Monday, July 7, 2008
Earlier this year I attended ExpoWest, a trade show which highlights natural products. It’s actually a great place to find candy, though most of the time the products were advocating what they put in them. There were candies with added vitamins, minerals others fortified with omega3 fatty acids, exotic gums & algae and still others made from completely raw ingredients or buying carbon offsets. Instead, Zootons are highlighting what they don’t put in them.
Zootons is a line of soft, chewy jelly candies that are organic and vegan. That’s it.
I know that many parents (and adult candy fans) can be frustrated with sweets that say they’re healthy but then fail to match the appeal of the unnatural counterparts that are so ubiquitous (and let’s face it, less expensive).
At first glance Zootons seem to narrow the gap. The packaging is kid friendly - black boxes that each have a different big-mouthed monster icon on them. They also have a little window that lets you see the candy. Inside the box are two sealed packages (50 grams each) which counts as a full serving.
While I hesitate to call them healthy, they’re certainly easy to add to a kids diet as a treat.
Cute little star shapes with a coating of coarse granulated sugar. They come in four flavors: strawberry (pink), pineapple (yellow), blackcurrant (dark red) and lemon (also yellow).
The distinction between the flavors wasn’t that significant. I was able to tell the pineapple and the blackcurrant from the others, but it all kind of blended together. They’re not terribly tangy, just sweet and fruity.
The texture is fun, the sugary coating gives them a little crunch and the smooth jelly center is moist.
Rating: 4 out of 10
I was hoping the Sours would give me the pop that I was looking for in the Jellies.
The Sours come in strawberry, orange, raspberry and lemon. Again, not easy to tell apart visually.
These were much moister than the Jelly stars. The sour started with the sugary coating. Not super-tangy, just a little sizzle of flavor on the tongue.
The lemon was quite nice, not as zesty as I might have liked, but very authentic tasting, like a lemonade jelly. Strawberry was amazingly vivid, both fragrant and tangy, it was like an intense slice of strawberry jam. Raspberry felt very flavored and less like distilled fruits. But it was tingly-tart and satisfying.
These are quite a winner. They’re not too sour for littler kids, I think the only ones who would be disappointed are older kids who are obsessed with the tongue-blistering-super-dare sours.
Rating: 7 out of 10
This was where things went a little strange. I’m kind of a purist when it comes to using the word gummi. Gummis should have a jelling agent in them like gelatin or agar-agar. In this case, they do not have either of those. I was hoping there was some innovation or technique not evident in the ingredients that would give them that inimitable bouncy gummi texture that any child who has had the real thing will expect. Sadly, no. These are just fruit jellies.
The surface is a bit dry, but not covered in the granulated sugar like the other Jellies and Sours. They say they come in four flavors: pineapple, blackcurrant, orange and raspberry. Honestly, I had a hard time telling them apart visually. They were sweet and fruity, but not terribly tangy. Soft and quite moist once I bit into them, they did have a bit of a bounce. Of the set, I think they were my least favorite. Just not enough zip for me.
Rating: 4 out of 10
This was the most exciting concept of the whole line. I’ve had organic jelly candies before (and have written about Surf Sweets). But so few companies - traditional or organic - make anything cola flavored. I just had to try these.
The little stars don’t look like much in the package, but take them out and they’re quite lovely. The dark amber is spot on correct for Cola.
The flavor is absolutely cola - it has that tangy, almost lemon flavor at first, then that ... whatever cola flavor is ... a bit of cinnamon a bit of rum and a bit of caramel. They’re not intense, none of the Zootons are, but they’re pleasant.
Rating: 6 out of 10
I’m not sure where these are being sold so far, but keep your eyes peeled if you have a picky kid or are trying to get only candies with natural colorings in them. They don’t wow me like some pate de fruits, but they’re not intended to ... it’s just a fun candy treat.
Candy Addict also did a taste test of these last month.
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
Jelly Belly is always coming up with new flavors and themes. This spring it’s their new Ice Cream Parlor Mix inspired by Cold Stone Creamery. Cold Stone is known for their freezing plank of granite where they scoop & mix your custom mix of ingredients (or you can pick from their standard menu). An appropriate tie in with Jelly Belly that already produces an extensive list of “recipes” for combing beans.
As a mix, the list of flavors here is pretty short:
Chocolate Devotion: combines the flavors of Chocolate ice cream, chocolate chips, brownie and fudge. This is pretty similar to my reaction to all chocolate flavored items, it’s watery and being jelly based, it doesn’t even have the mild dairy component that Tootsie Rolls have. It’s not as sweet as I expected.
Apple Pie a la Cold Stone: combines the flavors of French Vanilla ice cream, cinnamon, graham cracker pie crust, apple pie filling and caramel. I’d say that they nailed this flavor, though part of me asks why they’d even bother. It has a nice cinnamon & apple essence at the start, which descends to a sweet frenzy of artificial graham and vanilla notes.
Our Strawberry Blonde: combines the flavors of Strawberry ice cream, graham cracker pie crust, strawberries, caramel and whipped topping. It smells only lightly of strawberry, but sweet. It’s immediately tangy and nicely berry, much like a strawberry sauce. I get nothing else, perhaps a hint of vanilla ... it tastes like a strawberry sorbet might. Nice and simple (and I’m kind of glad I don’t taste the caramel & graham crackers).
Birthday Cake Remix: combines the flavors of Cake Batter(tm) ice cream, rainbow sprinkles, brownie and fudge. This is very sweet, with all the artificial enjoyment of a boxed yellow cake mix. It does actually evoke a cake batter ... but then again, I don’t care much for cake or overly sweet frosting & sprinkles. It is a cute little bean, with little multi colored confetti flecks.
Mint Mint Chocolate Chocolate Chip: combines the flavors of Mint ice cream, chocolate chips, brownie and fudge. As I found in my tasting of the Baskin-Robbins Soft Candy, mint chocolate chip is probably best enjoyed as actual ice cream. This flavor is very minty but similarly watery tasting and flat. The cocoa notes are barely perceptable, and come in with that Tootsie Roll flavor.
While I think that some folks may enjoy these mild little beans, I have to wonder if you want to grab a handful and actually mix the Mint Mint Chocolate Chocolate Chip with Apple Pie a la Cold Stone. Some combos obviously work fine, but I like to think that a custom mix like this would be completely compatible. The only ones I ended up eating were the strawberry.
Jelly Belly are Kosher and Gluten Free. There are no dairy products in here (even though they’re ice cream flavors) so they may be suitable for Vegans (as long as you’re okay with beeswax). Made in a facility that processes peanuts.
Thursday, May 15, 2008
I picked this bar up at Target. They’re not available at all Target stores, in fact, the only one I see them at is the Target in Harbor City here in the Los Angeles area. I think it’s cool that Target has regionally relevant offerings and while this isn’t exactly a local product, I’m sure the folks who requested it and buy it are happy to have a taste of home.
Bubu Lubu is a Mexican candy from Ricolino. It’s described on the package (in English and Spanish) as strawberry flavored jelly and marshmallow with chocolate flavored coating. I know, I know, why am I buying a mockolate product? How could I not! Look at that metallic blue wrapper, the white marshmallow character with the spiky Lisa Simpson hair and strawberry-flavored scarf & gloves! And the name, people, just say that name out loud a few times.
They don’t say so on the package, but many folks enjoy Bubu Lubu frozen. (I don’t happen to care for cold candy, but that’s just me, so I ate mine room temperature.)
Even the shape of the bar is fun, with its little curves.
Inside, it’s pretty obvious how it lives up to the description. A white marshmallow base with a stripe of fruity red jelly and then covered in a crackly mockolate coating.
The strawberry jelly is tart and smooth but overwhelms any delicate vanilla flavors the marshmallow may have. The marshmallow is bouncing and lightly foamy, kind of like a meringue. The jelly creates a bit of a grainy coating, especially when it comes into contact with the mockolate, so it’s yet another texture. The mockolate, well, it’s kind of waxy and only vaguely cocoa flavored. I consider it the edible container for the jelly & marshmallow, not a full participant in this confection.
The bar is rather light, even though it looks pretty big it only weighs in at 1.23 ounces (35 grams).
Since there’s really nothing else like this in the American candy bar world, I think it’s great that this is finding its way onto American shelves. Not really a bar for me, the strawberry isn’t authentically jammy enough. But hey, it was 50 cents, so it’s not like I can expect something extraordinary. If you’re watching your calories, the fact that there’s no chocolate in there and all that marshmallow & jelly means that it rings in at a modest 126 calories.
This actually isn’t the first time I’ve bought Bubu Lubu, but this was the best looking bar I’ve had so far. I’m not sure if I’m not getting them fresh, or this is just the way that they always look. I’m not sure I’d ever find this combination, even factory-fresh with top notch ingredients excellent, but I’m sure that there are many fans of the bar.
Monday, May 12, 2008
I’m kind of ridgid with my definition of gummi. I consider it a jelly-type candy made with gelatin. So just by that definition vegetarians can’t eat gummis because gelatin is an animal product. But gelatin gives gummis an inimitable bounce and chew that no other ingredient has been able to match.
But every once in a while a product comes along that does a pretty good simulation of a gummi, and in this case it’s not only vegan but also mostly organic. Enter Surf Sweets Super Sour Worms. If you’re looking for a candy with no artificial anything that still feels like the candy all the other kids are eating, this just might be it.
The ingredients list is short: Organic evaporated cane juice, organic tapioca syrup, citric acid, pectin, sodium citrate, ascorbic acid (vitamin C), colors (black carrot juice concentrate, turmeric & annato), natural flavors. So for anyone concerned about corn products, those are also not on the list.
The sugar sanded worms are pretty firm, they’re still bendable (even posable) but not at all sticky. The sugar sanding is pure sweet, not blasting acid wash here. (So kids who are used to really sour candies might be disappointed here.)
Inside the stiffy jelly candy is pleasantly chewy, plenty tangy and comes in different flavors.
One is a cherry & lemon (alternating yellow & dark red), on the wild cherry side of flavors, rather woodsy and sour enough to keep my salivary glands a-tingling.
The solid amber orange one is orange, or perhaps tangerine. It’s an authentic-tasting citrus mix.
If you leave the package open they will get a bit firmer, which is the way I preferred them. Right out of the bag they were very soft, kind of limp but extremely juicy.
They’re made in a peanut-free, tree nut-free, soy-free, and gluten-free facility, though they’re not certified Kosher, they’re also vegan.
I’m glad to see that Surf Sweets is continuing their trend of making (mostly) organic, all natural versions of mainstream treats. There are very few compromises here if you’re a parent looking for a treat for the kids that doesn’t have the dreaded glutens, nuts or artificial colors. The packaging is friendly looking and won’t make the kids feel like freaks either.
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Judson Candies was started in 1899 by E.J. Jenner who later brought J.W. Judson in as a partner in 1910. Judson later bought him out and renamed the company. Most notably Judson developed the “more tart jelly bean” in the 1930s, which is the chewy sour ball that we all know today from so many different companies. Judson Candies was then purchased in 1983 by the Atkinson family (already a popular company in Texas with the Chick-o-Stick) and renamed Judson-Atkinson Candies.
I was hesitant to pick up a whole box of Cherry Sours (but ended up being given this box as a sample at All Candy Expo), so I was pretty happy when I stumbled across these little packets of Assorted Sours at the 99 Cent Only Store.
They do look like little gumdrops with a bright jelly bean coating.
The bag holds a variety of five flavors. Though the package design is a little, I don’t know, elementary-school looking. If you can’t make it out here in the photo, there’s a lemon about to slam dunk a cherry (who seems pretty happy about it) and a green apple off to one side waving his arms like he’s open (as if the lemon is gonna pass it to him and not do his dunk?).
All that aside, what’s inside is a candy that I think pleases all ages.
Each sour ball has a crunchy, crumbly candy shell like a jelly bean. The center is lightly flavored and colored. The outside is really brightly colored.
Green Apple has both the artificial chemical “invented” green apple flavor and a nice hint of real apple juice flavors. It’s not terribly tart, but certainly flavorful from start to finish.
Lemon has a bit of a powdery lemon flavor, like lemonade mix at first, which then mellows out into a rather nice zesty lemon. Not sour.
Tangerine was the one I looked forward to the most, as I love tangerine candies. It was similar to the lemon, it tasted more like tang than tangerine, but a little more on the tangy side.
Cherry is what Judson-Atkinson is known for. These taste like tangy, chewy Cherry Lifesavers. After the tartness goes away, it’s a little more medicinal than floral.
Grape is the one that really bugged me (really, I was fine with Cherry). It reminded me of violets and those scented magic markers more than grapes or grape candy. While the apple had real apple-ness to it, this one just felt more like too much red food coloring. Luckily there weren’t that many of them in my assortment.
The centers are very firm, but extremely smooth, probably because they use both corn starch and tapioca to give them a extra jelled texture.
I would love to see what they could do for Pineapple and Grapefruit ... maybe Lime. (A Blue Raspberry exists, but isn’t in this mix and a Tropical but that features Pina Colada, Peach, Mango, Watermelon & Fruit Punch.)
The ingredients list lots of artificial colors: Yellow #5 & #6, Red #3 & #40, Blue #2 and Carmine (which makes these unsuitable for vegetarians/vegans).
Wednesday, April 9, 2008
Last year Mike and Ike let us vote for a new flavor blend and when the winner was clear, they announced the new Mike and Ike Lemonade Blends. But it wasn’t just a new flavor set, this one has a tie in with the foundation called Alex’s Lemonade Stand, which supports research into pediatric cancers.
There was also a stunning candy buffet, as you can see, that featured all the Mike and Ike flavors and little bags where you could design your own mix. (Mine was mostly pineapple from the Tangy Twister mix and some strawberry-banana from Tropical Twister and a strong dose of the new Lemonade Blends.)
I went to a press reveal at All Candy Expo last September where Alexandra Scott’s father told the story of his little girl who started a lemonade stand to raise money for cancer research, all while she was battling the cancer that would ultimately take her life at the age of eight. (There wasn’t a dry eye in the house, it’s an amazing story of a selfless kid.)
Just Born will be making a minimum donation of $100,000 a year for three years. (And this mix will return each spring/summer as well.)
Finally the candies are hitting stores and I can post my review!
I was pleased with the quality of the Mike and Ike Tangy Twister, but didn’t care much for the set of flavors. Since citrus is one of my favorite flavor sets, I had a much better feeling about the new Lemonade Mix.
The new assortment has the following flavors: Lemonade, Raspberry Lemonade, Strawberry Lemonade, Lime Lemonade, and Tangerine Lemonade flavors. The odd part is that these flavors aren’t mentioned on the package, or even on the website, unless you dig deep into the Just Born press release archive. But there are little images of five different fruits on the package, so I guess folks need to make the jump themselves.
Yellow - Lemonade - a good zesty and really sour lemon. After chewing, as with most Mike and Ike, the flavor fades and it’s just pleasant and bland jelly candy.
Green - Lime Lemonade - not as tart as the lemonade, but has a good rounded lime flavor.
Orange - Tangerine Lemonade - I was hoping this one would be really tart but it didn’t quite rise to that. It’s definitely tangerine and not orange though.
Light Pink - Strawberry Lemonade - I enjoy real strawberry lemonade and this has a nice mix of the fragrant berry and the tangy lemon-ness.
Purplish Pink - Raspberry Lemonade - not as tart as the strawberry, this has a more floral berry essence to it.
They’re all tasty and all have that lemony zazz to them. It’s easy to eat them together or separate your colors. I liked all the flavors ... I wish they were just a little more flavorful, but that would be wishing away one of the essential parts of Mike and Ike, which is the mellow jelly center. (Which is made with pear juice.)
Mariko at Candy Addict also had a preview of these and found them so good she’ll be happy to hear that they’re on shelves so she can get more now. For more fun Mike and Ike adoration, check out Jason Liebig’s photo set of his collection of boxes.
The package says that these are Gluten Free. The colors are all artificial, so I guess these are also Vegan.
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
Jelly Belly prides itself on its extensive flavor list. (See Brandon’s exhaustive tasting notes and listings of all the flavors that have ever existed.)
Jelly Belly has had a chocolate pudding flavor in the mix for quite some time and I’ve avoided it for the most part. Chocolate is not a flavor, it’s an experience made up of far too many things like alkaloid compounds, monounsaturated fats and polyphenols that simply cannot be bottled and applied to other confections.
Jelly Belly went ahead and introduced a new bean anyway, Dark Chocolate. I picked up some samples at the Fancy Food Show, tasted a few and then put them away for a time when I wasn’t innundated with so many good things.
In short, chocolate jelly beans are to chocolate the same thing that Tootsie Rolls are. Something utterly different and unsatisifying if you were expecting anything approaching chocolate. However, if you’re looking for something that’s durable and attractive, but not necessarily tasty, these may be your new favorite.
They got the color right, they’re pretty. A little on the dark purple side (cuz of all those artificial colors like Red 40, Yellow 6 & Blue 2) and containing not more than 2% of actual chocolate.
But they’re postively bitter to me. I chomp down ... there’s a mild sweet taste, like cocoa made with hot water, but then there’s a strong bitter blast. I’m not sure if it’s all the antioxidants (hah!) or the artificial colors, but they’re just inedible.
I thought at first it was just a bad bag, or just me. So I opened a different sample bag that was sent to me later by Jelly Belly. Same thing! Turns out I’m not alone, both Caitlin & Brian at Candy Addict recorded the same reaction.
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
This is one of the most incongruous bits of packaging I’ve seen in a while. Hot Tamales branded jelly beans, in spice flavors ... okay, so far so good. But the colors are all, I don’t know, racy.
Spice jelly beans are far from racy. They’re eaten by little nostalgic old ladies and middle-aged European guys as palate cleansers. These are packaged like they’re supposed to appeal to the NASCAR crowd (not that they wouldn’t enjoy them ... Mike and Ike even have an association with NASCAR).
But still, spice jelly beans are hard to find these days, and it’s even harder to find them made in the USA. (Yes, I get emails from people looking for American made spice jelly beans.)
Just Born is known for it’s jelly bean type products, which are their Mike and Ike and Hot Tamales as well as their lesser known line of Teenee Beanee, a gourmet jelly bean.
What strikes me as especially odd about these (on top of everything else) is that Just Born also has a line of spice jelly beans that Sera at Candy Addict just reviewed yesterday!
They’re lovely looking beans, a little bigger than the Jelly Belly everyone is so used to these days, but not as large as the Brach’s Jelly Beans.
The variety has five flavors (the only ones left out of the “traditional” spice mix are licorice and lemon): Wintergreen, Peppermint, Clove, Spearmint and of course Cinnamon.
The color mix is a little odd too, the assignment of colors defies ordinary candy traditions, but I suppose none of that is written in stone either. At least they have a key on the back.
Really, all that’s missing here is Licorice. But the Licorice beans were sold separately ... literally, in their own bag. There’s also a separate bag of Hot Tamales Cinnamon Jelly Beans, but that’s just silly! Hot Tamales are cinnamon jelly beans!
The beans are traditional pectin thickened, many just use corn starch these days. But they’re not Kosher for Passover (but plain old Kosher). They’re also gluten free. I don’t know if these will be sold year round of if they are just a seasonal offering.
Thanks to Rebecca on Flickr who helped me find these!
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.