Friday, July 13, 2012
I reviewed the Sunkist Fruit Gems when they were made by a Los Angeles company called Ben Meyerson. Shortly after that, in 2006 Jelly Belly bought the rights to the candy and changed the flavor set. (Review of both versions here) Here it is, 6 years later and Jelly Belly has relaunched the Sunkist line using all natural ingredients (natural flavors including juices and natural colors).
While I like fruit jellies, I pretty much stick to orange slices or spearmint leaves (I know, not a fruit). The original flavor set was orange, lemon, lime, cherry, raspberry and grapefruit. Then the revamped flavor set (at the same price point but fewer candies in a package) was orange, lemon, lime and raspberry.
Neither thrilled me. Neither really lived up to the name of Sunkist, the citrus growers. Still, when visiting trade shows where Jelly Belly had samples, I always picked up a few of the citrus ones. I really wanted to like them more.
The new flavors are: lemon, orange, grapefruit, raspberry and blueberry. The colors, though natural, are still easy to discern and attractive.
The pieces are the same size as the previous versions, disks of soft jelly covered with large granulated sugar to keep them from sticking together. The sugar coating is just enough to keep them from binding, but not so much that there’s a lot of extra sugar in the bottom of the package. They really look like they should be sticky, but they’re not.
The pieces are flexible and soft, and made with pectin and starch to thicken them. Basically, it’s a vegan product, all vegetable products in there and nothing animal derived.
I particularly enjoyed the citrus flavors, they’re distinct and have a lot of citrus peel notes, even if it does make them slightly bitter. The raspberry is quite floral and has a strong boiled jam flavor to it. The blueberry was probably the most disappointing for me, but I really only like fresh blueberries. It was sweet with a little tannic note like iced tea but not much else going on with it.
Overall, an excellent revamp for a classic line of candies. They’re pricey for fruit jellies, but much cheaper than classic artisan pate de fruit. So think of them as an in-between product.
They’re available in a few packaging formats. This particular box is nearly a pound and just had loose candies inside two separate trays. Just keeping the box closed kept them pretty fresh, even with our higher than normal humidity in Southern California lately. They also come in an individually wrapped version which is better for a candy dish. They’re gluten free and peanut free.
Wednesday, April 4, 2012
The candies come in a variety of packages from bulk mixes, peg bags to individual flavors. For the samples I got from Jelly Belly, they came in these cute little plastic bottles in the same shape as the Snapple glass bottles. They’re each filled with 1.65 ounces of one of the individual flavors.But you’re more likely to see packages with a mix of all five. Though I like just buying the flavors I like, in this instance the packages are unsustainable and wasteful.
As an American who remembers when Snapple was introduced nationally and their commercials with Wendy, the Snapple Lady I can say that I’ve always felt positive towards the brand. However, in all that time, I’ve probably had five or six of them. Even in my younger years when I did drink juice (rarely soda, even then), Snapple was always a little too bland for me. (I also don’t know how a company can say it’s made from the best stuff on earth if they’re using aspartame.)
The bottles have a little twist off top with a ring that kept me from losing them (though I think if you pry them off, they’re like the rings from one of those spout milk jugs that cats love to play with until they end up under the fridge).
Cranberry Raspberry are red with a light purple hue. They’re sweet and have a good floral berry flavor to them. There’s only a slight hint of tartness, which is too bad, because I love the zing of cranberries.
Pink Lemonade is kind of a weird product to start with. The beans here are quite pink and without much reason other than the fact that the color is in the name of the flavor. When I was a kid I thought that pink lemonade was pink because it had a touch of strawberry in it. But a little digging and I found out rather unsettling reasons for why early pink lemonade was pink. Anyway, Snapple’s classic Pink Lemonade is simply that, lemonade that’s been colored pink. This lemonade jelly bean is bland. There’s no tang, no real zest, just a mild lemon flavor.
Kiwi Strawberry is salmon-pink. The flavor is quite nicely rounded. The strawberry is center stage, sweet and floral with those toasted sugar notes of cotton candy. There’s a hint of sour and a pleasant and refreshing melon-kiwi note to it.
Mango Madness is orange colored. The flavor is a mild mango or perhaps peach flavor. It lacks the intense pine and tartness that real mangoes have. Instead it’s rather one-note with just the sweet, Indian mango flavor.
Fruit Punch is a luxurious looking dark red color, a color I might mistake for root beer. I wasn’t looking forward to it, as fruit punch has never been a favorite flavor of mine. The notes are distinctive and have that authentic fruit punch flavor (is that guava and pineapple?) but still tastes natural. There are lots of red berry and cherry notes and a little twang of pineapple and either guava or papaya (maybe both). It was all sweetness with only a fleeting burst of tartness as part of the candy shell.
Overall, the flavors were mild. If you’re the type of person who tried Jelly Belly and thought, “My goodness, these would be good if they were less flavorful.” Then perhaps these were the Jelly Belly you were waiting for. I think they give naturally flavored & colored candy a bad reputation. I already know Jelly Belly can make good tasting beans without artificial flavors and colors, so I can only surmise that this is what Snapple customers want.
If I were a huge fan of these, I could see myself re-using the little bottles by buying bags of the mixes and refilling for easy portioning. This mix isn’t really to my taste, so I don’t see myself buying it again. I can see it getting a lot of play in places where you don’t normally see Jelly Belly just because of the brand and flavor recognition of Snapple. Jelly Belly does most of these flavors better in their Superfruit Mix or their Citrus Mix.
Wednesday, March 28, 2012
Jelly Belly Peas & Carrots Mellocreme Candy comes in a little plastic container that looks like canned vegetables.
The can says eating your veggies never tasted so good and shows a heaping spoonful of the pretend side dish. They come in two flavors, the little carrots are Orange Sherbet Flavor and the peas are Green Apple Flavor.
Mellocreme is a firm fondant confection, usually just a combination of sugar and corn syrup, sometimes there’s a bit of a binder in there like egg whites and sometimes some honey for added flavor. Candy Corn is probably the most famous mellocreme candy, but especially around Easter there are little pastel shapes around in sweet fruity flavors.
The little carrot rods are shy of one inch long and the peas are actual pea sized (1/3 to 1/2 inch in diameter). The peas aren’t quite spherical, most have a flattened side.
They’re soft, but not crumbly or sticky. They dissolve nicely without any grain, though I wouldn’t exactly call them smooth. The orange carrot is sweet and has a soft and not too zesty orange flavor. Creamsicle is about as close as I can come to it. The peas are a little softer and have a very sweet and barely noticeable artificial apple flavor to them.
It’s a goofy candy that’s much better for the packaging and art direction than the actual eating. I happen to enjoy fresh carrots and frozen peas, so I’m going to pass on this. They’re a bit steep in the price area as well. The can retails for about $5 and is half of the charm of the candy. They’re sold in bags or bulk, but I think it really undermines the novelty aspect. But as a non-toxic plaything for little children, this is far better than plastic. All things considered, I’ll stick to fresh carrots and frozen peas as a snack.
They’re really low in calories as they’re more than 90% sugar. There’s no traces of gluten or peanuts. They contain soy and artificial colors and flavors plus beeswax and a confectioners glaze that makes them inappropriate for vegans and some vegetarians. Made in the USA
Friday, November 4, 2011
When I heard that Jelly Belly was making chocolate covered jelly beans, I simply assumed that mint would be in the initial mix. But when I tried my first box of them, it was all fruity. It makes sense that mint would be sold separately, as they can overpower other flavors.
I found the new Jelly Belly Mint Jelly Bean Chocolate Dips on sale at TJ Maxx. They were a much better deal than I usually see for the Dips, only $1.69 for the bag. They look like an ideal candy for snacking at the movies. The fact that they’re a chocolate covered jelly candy means that they’re a bit lower in calories than a regular chocolate bar. It’s only 106 calories per ounce, instead of the typical 140-160 calories per ounce for straight chocolate products.
The Dips are rather interesting because they’re just the center of a jelly bean covered in chocolate, there’s no candy shell. This creates a smoother experience, but there is a more subtle experience. Gourmet jelly beans are usually constructed of two parts - the lightly flavored center and the intensely flavored shell.
They’re beautifully panned, the chocolate coating is consistent and shiny. They smell like dark chocolate: deep and slightly smoky. The chocolate turns creamy very quickly when I chewed the beans. The center is firm and chewy, but has not hint of the grainy coating that typical sugar shelled jelly beans have. The mint comes out quickly, it tastes like a peppermint and spearmint mix. But the longer I chewed, I started getting another flavor - the sweetness of the chocolate dissipated and suddenly it was tangy. The jelly center has citric acid in it, so instead of being like the a chocolate covered Spearmint Leaf, there’s this weird tartness. It’s like there’s a mojito note to it, without the citrus zest. Or a cough drop.
I just didn’t like it. If I kept eating them, the aftertaste didn’t get a hold of me until the last one was left ... but that’s no way to enjoy candy. I’ll stick to Junior Mints or for this candy, the fruity flavors.
Tuesday, August 30, 2011
A couple of months ago Jelly Belly announced a new jelly bean flavor: Candy Corn Jelly Belly Jelly Beans. Jelly Belly, which began as Goelitz Confectionery Company, has been making Candy Corn for over 110 years so I’d think that they know a lot about Candy Corn.
Candy Corn is a bit polarizing, since it’s a rather simple and cheap candy it becomes ubiquitous in the fall around Halloween and Thanksgiving. Some folks actually like it but I think most don’t have a feeling one way or the other about the candy itself, but might have some strong associations with the occasions attached.
So what is the essence of Candy Corn anyway? In my mind it’s a honey flavored firm fondant. So a jelly bean that’s Candy Corn flavored should have some aspects of that.
The bean has the requisite colors: orange, white and yellow. (In an ideal world though it’d be an orange background with white and yellow additions.)
The flavor is at first a little like fake butter but gets much better after that. I was afraid it was just going to be a honey toasted version of buttered popcorn. But it’s a bit more than that. The dominant flavor is actually a mix of the toasted marshmallow and honey bean. There is a butter note, but it goes away quickly.
Are they great jelly beans? Well, they’re interesting because they do in fact taste like candy corn. But part of what I like about candy corn is the layering. I like to bite off the crispy and dry white tips, then the orange layer, savoring the slightly moister and denser yellow base for last. The jelly bean has none of that interactivity. I can’t search through a handful of jelly beans looking for that misformed kernel that’s just orange or only two layers.
However, if you simply love the flavor of Candy Corn but have been wishing for a less pointy version of it, then Jelly Belly has the best solution.
Monday, July 18, 2011
As the billboards around town keep reminding me, the Harry Potter film series ends with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt. 2. This may or may not mean the end to the curious creations from the books and films, the candies made by Bertie Bott, a magical confectioner. His triumph and perhaps unique item is Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans. The tale goes that Bertie Bott was making traditionally sweet flavored beans when he accidentally made one flavored like a gym sock and then struck upon the idea of making a flavor of everything, even things not intended to be eaten.
The reality of how Jelly Belly went about it is rather similar. Years ago Jelly Belly was trying to come up with a Pepperoni Pizza jelly bean. Something about the intensity of the flavors was more than a little off and what they created smelled so bad that they had to clear the candy kitchen and air it out, because it reeked of vomit. So when the opportunity to make the Bertie Bott’s came up, they resurrected the failed recipe and made it ever so slightly more vomitous. (In the current variety package, though, Vomit is no longer part of the mix. Perhaps a little too much reality.)
The Harry Potter books list dozens of flavors and the actual candy made by Jelly Belly does incorporate many (mostly the ones that would be recognized by Americans, not things like tripe or marmalade). This little box may contain the following flavors: Banana, Black Pepper, Blueberry, Booger, Candyfloss, Cherry, Cinnamon, Dirt, Earthworm, Earwax, Grass, Green Apple, Marshmallow, Rotten Egg, Sausage, Lemon, Soap, Tutti-Fruitti and Watermelon.
I’m not going to eat them. I’ve had quite a few of the flavors, even some of the non-traditional ones like Soap (floral), Black Pepper (spicy and well rounded), Grass (grassy) and Dirt (like beets). But draw the line there. I have no interest in rotten eggs, boogers, earwax or vomit. I appreciate the the sheer breadth of flavors in the package means that you actually have to pay attention to what you’re eating. I like that idea. When I eat the citrus mix, I don’t really care that much of I’m eating lemon or orange, because they’re both good. With the Bertie Bott’s, there are no guarantees.
Like all Jelly Belly products, they’re expensive. The Jelly Belly website lists this little 1.2 ounce box for $2.25 (though I’ve seen them for $1.50 at stores). But then again, they’re not really for eating by the handful, unless you have no sense of smell and therefore do not gag on the cacophony of unnatural flavors. (And if you can’t appreciate the wacky tastes, spare yourself the expense and just buy the regulars in bulk, the texture is the same.)
I thought Jelly Belly’s rehash of the Every Flavour Beans as a sort of Russian Roulette was pretty good. It’s called Beanboozled and you get a container of jelly beans that could be either of two flavors, a benign one like coconut or it could be the less desirable baby wipes.
I don’t actually find these tasty (as I’ve given them an 8 out of 10 rating indicates) but I do find them to be the most inventive and successful emulations of a fictional product I’ve ever encountered.
Friday, April 22, 2011
It’s National Jelly Bean Day and it’s fun that this year it falls on Good Friday, just before the high holy day of Jelly Beans, Easter.
These jelly beans are from Jelly Belly. I got them at the ISM Cologne candy fair and they’re a little different from something you’d get in North America, they’re Mooncake Jelly Belly.
Mooncakes are little Chinese pastries, a filled cake that sometimes has lotus seed paste but I’ve seen them more often here in the Los Angeles Chinatown with red bean paste. These jelly beans have an odd flavor to them that took a while to describe. They’re sweet and have a toasted marshmallow component but also have a floral musk melon and watermelon note. Then the red bean flavors come out with the center of the bean, an earthier flavor. As far as jelly beans go, this combination is a winner for me.
Jelly Belly not only makes gourmet jelly beans for the American market, they’re quite easy to find in large metropolitan areas. I saw many candy stores in Amsterdam and Cologne had them. Jelly Belly has one factory outside of the United States, in Thailand, where I think these were made. I was told that they’re not available in the United States. I guess it’s just one more reason to travel the world.
Monday, December 6, 2010
Jelly Belly is always innovating new flavors for their intensely flavored and tiny gourmet jelly beans. Recent introductions have been based on soda pop flavors, Cold Stone Creamery ice cream and cocktails. Other innovations have been in flavors with additional fortifications like the Sport Beans and antioxidant mix.
My favorites have always been pretty simple, the Citrus Mix and root beer.
The new Jelly Belly Jelly Bean Chocolate Dips are something a little different from the usual flavor variations. These are genuine Jelly Belly beans dipped in dark chocolate. They come in five flavors: Very Cherry, Orange, Raspberry, Coconut and Strawberry.
The flavors are either sold separately in bags or in a 4.15 ounce box like this that has a divided tray that labels the flavors.
As you can imagine, once the beans are covered in chocolate, it’s nearly impossible to tell which flavor is which. (I spilled mine after a few days and was then playing bean roulette.)
The first thing I have to say is that I was surprised at how small these were. They looked (and are) the exact same size as the regular Jelly Belly. How is that possible? Covering a regular Jelly Belly in even the thinnest sheath of chocolate would still make it bigger than a regular Jelly Belly. It turns out that the secret here is that the chocolate coating replaces the jelly bean’s shell. A jelly bean is made up of a jelly center and then a smoothly polished but grainy sugar shell. This is usually where most of the flavor is in traditional jelly beans, but Jelly Belly have flavored centers and shells. So how would this affect the Dips?
They smell sweet and a little like cocoa. The beans are tiny and a little slippery. The chocolate coating isn’t very strong or even very thick, but it’s glossy and has a decent cocoa flavor and smooth melt.
Very Cherry is just that. If there was one bean here that I might be able to pick out without a label, it’d be the very cherry. It’s very. The center is fragrant and intense and not too sweet. The texture of the jelly center is smooth and chewy, but with no hint of the grain that a regular jelly bean has.
Coconut is one flavor I’m glad that was included (banana would be another suggestion). It has a clean, tropical flavor and I can almost imagine the chewy coconut. But the fact that it’s only flavored coconut leaves it a bit thin in the end. The coconut bean goes well with most of the other flavors (not really the cherry).
Strawberry is sweet and floral, light and the least intense of the set.
Raspberry has a good, well rounded flavor, no tartness but a lot of jam and boiled berry notes. It’s very realistic but also very sweet.
Orange was oddly disappointing because it was so intense. There was a lot of zest and orange oil in the center, so much that it burned after a while and left a weird film in my mouth. I ended up avoiding them.
At first I didn’t like these much. The lack of the shell meant that they were lacking an essential element that makes them jelly beans. They were soft and jelly like but chewing them was more sticky than a plain jelly bean. Eventually they grew on me though, the texture combinations are unique enough to make these more than a passing fancy. They’re far more successful than Jelly Belly’s previous chocolate attempt with the JBz (think flavored M&Ms).
I can think of a lot of other flavors that would go well, such as banana, toasted marshmallow, licorice, cinnamon and peppermint. This particular box is expensive, at $6 for 4.15 ounces, but the single flavor pound packages on the website are only $9.99 a pound (my guess is that even though chocolate is more expensive than sugar, coating the jelly center in plain chocolate is much less labor intensive than making the high quality sugar shells & then printing them with the Jelly Belly logo).
The beans are not vegan (confectioners glaze plus milk in the chocolate) and there’s no statement on the package about their nut, gluten, egg and peanut status. (Contains soy, milk.) Though there are some artificial flavors in there, they do not have any artificial colors.
Jelly Belly has gone through a lot of brand extensions over the years beyond the flavor combinations of the actual jelly beans.
Jelly Belly Bubble Gum (not made by Jelly Belly)
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.