Wednesday, May 20, 2009
The biggest, most exciting bit of news to come from Hershey’s this year as far as new products has to be their new Pieces line:
Like Reese’s Pieces are a lentil shaped & candy shelled version of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, I’m sure that Pieces will merely be “inspired by” the flavors of these popular candy bars. I loved the little Hershey’s Bites that were discontinued, and realize now that these will not be a real replacement for those.
What they do look like though are:
Hershey’s Special Dark Pieces - a dark chocolate lentil. The packaging looks like they’ll be dark red, maroon and brown shells. (Hershey’s Special Dark Pieces review here.)
York Pieces - a dark chocolate center flavored with peppermint (not a fondant center with a dark chocolate veneer). These look like they’re dark blue and white shelled. (Hershey’s York Pieces review here.)
Almond Joy Pieces - milk chocolate, coconut and almond. The shells here look like blue, beige and brown. I’m not sure if it’s actual bits of coconut and almond or just the flavors. (Almond Joy Pieces review here.)
Other items rolling out now:
Hershey’s Bliss Chocolate Bars - New Hershey’s Bliss chocolate bars feature a smooth, creamy texture for an indulgent personal chocolate experience in Dark Chocolate and Milk Chocolate with a Meltaway Center.
My thoughts: as I mentioned in the post about packaging, these are looking an awful lot like Dove.
My thoughts: I got a few of these in a box from the folks at the National Confectioner’s Association and now have a whole package for review that came with this press release. I’m having trouble telling them apart from the Hot Cocoa and Chocolate Truffle Kisses, but I’ll work on it.
My thoughts: it’s a fun idea! Combine a bit of dark and milk chocolate. (Sometimes I mix dark & milk M&Ms.)
Hershey’s 100 Calorie Whipped Vanilla Bars - Hershey’s extends its portion control offerings with the introduction of the Hershey’s 100 Calorie Whipped Vanilla Bars. Combining the decedent flavors of vanilla and chocolate, the new bars offer a balanced indulgence in one convenient pack.
My thoughts: I’ve pretty much stayed away from the 100 calorie bars for review, but I have to say that they’ve done some nice work at providing some tasty options that aren’t just smaller sized regular candies - they’re new from the ground up.
Later this fall you can also sample:
Hershey’s Bliss White Chocolate with Creamy Meltaway Center - Hershey’s Bliss will introduce a white chocolate expression to this decedent chocolate line with the launch of Hershey’s Bliss White Chocolate with Creamy Meltaway Center. The new individually wrapped, bite-size chocolates will be available in laydown bags.
My thoughts: If it’s really white chocolate, I’m going to be really interested. Hershey’s used to make good white chocolate products and I’ve love to see them return to it. (The old Cookies ‘n Cream bar used to use cocoa butter.)
Hershey’s Cookies ‘N’ Chocolate Miniatures - Hershey’s Cookies ‘N’ Chocolate Miniatures offer a delicious flavor assortment with three unique miniature chocolate varieties in one laydown bag, including Hershey’s Cookies ‘N’ Creme, Hershey’s Cookies ‘N’ Milk Chocolate and Hershey’s Milk Chocolate.
My thoughts: as mentioned above, the Cookies ‘n Creme used to have cocoa butter in it, but since they took it out, I haven’t been terribly interested in it. I do enjoy the cookies and milk chocolate but love, love, loved the Cookies ‘n Mint and would think it’s a natural item to include in this mix.
Thursday, May 7, 2009
It feels like I’m reviewing a lot of Hershey’s products lately: Thingamajig, Good n Fiery, Hershey’s Milk Chocolate with Peanuts, Dark Chocolate Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and Reese’s Select Cremes. But they’re putting them out and I’ve gotta try everything at least once.
I passed this by more than once (Candy For Dinner always seems to find new products first) mostly because I wasn’t in the mood: Twizzlers Sweet & Sour Filled Twists. But when the weather gets warmer, I seem to crave tangy.
I bought them in a long “bar” format that has four twists, two of each flavor: Cherry Kick! and Citrus Punch!
The twists are clean & shiny, like they’re made of vinyl. They’re similar to the Twizzlers Rainbow Twists, but I think these are just a little larger in diameter or at least not dried and stiff.
Of course, I gravitated towards the Citrus Punch! first. The yellow and red twists reminded me more of mustard and ketchup than lemon and cherry, but I still admit that they were glossy and appealing.
The bite is much softer than the regular Twizzlers, less like biting into some sort of extruded & dried acrylic paint. The gooey filling is soft and has a texture of buttercream frosting. It has an immediate tangy pop and a good mix of flavors, both citrus zest and the tartness. It reminded me of a fresh lemon tart.
Next up was the Cherry Kick! which I resisted. It’s lighter in color from the deep red & berry flavored Twizzlers. The texture is identical to the citrus package mate. The licorice twist is soft and chewy and has a mild sweet flavor. Then the soft center popped in with a very strong note of woodsy black cherry, cough syrup and artificial flavorings. As far as I was concerned, there are a lot of folks who are going to like the play of the mild chewy outside and the intense flavor of the inside.
I really just want to buy the Citrus by itself, perhaps I can pick them out if they package them in individual ropes for Halloween or something.
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
The Reese’s Select line has finally expanded beyond the initial offering of the Reese’s Select Cluster which launched in early 2008.
I spotted these new Reese’s Select Peanut Butter Cremes at Target over the weekend. They sport no banner that says “new” but they certainly weren’t there last month.
The 8 ounce bag is long and sturdy and kind of oddly puffed up. I assumed this was to protect the candy inside from getting smashed. (And air is pretty cost effective.) Inside are approximately 18 little individually wrapped pieces.
The pieces are about 1.5” inches square, slightly domed (a full 1 inch high). They have a little R medallion molded on the top for Reese’s.
I had a little trouble with the integrity of a few pieces. I thought I chose my bag well and was careful bringing it home, yet two of the pieces that I ate (I consumed about half the package) were smashed completely.
Aside from that, the little individual wrappers are sturdy and feature full ingredients info (many individually wrapped Hershey’s items do not).
The little pieces smell of sweet peanut butter.
The bite is interesting, the chocolate shell, though soft, is thick enough to give a big burst of chocolate texture and slight dairy taste immediately. The melt is smooth and rather silky. The center is not at all like a meltaway - this is a full on gooey cream. (Spreadable like room temperature butter.)
At first I was taken aback because I found it extremely salty. But it did balance the sweet milk chocolate well. The texture combination and the rounded flavors gives these pieces well earned decadence points.
In case you were curious, the ingredients are:
The sodium content isn’t as extreme as it tastes. It’s 95 mg for 36 gram serving, which is actually less proportionally than regular Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.
These are not made in Mexico, like the Clusters, and these are also Kosher.
Overall, an interesting addition to the Reese’s line, a smoother melt and much higher quality than I expected. I enjoyed them quite a bit, and found that everyone else in the office did. Perhaps an 8 ounce bag isn’t big enough?
Monday, May 4, 2009
The Dark Chocolate Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups have finally returned as a regular product (teased here in CandyForums.net).
Dark chocolate Reese’s come and go from Hershey’s. Last summer they were a limited edition product as a tie in with the Batman: The Dark Knight movie.
The new package design is different enough that I was able to spot them from the next checkout aisle at Target (though I definitely have candy-vision) on Saturday.
I have to say that the wrapper is rather spare, though bold. As someone who has to look at design pretty often in her day job, I wasn’t really pleased with the mix of fonts. (The script logo, the italic san serif “dark chocolate” and then the regular san serif of the “2 peanut butter cups” and weight info ... but then the use of black outline on white in a serif font for “dark” feels like an afterthought.)
But enough of this judging a book by its cover. It’s what’s inside that matters, right?
So what does the package say is inside?
Okay, so it’s not really dark chocolate, it’s dark chocolate with some milk fats ... not that big of a deal. It’s pretty common in mass-marketed semi sweet chocolate candies.
The encouraging part is that these cups are full sized. When Mars makes a limited edition or dark chocolate version of a milk chocolate product, they have a tendency to make it smaller. This package is 1.5 ounces, the standard these days for Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup two packs.
Each 3/4 of an ounce cup is lovely to behold. Satiny smooth with lightly fluted sides. It may be that these were fresh (as it’s a new product) but there was no little oily pool on the top of the chocolate.
They smell very dark - like deeply roasted nuts and woodsy charcoal.
Like most other Reese’s products, the chocolate is a very soft bite. The dark chocolate, though it lists sugar as the first ingredient, is not at all sweet. The first impression I get is bitterness - a nutty toasted bitterness that goes well with the deep peanut flavors.
The salty hit from the crumbly & grainy peanut butter went well against the creamy chocolate. It has a nice melt without the fudgy grain that the classic milk chocolate has.
Overall, this is a winner. I can see craving these in the evening (I usually don’t want super-sweet after dinner) and keeping the Reese’s Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups for daylight hours (afternoon pick-me-up).
They also come in the little foil-wrapped miniatures, but Target didn’t seem to have those in stock yet. If you’ve tried though (they were also available about three years ago), let me know how they are.
Friday, April 24, 2009
One of the most confounding stories from last year was not that Hershey’s degraded the recipe of some of their most favored & oldest chocolate bars including the Mr. Goodbar. No, it was the introduction of the Hershey’s Milk Chocolate with Peanuts.
Hershey’s spokesman insisted that consumers actually prefer the new formula of the Mr. Goodbar, which has a strong, salty & burnt peanut taste over the earlier Hershey’s tangy milk chocolate flavor combined with fresh roasted peanuts. So, why, if so many people like it would they introduce a new bar that is basically the old bar instead of keeping the old bar the way it was an introducing a new bar that tastes like the old bar’s new formula? (I told you it was confusing.)
The Hershey’s Milk Chocolate with Peanuts bar was introduced and sold exclusively at WalMart. I got mine at the 99 Cent Only Store. I don’t know if they’re supposed to be carrying it or these are just WalMart overruns.
So, what’s inside? First, the bar is 1.45 ounces. A standard Hershey’s Milk Chocolate bar is 1.55 ounces ... so this nutty Hershey’s is even smaller.
The ingredients are:
The bar has a soft snap, like most Hershey’s chocolate products. It smells like peanuts, but not quite the same soft scent of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. On the tongue the first flavor I get is not chocolate or peanuts but salt. The chocolate is a bit fudgy and grainy, but has a rather smooth dissolve on the tongue. The peanuts don’t taste as dark and charcoal-ish as the new Mr. Goodbar. But the saltiness made it taste like fake butter.
It’s not a bad bar ... and it’s not Mr. Goodbar. It’s just some other new bar that’s not distinct enough to warrant being more than a something in an assortment of miniatures. Which brings me to the fact that this Hershey’s Milk Chocolate with Peanuts is not even, technically, a new confection from Hershey’s. I first had it when I bought at bag of Hershey’s Nut Lovers Miniatures in January of 2005. (Here’s a photo.)
I feel like the victim of an elaborate shell game where actually finding the ball under the right shell doesn’t actually mean that you get anything satisfying ... like your money’s worth. This new bar is nice enough, but why is it 1.45 ounces (same as the Hershey’s Milk Chocolate with Almonds) instead of the 1.55 of the Milk Chocolate bar. Did peanuts suddenly become more expensive than chocolate?
Just for the record, here are the iterations of Mr. Goodbar:
Ingredients (as of 2008): Sugar, peanuts, vegetable oil (palm, shea, sunflower and/or safflower oil) chocolate, whey (milk), nonfat milk, contains 2% or less of milk fat, soy lecithin, salt, vanillin. (60 mg of sodium 1.75 ounces)
In this new mockolate version the bar tastes like it has more peanuts, the peanuts have a darker roast that gives it a slight bitterness that’s moderated by heaps more salt than before and what tastes like some sugary fudge/wax with very little cocoa taste.
Ingredients (circa 2006): Milk Chocolate (sugar, cocoa butter, chocolate, nonfat milk, lactose, milk, milk fat, soya lecithin and PGPR as emulsifiers and vanillin, an artificial flavoring) and Peanuts. (20 mg of sodium 1.75 ounces)
If you really missed the classic Mr. Goodbar, the new Hershey’s Milk Chocolate with Peanuts will probably make you happier than buying the current mockolate Mr. Goodbar. (Unless you’re on a sodium restricted diet.) I’d like to say that there’s an alternative, but peanuts & chocolate are kind of the domain of Hershey’s & Reese’s ... it’s sad that they don’t have something to offer that’s better.
Monday, April 20, 2009
I have been waiting nearly a year to find these! I first read about them last year on Candy Addict’s list of new products coming out from Hershey’s. The release date of December 2008 came and went and I kept my eyes open but still didn’t see them in the stores ... not even on the internet. I thought maybe Hershey’s decided not to put them out.
Then last week I wandered down to the 99 Cent Only Store about a mile from my office to see what was new. I found a box. One box. Just sitting there, mixed in with the Sugar Babies and Care Bears Gummi Bears. I would have bought more, but this was all they had (and this one was a little dinged).
The front of the package was no help. It describes these only as Sweet and Spicy chewy candy. The side of the package pushed me in the direction of Good & Fruity when I looked at the ingredients. The first three are dextrose, sugar & corn syrup. Good & Plenty has wheat flour as part of the licorice.
So now I knew that I was expecting: Lemon, Orange, Apple & Cinnamon jelly rods.
All that confusion aside ... the box design is fabulous. I love the bold colors & graphic style (which is why there are so many photos in this review).
Lemon (Yellow) - bright and translucent, I was more than curious what the combination of lemon and cinnamon would hold. The candy shells on these is rather thin & crunchy. Now, the flavor ... at first it’s a little bitter. The shell is sweet, but the little sweet veneer wears off and I got a slight bitter hit, an organic type of woodsy bitter. I got lemon zest too ... and then cinnamon. At the very end there was a little twang of tartness.
It’s downright bizarre. It’s like eating a candle. Not in a bad way.
Orange (orange) - also starts with a slight bitterness but that moved into a very strong sweetness quickly. The cinnamon here is like an actual cinnamon stick - woodsy with notes of cedar and pine and then a strong snap of tartness then some more bitter at the end. There’s a warm feeling from the cinnamon but not a strong lingering one.
Apple (red) - I had trouble telling the reds apart when I didn’t have another to compare it to (though usually the cinnamon ones were a bit fatter). This apple is sweet and tangy and has that nice combination of apple juice flavor mixed with that made-in-the-lab note of “green apple flavoring”. The cinnamon is a bit of a background here but makes it taste a bit like a McDonald’s Hot Apple Pie. (Without the “caution filling is hot” label.)
Cinnamon (dark red) - I was expecting the plain cinnamon to be like a Hot Tamale or Sizzling Cinnamon Jelly Belly. Instead this one went in a wholly different direction. The shell on these seemed crispier. The cinnamon flavor on the outside was soft. Then at the edge of the shell and the jelly center there was a burst of flavor - like an all cinnamon chai - it had a burning warmth and some really authentic notes of real cinnamon, not just the cinnamon oils.
This has to be one of the strangest ventures I’ve seen Hersheys’ take in quite a while. It’s like they subcontracted the folks who developed the Dots: Elements (Earth, Wind, Fire & Water) to come up with a brand extension for Good & Fruity. I’m completely puzzled by these though, because I think Hershey’s created a great new product with their Cinnamon Twizzlers Fire. Why couldn’t they have taken those and made a version of that like the true Good & Plenty?
Those who are disappointed by the soulless rebirth of Good & Fruity aren’t going to find any comfort here. Those who enjoy cinnamon with all the variations of the flavor might find some solace.
Joann from Sugar Hi reviewed them a few months ago, at least helping to disambiguate their candy category but didn’t dissuade me from trying them.
Thursday, April 16, 2009
Hershey’s Whatchamacallit was introduced in 1978. I remember the launch, the commercials and buying the candy bar quite a bit in the first few years when it came out.
It was a peanut butter & crisped rice bar covered in milk chocolate. It was simple, crunchy, looked really big and was satisfying.
Hershey’s has never seemed particularly proud or supportive of the Whatchamacallit. Their advertising for it waned after the eighties; maybe they wanted to go out on a bang with this classic commercial:
The Hershey’s website lists only four notable moments in Whatchamacallit history: introduction (1978), reformulation (1987), package redesign & king size release (2002). You can see the earlier, less “blasty” package design on Brad Kent’s wrapper archive and Mike’s Candy Wrappers (2002 & 2003)
The page mentions nothing about the second reformulation where the bar lost its milk chocolate and gained its rich chocolatey coating (circa 2006).
This bar is made with chocolate, cocoa crisps and peanut butter. At first glance it sounds like it might be the original Whatchamacallit, the one without the caramel (well, that also had real chocolate).
Instead it’s a block of cocoa flavored crisped rice covered with a strip of peanut butter and then covered in Hershey’s inimitable imitation chocolate.
As with many limited edition products, this bar is slightly smaller than the original. It’s 1.5 ounces versus the 1.6 ounces of the Whatchamacallit.
Whatchamacallit on the left and Thingamajig on the right
It’s hard to review the Thingamajig in a vacuum, so naturally I’m comparing it to the Whatchamacallit. I’m also prone to wondering if, when Hershey’s was developing the Whatchamacallit, that they didn’t go through this bar as part of the evolution of the new product, obviously rejecting it.
The Thingamajig has a nice cocoa scent along with a whiff or roasted peanuts. It’s not quite a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup smell, but pretty close.
The bit into the bar is a quick snap, biting through the cocoa crispies is easy, they’re crunchy but have plenty of give since they don’t seem to be held together by marshmallow or peanut butter like the Whatchamacallit.
The mockolate coating is rather good ... I have to give Hershey’s credit, their fake chocolate can often be better than some other companies’ real chocolate. The cocoa flavors from the crispy center probably help.
The peanut butter is a bit salty, creamy and smooth (smoother than a peanut butter cup center).
Overall, it’s a nice experience ... probably not something I’d want again. I’m not sure why Hershey’s did it, but they’re not really taking any credit for it (they never emailed me about it, it doesn’t appear on their website) and it will probably disappear without any fanfare as well.
Rating: 6 out of 10
As a little side note, since I’ve never done an official review of the Whatchamacallit (which by now I’m rather dreading typing), I thought I’d add that here:
The bar smells like cocoa and toffee. The peanut butter crisped rice center is great. It’s buttery, salty, crunchy and has a good roasted nut flavor and a strong butter/dairy note to it. The caramel, though only a very thin layer, gives it a bit of a chew that holds it together in the mouth. The mockolate coating is creamy and melts well but offers no chocolate flavors here ... just a sealant for the crispy bar.
Rating: 6 out of 10
But most of all, I have to wonder why the Whatchamacallit isn’t a Reese’s branded product, getting the full benefit of the peanut butter branding.
Monday, April 13, 2009
When I first tried Scharffen Berger, years before I started Candy Blog, I didn’t like it much. Granted, all I’d tried was their Semisweet, but I found it rather bitter and acrid, a strong sourness that just didn’t have those qualities that I love about chocolate.
But over the years the Scharffen Berger product line has grown and I have found some superb products among their line that I really enjoy, such as their Chocolate Covered Cacao Nibs.
For years I’ve spent time trying to love what other people love. But most of it is just not for me. Until the Nibby bars came along.
First it was the Nibby Dark Chocolate with Roasted Cacao Nibs (62%). I never reviewed it. The 62% base was rather sweet and melted a bit thin but the nibs are crunchy and have a great nutty and buttery crunch. I still prefer the panned nibs, which are much less sweet by proportion (they also use the 62%) and of course so spectacularly shiny and cute.
Then in 2007 I met the Milk Nibby Bar. This was a chocolate bar that was also food. Malty, mellow, caramel notes, a smooth and sticky chocolate background with the crunchy nibs. It was the perfect lunch.
I didn’t think anything ever needed to replace it, top it, or even compete with it.
Then at the Fancy Food Show in January I was walking by the Scharffen Berger booth. I’ve had mixed experiences there and usually just glance over things and move along to other booths. Instead I got a warm welcome and was urged to try their new Dark Milk 68% Cacao.
Oddly enough, it’s not a bar I would have been interested in if I were buying. I already liked the Milk Nibby. What I didn’t know was that the Dark Milk actually has nibs in it too! (Why that’s not really mentioned on the package is beyond me.)
Shown above is the Milk Nibby (41%) on the left and the Dark Milk (68%) on the right.
I wanted to compare it to the Milk Nibby and the Dark Milk. One of the things that the wrapper tells me is that the Dark Milk has more fat - 19 grams per serving over the 15 grams per serving from the Milk Nibby (that means 10 more calories per ounce). Sounds like a good start!
As you can see from the photo above, there’s very little difference in the appearance of the bars. The Milk Nibby is only slightly lighter, but if you just handed me one without the other to compare, I doubt I could tell on sight alone.
It doesn’t smell like a milk chocolate bar. It smells woodsy, dark and slightly tangy, a little bit of coffee and a little bit of toffee.
On the tongue though, the milk notes come out pretty quickly. The Scharffen Berger tangy is there, but the milk moderates it. There are some strong bitter elements, they’re dark roasted bitter flavors, like coffee and a sharp cheddar cheese. But there are other nice notes in there too, a sweet toffee, strong vanilla and oak. The malt is not as pronounced as the Milk Nibby bar, but it still makes an appearance.
This is not a morning bar, I think it’s an evening bar. Even though the bitterness lingered, I liked the complex notes and of course the texture. I found myself reaching for pieces of it until it was gone. Every once in a while I do get some bad crunching nibs, ones that seem more like shells than beans (but I find that with most nib products).
I’m still going to stick with the Milk Nibby bar (and just decided to , but this is an excellent high cacao bar for people who probably don’t like high cacao content. But if I can’t find the Milk Nibby, this one will be a more than adequate substitute. I had no trouble finishing the bar.
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