Thursday, March 18, 2010
Wonka introduced a line of jelly beans back in 2006 (original review). They were matte, opaque pastel jelly beans with a strange grainy shell but familiar SweeTart flavors.
This year the product seems to have been reformulated, though there’s no mention of it on the package which is also redesigned. Readers alerted me that they were different this year.
The 2010 version of SweeTart Jelly Beans are more vibrant and come in the current SweeTart flavors of Cherry, Lemon, Grape, Blue Punch, Green Apple and Orange.
I noticed the color difference before I even took the bag home. They’re more opaque and shinier with consistent colors. They’re at once familiar and a little different.
The version I’ve had before had a grainy and cool-to-the-tongue shell. When I saw these and remembered the comments, I was wondering if Wonka was just using the Spree Jelly Beans which have a harder shell.
The shell is more crisp than the previous version and the flavors seem a little more distinct and intense. They also seem to be more faithful to the flavors of the chalky original SweeTarts disks. But what’s missing is probably the tangy hit that the real SweeTarts have.
As you’ll notice, I found quite a few abnormal ones in my bag. These were a few that had distinctive shapes, quite a few were just larger than what I’d call normal or smaller than what I would have thought should be the target. They all tasted fine - the narrow ones obviously had more shell to them proportionally.
They’re still nice - the grape is much better as it is tangier now. I enjoyed the citrus flavors even though they weren’t particularly sour. Green apple is okay, though bland and I usually pick out the cherry and blue punch ones but if I ate them it’s not the end of the world.
In the end, the update is definitely different but I wouldn’t call it an improvement. I think it brings them more in line with what I’d expect from a product extension but still not as good as actual SweeTarts. Now if they could only do the SweeTarts Chicks, Ducks & Bunnies with all the flavors of SweeTarts we’d have something to talk about.
The versions I’ve tried before (2007 & 2008) were made in Canada. This bag was made in Mexico. There are no allergen statements on the bag, so they may be nut free/gluten free and contain no animal-derived products.
Thursday, March 11, 2010
Seems like everyone’s getting into Easter versions of their popular candies. Cadbury-Adams has quite a few new varieties including Sour Patch Eggs and Sour Patch Bunnies (which I bought & will review soon) but the more innovative one appeared to be Assorted Swedish Fish Eggs.
The package is more than quirky. The little red Swedish fish is sporting white and pink bunny ears and a little talking bubble says, “What, you’ve never heard of Candiar?”
The package notes that it also includes Swedish Fish but it didn’t elaborate beyond that.
Inside it’s not a large amount of candy for a theater box. It’s 3.1 ounces, which means that the inner cellophane bag takes up less than a third of the volume of the box.
The assortment is a mix of the small Swedish fish and the little “eggs” which are half inch hemispheres. They come in three or four flavors/colors. Orange, lemon, lime and “Swedish Fish” flavor.
When I took the picture I didn’t know there was a difference between the light green eggs and the aqua eggs.
The Swedish Fish and the aqua eggs are the same berry flavor. Sweet, tangy and jammy.
The lemon eggs are mild, as are the orange ones. Not much zest or juice to it, but still an ultra smooth chewy gel. The lime ones were surprising and more sweet as far as I could tell and more zesty.
On the whole they were fun, the teensy eggs were different but took away from the interactive part of eating a regular size Swedish Fish (biting & pulling it apart).
These are made in Canada but there’s no allergen statement on the box. They contain no animal products, nut products or apparent gluten ingredients but you may want to check with Cadbury directly. They also may be vegan, depending on how you feel about eating mineral oil. (There’s no glaze or dairy in it.)
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
The new Lemonhead & Friends Jelly Beans stand out on the shelves among all the other Easter candies. The bright primary colors - mostly yellow and red are definitely spring-ish but not the usual pastels.
The small bag is jam packed with candy. It’s 14 ounces of little jelly beans made with real fruit juice. Most other bags on the same shelf were about 9 ounces.
This new version of the popular Lemonhead candy is rather similar to the new Chewy Lemonheads. They’re a jelly center covered with the tart and grainy shell that Lemonhead fans have come to know and love. (My mouth just waters at the thought of it.)
The beans are small, not quite as small as Jelly Belly, but pretty close. If you can’t tell already, they’re also vivid - strikingly, saturatedly vivid. They’re probably the most deeply colored jelly beans I’ve seen. I’m not that fond of too much food coloring for two reasons. The first is that it often leaves an aftertaste. The second is that it often colors my tongue and I don’t like people to know how much candy I’ve been eating. Other folks are not fond of artificial colors as they’ve been linked to hyperactivity in children.
The ingredients list an array of acids that I’m accustomed to seeing in candies: fumaric acid (fermented apples & grains), malic acid (found in grapes and green apples) and citric acid (found in citrus) but another that I hadn’t noticed before called adipic which Wikipedia tells me is used mainly as a precursor for the production of nylon. (That sounds alarming but doesn’t mean that it also isn’t food.)
The five flavors are: Lemon, Orange, Grape, Green Apple and Cherry.
The bag definitely smells fruity, mostly citrusy.
Lemon is intense and sour. There are both tangy juice notes and a good dose of almost-bitter zest. It’s convincing. Kind of mind blowing.
The levels of acid in these is quite high, so I wouldn’t recommend eating more than a small handful at a time. I found after more than a dozen of them it gave me a literal sour stomach. But for a little pick me up while driving or mixed with some other candies they’re definitely not your grandmother’s jelly beans.
I found them a little pricey for sugar candy compared to the cheap jelly beans usually around this time of year, but then again, they’re quite concentrated so it only takes a little. I liked that the bag was actually full. So many candies these days come in half empty bags, these feel sumptuous and indulgent.
There are no statements about the gluten free status on the package, they’re not vegan (confectioners glaze). Made in a facility where peanuts, tree nuts, milk, and soy is used. There was also a choking hazard warning (on all the Ferrara Pan products as far as I can tell). This was an extremely fresh package - the expiration date is 12/22/2011.
Friday, February 19, 2010
The product is simple yet unique. A pectin gel stick flavored with wine and then covered in dark chocolate.
The box is a half a tube, rather elegant looking matte black with a swirling puddle of chocolate with three chocolate sticks rising from it. The packages are color coded with colored foil tops. In this case the Port version is red, the Cabernet is silver and Champagne is gold. The box is careful to point out that it’s made with real wine reductions but contains no actual alcohol. (There are also some artificial flavors in there.)
The half round box opens kind of like an envelope (or a car trunk) along one of the long sides. Inside much of the box is empty, with a sealed tray of the sticks nesting on the flat surface. The inner wrapping does a nice job of keeping them fresh and moist. But the chocolate also does a good part of the work as well.
The little fingers are elegant and lovely. The dark chocolate is crisp, smooth and matte. Just opening the box, the scent of “wine” is strong. The notes are yeast, rose petals and grapes plus a little hint of smoky dark chocolate.
The flavor of port is authentic, though a little sweeter than the real thing. It’s a bit grapey but has a nice rounded profile of deep tannins, some soft acids and florals. I’ve have other wine gels before that are several times the price but basically as satisfying. (Those have been straight gels though, covered in sugar instead of chocolate, which I think goes very well and keeps the sweetness down.)
The chocolate itself didn’t wow me. It’s a little bit on the sweet side but vegans will be happy to hear that there’s no milk or any other animal products in here. (Though it is made on shared equipment, so those with allergies to milk, peanuts or tree nuts should steer clear.) It’s also gluten free.
Retail is $4 for a 3.5 ounce package (about 12 sticks) which is a decent price for something that I don’t expect most folks would just sit around shoveling into their mouths like malted milk balls or jelly beans. It’s more of a little accompaniment for other treats, like a cookie plate, bowl of ice cream or dessert. Since it’s mostly a jelly product, it’s a lot lower in calories (less fat) than many other chocolate candies.
I picked up this box at the this year’s Fancy Food Show because I couldn’t actually find them locally.
Tuesday, February 9, 2010
I’m not generally keen on cherry flavors, but I do love real cherries and I’m generally a fan of Gimbal’s products. This bag of little heart shaped jelly bean type objects boast nine different cherry flavors plus vitamin C and real cherry juice. Gimbal’s makes their candies in the USA in a factory that’s Kosher, peanut free, tree nut free, dairy free, gluten free, gelatin free and soy free. So for allergic folks these are pretty special. (Sorry vegans, though the colors are artificial they do use beeswax and confectioners glaze.)
They’re drop dead gorgeous. A riot of reds, pinks and purples they seem to go beyond the frilly satin hearts of the season. They’re a little rustic because each heart is unique and not quite perfect.
Wild Cherry - plain red - you know, cherry. Tart, sweet, floral and deep woodsy notes. But not quite that good. The medicine flavors are kept pretty faint here.
Cherry Vanilla - white with red speckles - like a cherry marshmallow, mostly a soft flavor with a strong fake vanilla flavor to it. Pretty much pleasant.
Black Cherry - deep red - tastes mostly like red. The cherry flavor is pretty intense as far as these hearts go, more on the woodsy side compared to the Bing Cherry.
Chocolate Cherry - brown - oh, this is quite a tragic flavor, not quite cherry and mostly empty cocoa flavors. It’s like a very bad Cherry Tootsie Pop.
Cherry Cheesecake - pink with red speckles - a tangier version of the Cherry Vanilla, this one had a yogurty twang to it and but still a marshmallowy flavor.
Cherry Daiquiri - deep pink with red speckles - this one was rather fun, kind of a lime and vanilla with a hint of cherry cough syrup. A little bit like aftershave though.
Bing Cherry - lighter red - Tangy and sweet, a well rounded cherry flavor. A little chemical aftertaste from the food colorings, but about as good as the Jelly Belly I usually avoid.
Cherry Cola - dark red - at first I liked the cherry cola, because it tasted like cola, even had a weird effervescent quality to it (maybe that was just the tangy part playing with my mind) but then the cherry kicked in and ruined it for me. But that’s just me.
Kiwi Cherry - pink with green speckles - this was just terrible. Maybe it’s because I had a recent run in with fresh Durian, but I just couldn’t get that out of my head when it came to this one. The kiwi flavors were more like melon and onions than kiwi, though the cherry seemed about average.
The didn’t do a thing for me. The colors were pretty, the shapes and distinctiveness of the flavors was actually pretty good. But I wouldn’t consider these a breakthrough candy so I found it odd that the National Confectionery Sales Association awarded Cherry Lovers best new Premium/Gourmet product:
Robby at Candy Addict had a better opinion of these. I’ll just consider them very pretty Valentine’s decorations in a bowl.
Wednesday, February 3, 2010
Marich Confectionery is a California candy maker that specializes in panned items and novelty molded creams and fondants for all holidays. I’ve recently fallen in love with their extra dark chocolate panned items like 72% Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Cashews and Dark Cacao Nib Toffee (which I’ve bought twice with the intention of reviewing but ended up eating).
Their new Black Heart Licorice items are all natural and instead of being wheat-based with molasses, these are more of a gumdrop style dense jelly candy.
I picked up my samples from the Fancy Food Show last month. They were showing off two versions: Black Licorice and Black Cherry Licorice.
The package design is nicely done. The six inch stand up box with the cut out window shows off the candy and is no bigger than it needs to be. The tab on the back folds into a little slot and keeps the candy closed and pretty fresh inside its inner cellophane bag. There’s a little story on it about a candy maker creating the candy to woo a woman, but I skipped right to the candy. (You can see a snapshot of the ad about it here.)
The Black Heart Black Licorice are darling little matte hearts. They feel a little rubbery, like they’re made out of silicone. The scent is only very lightly of anise.
The texture is a smooth and dense chew, a bit firmer than a Dot, but still easy to bite. The flavor is clean and clear - anise with some deeper woodsy licorice. It’s not very sweet, in fact, these have a bit of salt in them (75 mg per serving). Though they are colored, it’s all natural coloring so there are no strange artificial bitter flavors to get in the way of the real stuff.
They do stick in my teeth a little bit, so that’s a distraction. The flavor isn’t too strong to mean that I was constantly munching them without getting that overly full or burnt out feeling.
The surprising item for me was the Black Heart Black Cherry Licorice. I didn’t even want to take the samples, but figured they were red and would photograph well, I should at least try them. When I read the ingredients, it actually sounded pretty good. Again, all natural so no nasty Red #40 to give me a weird aftertaste ... but there’s also licorice root extract in there too. So it’s truly red licorice.
They don’t smell promising to me, like black cherry flavoring. However, the texture is quite dreamy ... it’s silky slick and easy to chew. The flavor is tangy and has a black cherry note to it. It’s woodsy and has an actual cherry pie flavor and then just a hint of the bouncy sweetness of licorice. The whole thin isn’t too sweet either, again, the benefit of the touch of salt in here. Wow, a cherry candy I actually like, because it actually tastes like cherries. For those who don’t like licorice, it’s not a bold anise flavor, just a different kind of sweetness that highlights the woodsy notes of the cherry flavors.
I don’t know if they’re in stores yet, I didn’t see them at Whole Foods, which is usually where I pick up Marich candies (though I also see them at Gelson’s in Southern California as well). I expect the price to be around $3.50 to $4 per package, so a little steep.
Monday, January 18, 2010
A few years ago Jelly Belly was taking suggestions for their new bean flavors. I was actively advocating honey. I know, it’s not dazzling like Juicy Pear or knock-your-socks-off like Buttered Popcorn, but let’s face it, honey is one of humans’ first candies.
Honey actually made it to the final cut of the flavor voting, but the trendier Acai Berry won (with honey as a close second). The good news is that honey made a good enough showing that Jelly Belly went ahead and made it anyway! Which is good, because I’d much rather have a spoonful of honey than of acai berry.
The beans are dark amber and ever so slightly translucent.
They’re soft and mild - really like a less sweet globule of honey. The texture is smooth overall, though with that slight grain of the thin jelly bean shell. There’s a little bit of a fresh aftertaste, kind of like jasmine tea.
It’s too bad that they’re not all natural (there are some artificial colors in there) but they use real honey in them, and that definitely is apparent.
Honestly, I didn’t think much of them when I had them the first time, but the true honey flavor comes through and I found myself wanting more later. I can’t say eating a huge bag of them would be a goal, but they were a nice little mid-day refresher. My confidence level that these are going to appear in stores is pretty low. I don’t expect to see them at the grocery store, but perhaps in the stores that carry the single flavors in bulk ... so the Jelly Belly website is probably going to be the best bet. (A custom mix I’d make for myself would probably be to mix the honey and Citrus Mix for a special sort of cough drop if only they’d make a mentholated jelly bean.)
Jelly Belly are gluten-free, dairy-free and gelatin free plus Kosher.
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
They’re a pretty simple candy and also rather hard to find. I picked these up at the Dollar Tree, but I haven’t seen them anywhere else in the past five years or so.
Chuckles are now made by Farley’s & Sathers but they were the brainchild of Fred Amend back in the 1920s. He was the fellow who go the bright idea to do a sugar crust on gum drops to keep them from sticking together and retain their jelly softness. The company was sold to Nabisco in 1970. At first it was a great marriage. Nabisco wasn’t known as a candy company yet they’d acquired the number one jellied candy brand. They even sponsored Evel Knieval’s attempted jump over Snake River Canyon in 1974. But Nabisco was going through its own growing pains, as it was itself acquired and apparently forgot to manage the brand. Then in a strange turn in the 80s, several former Nabisco executives bought the Chuckles brand and jelly candy company and tried to bring it back to its former glory by moving into gummis as the trend emerged.
I’m having a bit of trouble tracking the history from there. I believe that Chuckles were sold in 1987 to Leaf (Huhtamaki Oy) and then Leaf was sold to Hershey’s in 1996. Farley’s & Sathers acquired it in 2002 along with other jelly candy brands like Heide Jujyfruits and JuJubes.
About 2/3” in diameter and a 1/2” high they’re a small bite of candy. Each is shaped the same, a six pointed berry. They’re really very similar to Jujyfruits except they lack the variety of shapes.
The flavor array is identical to the classic Chuckles: Licorice, Cherry, Orange, Lemon and Lime.
The exterior is soft and dry - no sugary coating, no residual corn starch and no greasy mineral oil. The texture is very smooth, more like Dots than Jujyfruits. They’re soft and completely about the sweet and zest, not any tartness or tangy notes.
Licorice was a disappointment. It was mostly soapy and not much in the way or licorice or anise. Perhaps it got a little too much cherry near it. There’s also a bit of a menthol or minted note to it.
Cherry is quite bold. It reminded me of cherry LifeSavers, at least the smell of someone eating them nearby. Rather pleasant until the bitter Red40 aftertaste hit.
Orange is where things picked up. The citrus zest was strong, almost bitter but in an authentic way.
Lemon was also pretty zesty and fresh.
Lime was off the rails and into fragrance. I had a similar reaction to Chuckle’s green as well. It’s not the end of the world, I can eat around it.
They’re pretty and certainly pretty cheap. They do stick in my teeth in little globs and chunks pretty much like Dots.
I don’t see myself buying them again. I liked the orange and lemon, but I can just get Orange Slices if I’m in that sort of a mood. I can see these being used for decorating cupcakes or gingerbread houses, especially since they’re so inexpensive.
(The Chuckles company was one of the last companies to make the Pine Brothers glycerine cough drops I absolutely loved as a kid.)
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.