory tour, which amounts to walking along one wall of the factory and peering into the active operation. I was able to see the starch molds stacked up and ready to be fed into the depositor, which squeezes out the gummy goo that becomes the bears. The next steps were a bit hidden, but the next conveyer showed the completed gummi bears on a belt being tossed around and bagged up. (The true intervening step is that the gummy bears cure for a while in their molds, are then cleaned of their corn starch coats & given a little shine in a tumbler called a panning machine.) The bears were then bagged up and robots came in and created huge boxes then pallets that were moved around.
The space is just a wide carpeted ramp with a few videos to demonstrate and explain the processes. It’s wheelchair accessible and easy for folks to spend as much or as little time on as they want.
I was really interested in the candy store and I wasn’t disappointed. First and foremost they sold Albanese Candy. By the door were piles of boxes of “seconds” at reasonable prices - a 5 lb box of Peach Rings was $8. Great for a party.
The perfect candy was sold either in pre-packs or at one of the three bulk candy stations. There were plenty of helpful and knowledgeable staffers there. All of the items that weren’t individually wrapped were packaged up by request by the staff. They stood there with their tongs, scoops, plastic bags and gloved hands at the ready for any request. They had every Albanese gummy candy I could think of. The standard items were all $2.49 a pound - a great price as anyone who has been to Dylan’s Candy Bar or other mall bulk candy shop will recognize. (Those shops sell Albanese Candy for anywhere between $9 and $14 a pound.)
I picked out their new Natural Sour Poppers, Gummi Butterflies (now in small and large sizes) and Gummi Fishes. I’ve actually had the last two items before, but I thought I’d try them again, especially because I wanted a standard flavor to try against the natural ones.
The packaging was nice. Just little stand-up zipper plastic bags. What I appreciated was the each one got its own label that did list the ingredients for the product - a rare service when buying in bulk. These little four ounce bags were just $65 cents, quite a deal for getting exactly what I wanted.
The new Natural Sour Poppers are cute little smiley faced buttons of gummis. I have no idea what the flavors are supposed to be, or even how many are in the assortment. I didn’t try to overthink them, I just ate them.
Though there’s no sour sanding on them they’re still quite tangy right from the start. They’re soft and squishy with good, well rounded flavors but very much on the sour side. I could pick out the cherry, lemon, orange and pineapple ones, there might have been green apple, fruit punch, strawberry and maybe watermelon in there.
I liked that there were no weird aftertastes associated with the coloring, though the flavors were less vibrant than the traditionally produced ones. They recognizable “emoticon” shape will probably be quite fun for kids. I also appreciate that they’re the same price as the unnatural gummi products.
I’ve reviewed the stunning-looking Albanese Gummi Butterflies before. I’m not quite sure why I picked them up again, but I was enchanted by their appearance. The wingspan on the large ones is a full 3 inches. The small ones are less than half that, at about 1.33 inches across and the same thickness.
Combining the two sizes was actually more satisfying for me than one or the other. I liked the look of them together, the small ones gave context for the large sized shape (which often get folded up). The flavors are the same charming Albanese cherry, orange, grape, punch and apple. I especially liked the orange ones, but found the cherry to have the robust woodsy notes and not too much red food coloring flavor.
Albanese’s chocolate products are far less well known. I picked up only one chocolate item to review, their Dark Chocolate Caramel Marshmallow. The prices on the chocolate items varied depending on the product itself. They had a good selection of traditional chocolate treats like toffee, fruit creams, caramels and nuts. They’re packaged just like the gummis, into little zipper bags.
The Caramel Marshmallow is smaller than the See’s Scotchmallow. A nicely domed piece, they were in pristine, unmarred condition when I bought them but got jostled around a bit in transit (drove to Chicago from there, then flew back to Los Angeles four days later).
It has a nice dark cocoa scent, a little sweet but woodsy. The bite is not at all like I expected a marshmallow to be. Instead of a latexy puff, it was more of a light fluffed cream. It still had a little chew to it, but not at all like I was accustomed to with See’s or Russell Stover. The flavor was barely sweet and had a light hint of vanilla to it (they use both real vanilla and vanillin in them). The caramel was soft and chewy but lacking much of a salty or burnt sugar punch. The dark chocolate was decent quality and well tempered though not complex. They’re certainly edible but of course don’t hold a candle to my favorite, the Scotchmallow. Since they’re about the same price at $11.99 a pound, I can’t see myself getting these again - even though I know they’re extremely fresh.
The diversity of candy offerings in the store is amazing. They had a huge selection of nostalgic favorites, such as swirl lollipops, candy buttons, wax lips and theater box favorites. I lucked out and found Bonomo’s Turkish Taffy as well as the more recent Doscher’s French Chew. They also had a great wall of individually wrapped candies which included Mary Jane’s, Anise Squares, Honey Drops and all sorts of items from Atkinson’s like their Peerless line. I picked up Angel Mints and my mother found Sen Sen and got a tin of Anis de Flavigny. Prices for the candy that they don’t make there is a little more than a drug store but less than most other candy stores.
The shop is only about one hour outside of Chicago and a half an hour south of Gary, Indiana. So if you’re in the area, it’s a nice place to stop. (Though it’d be nice if they also had coffee, we really needed some to go with our toffee that we ate in the car.)
Albanese Candy Factory Outlet Store
Wednesday, June 30, 2010
In the flurry of new Wonka products, I’ve neglected the most recent introduction in their Wonka’s Edible Garden Gummies line. The Wonka Whipped Wingers Gummies are definitely different from the usual translucent fare.
Like the other Wonka Gummies, these are free of artificial colors and flavors and are made with fruit juice (apple juice). They come in four shapes and four flavors: Watermelon, Orange, Pineapple and Tropical Punch.
The gummis come in four shapes: hornet, beetle, butterfly and midget dragonflies. Okay, I made those names up, I’m not an entomologist - I’m a candy reviewer.
The foamy texture is like a dense marshmallow, not quite fluffy but with a bouncy latex quality. This made them a little lighter than expected, so while the package had only 5.5 ounces in it, they definitely looked like “more” than a comparable non-fluffed product. (The standard packages for the Sluggles and Puckerooms come in 6.5 ounce peg bags.)
The candies were matte, soft and pillowy. They didn’t stick, which was nice for just setting them around on my keyboard.
Orange was perfectly ordinary. Tangy and juicy, but with a very bland flavor that reminded me of flavored drink powder.
Watermelon was pink and quite a surprise. I enjoyed it because there was no artificial metallic chemical note. It wasn’t quite like real watermelon, it was actually somewhere between a generic punch flavor and green apple but with a light floral note.
Tropical Punch was the soft purple one. The flavor was just like punch, a soft and non-distinct sort of thing with a little berry tang to it and a citrus note. It wasn’t my favorite of the set, but I also on got four of them in the bag.
Pineapple was yellow and the one I was looking forward to the most. It’s floral and tropical but the tartness is more along the lines of canned pineapple. Mild and merely pleasant in the whole scheme of things.
I enjoyed the chewy foamy texture (up until the point it gave me the burps). It seemed to give it a creamy texture without any actual dairy products in it. It was an odd sensation though, because they were squishy and pliable, it was like chewing on boneless baby toes (which I know is pretty tempting most of the time anyway).
I loved the shapes and the colors plus the fact that Wonka is making an effort to create candies with kid and tween appeal without artificial ingredients. The flavors weren’t as intense as I would have wanted, but the novelty of the texture kind of made up for that.
Though the other Wonka Gummies are made in the Czech Republic, these appear to be American. It’d be nice if Wonka could also make their products in less allergy-laden facilities. This one was made on shared equipment with wheat, dairy, peanuts, tree nuts, soy and eggs. It also contains gelatin (since it’s a gummi) so it’s not vegetarian. One of the natural colors is cochineal, for those who avoid that (but I though it was kind of funny to have an insect shaped candy made with insects!).
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.)
Monday, June 14, 2010
Haribo makes dozens of kinds of candy usually in fanciful shapes. The Haribo Raspberries Gummi Candy are kind of the other end of the spectrum. They look just like the real thing. They’re the same size and approximate the shape and texture of real raspberries and blackberries very well.
The Raspberries are a popular item for wedding candy buffets because they’re elegant with their sharp red and black colors but also because they do well in summer heat.
Oddly enough, before buying this bag, I’d never had the Haribo version before. I’ve had the Jelly Belly Confections brand, but saw no reason to try anything else.
I picked up this “value bag” at Target. Value is mostly accurate, it’s a half a pound for $1.49 - which is pretty good for Haribo. This particular bag was made in Turkey, I know that Haribo varies depending on which of their global facilities the candies are made in.
They are cute and exquisitely formed. Each is made up of a soft clear gummi center covered with black or red large nonpareils. The nonpareils themselves aren’t particularly flavored, the pop is in the center.
I don’t think there’s supposed to be a difference between the two, but I sense one.
The Black Raspberries are lightly bitter, like smoke, on the tip of my tongue. The center is a mild and tangy raspberry jelly. It’s not really gummi but completely smooth with only a slight bouncy chew. It wasn’t a full-bodied jam flavor, just a light floral berry juice.
The Red Raspberries were actually more to my liking, though much sweeter. I wish the nonpareils weren’t quite so sweet or at least had a little more flavor to them. But at least the red ones didn’t taste weird to me. (Odd because the only food coloring mentioned on the package was Red 40, my nemesis, which I would have expected to ruin the red ones.)
Overall, they’re pretty and probably fun for decorating or display, but not enough pop for me to keep eating. I will note again that these were from Turkey, the ones made in the German factory may be much better.
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
Candy and toys are a classic combination. It’s surprising that there hasn’t been a candy version of the Plastic Green Army Guys before Albanese introduced them in the early 2000s. These guys, you know these guys, right? They were sold by the pound and featured all sorts of pre-posed soldiers doing soldier-like things.
This version of the candy features all opaque green candies in four different poses. They’ve even assigned names: “Bazooka” Bob, “Forrest Fight” Steve, “GI” Johnny, “Sniper” Scott, and “Rifleman” Rich! They’re green apple flavored.
I got this 4.5 ounce bag for $1.99 at Powell’s Sweet Shoppe in Paso Robles. It was the first store I saw them in and was a little surprised at the price, considering the fact that I can buy a half pound of Albanese other gummi products at the 99 Cent Store for a buck. But hey, these were cute and unique.
I don’t have much else to say beside the fact that they’re in fact green, look exactly like plastic army guys (except they’re only about 2 1/2 D instead of 3D because they have a flat back). They’re green apple flavored, soft and chewy. Above is Sniper Scott.
So enjoy the photos of the Gummy Army Guys. This is Rifleman Rich.
Apparently Albanese also makes a smaller version of these in red and green - but they’re transparent instead of the opaque army green. Albanese makes a lot of other fun shapes in their gummis, including fighter jets, snakes, butterflies, bears, rings and fish.
And that brings us to the last one: Bazooka Bob.
On the whole, a quality product. A little more expensive than the other really well priced Albanese gummis, but still a good deal, especially when you need a themed item. I’m not as keen on the green apple flavor - I prefer their citrus and pineapple.
Monday, May 17, 2010
The world of gummis is filled with candy that looks like other things: soda bottles, centipedes, spiders, body parts (brains, whole hands, eyeballs, lips), dinosaurs, rabbits, birds, flowers, butterflies, toads, frogs, sharks, fast food, fruits, vegetables, cracked eggs, and of course bears.
Sour Gummy Pop Corn from Flix Candy looks like popcorn. But they go one further, instead of making it popcorn flavored, or some other yellow themed flavor they’ve made them apple, strawberry, popcorn & watermelon. You don’t know until you eat them.
The package is cute, it looks like the tall box of popcorn that they used to sell at the fair and probably at the movies before people starting consuming it by the bucketful.
Here’s the first thing: a caramel corn flavored gummi sounds fabulous to me. It wouldn’t have a year ago, but after the caramel gummis I reviewed last week I truly believe you could make a great Cracker Jack flavored gummi with real molasses, caramelized sugar and milk.
This isn’t that ... so I’ll have to adjust my expectations.
I thought maybe I could tell the difference between them by smelling them, but they all smelled like Bed, Bath and Beyond (a mixture of watermelon, strawberry and carpeting).
Watermelon (yellow) was tart and fresh, though more sour than I actually like my watermelon to be. The bounce of the gummi was satisfying and fresh.
Strawberry (yellow) was sweeter at first and had a good berry flavor but then descended into sour.
Apple (yellow) if that’s what I tasted, this one was the most sizzling of the, it was an odd sort of burnt note along with that chemical green apple flavor of Jolly Ranchers.
The Pop Corn gummi was either elusive or so similarly flavored that I couldn’t tell. After finding the first three flavors in about 8 tries, I ended up just biting the rest of the pieces in the package. Something smelled vaguely like artificial butter flavor, but nothing tasted like it (but who wants sour buttered pop corn?).
These weren’t that good for me, but I get that when watching a movie the look of the candy isn’t that important since I can’t see it anyway. But the flavor mix with apple and watermelon wasn’t high on my list either.
Thursday, May 13, 2010
A couple of years ago I picked up a package of Puccho that was creme brulee flavored (technically I think it was called Baked Puccho - Custard Cream). I love it so much and though I know it was a limited edition flavor, I’ve been looking for something like it. A chewy, milky and caramelized sort of thing.
When I saw this little package in Little Tokyo I thought I’d give it a go. It’s called simply Nama Carmel Gummy. I could palpate the pieces within the bag and could tell that they were firm but distinct pieces, like tiny little fleshy bricks.
It smells sweet and rather woodsy, like brown sugar and milk. The texture is soft and bouncy but quite firm. There’s a light dusting of what I’m guessing is corn starch, so they’re not shiny.
Honestly, they don’t look like much, but they’re quite dreamy. Instead of being caramel flavored, they’re actually made with milk and cream ... that’s not zinc oxide making it look milky, it is milky. It’s a toasty flavor, not too sweet. The texture is bouncy and chewy more like a Haribo than a Trolli. They’re crazy good though I admit they’re strange. It’s really like eating something that’s a cross between butterscotch pudding and jello. I would definitely buy these again if I can find them.
Of course I can’t find them online.
Tuesday, March 9, 2010
I’m gaga for Meiji’s Gummy Choco, which are little gummi beans of various natural fruit flavors covered in milk and flavored white chocolate. But I’ve also wondered what it’d be like to just eat the gummi centers.
The gummi jellybean centers are called Poifull and are rather harder to find in the United States.
I picked up a few boxes via JBox.com and then ended up finding some more at Nijiya Market in Little Tokyo a few weeks later. The flavors vary from time to time. (Sometimes the yellow ones are pineapple as shown in this box and other times they’re lemon or white peach.)
While it’s tempting to call these jelly beans, they’re not. Jelly beans have jelly centers - that means that they’re a thickened candy syrup, usually gelled using corn starch but good quality ones use pectin, a natural fruit product. Poifull are a gummi product, so the centers are bouncy and chewy and thickened with gelatin. (So my vegetarian friends, you can’t have these.)
They come in four flavors and all are equally fresh and transcendent. The shell is light and a little grainy after chewing, it mostly seals in the soft and fresh flavors of the gummis themselves.
Pineapple - is sweet and bright but more like canned pineapple than the fresh stuff. Not quite as acidic but still quite credible.
Grape - is the darker purple color. The flavor is amazing, like a condensed droplet of concord grape juice. Vivid, sweet and tangy.
Muscat Grape - is the green one and like the grape has an authentic juice flavor. Muscat is a white grape so is often a little milder in its juice form. This one was tasty but didn’t wow me like the others by comparison.
Apple - is the lighter pink one. It’s definitely just like a fresh glass of apple juice, or actually, more like cider. Tangy and with a good touch of apple peel flavors in there.
(I had another box & can review the Lemon - is a mild and marmalade-like flavor. The sugar notes are boiled and toasted and the zest is still quite authentic but lacking most of the bitter qualities. It’s not terribly tart, but still has a nice snap.)
The flavors are much more intense than even Jelly Belly, very well rounded and of course the gummi texture makes them last longer. I didn’t find myself gulping them down like I do with some jelly candies, they’re absolutely more in the gummi style of eating for me. I’ve only found them in these small boxes (and sometimes in the tiny boxes for the Meiji Mini Mix - photo).
They’re pretty expensive since they’re an import product, but as far as I can tell they’re also all natural - so parents can feel good about a super-flavorful product that comes in small portions. They’d make a great addition to an Easter basket.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.