Friday, August 31, 2007
Last year I reported that M&Ms was pulling back on candy stores on the internet being permitted to sell M&Ms ColorWorks candies. This means that if you want single colored M&Ms, you’ve either got to trek out to a candy store that carries them or order directly from M&Ms and their website.
ColorWorks are wildly popular as a candy for special gifts, parties, wedding favors and candy buffets ... but they’re also rather expensive when you think about how much a regular mixed bag costs at the drug store or grocer. A pound of M&Ms usually costs about $3 to $4 (I can get them for about $2 on sale at times) a pound in their standard mix. However, the ColorWorks on the M&Ms website are $10 a pound when purchased in 5 pound bags (and $13.69 when purchased in the next smaller size, 7 ounces).
So what’s a bride to do when she wants pretty chocolate pastilles for her favors? Well, unless you want to buy the regular M&Ms in bulk and separate them yourself ... or stock up around a holiday such as Easter or Christmas ... or pick something like Kissables then I thought I would look at an alternative brand: Koppers.
I’m very fond of Koppers as a brand to begin with, not only for their variety but also their innovative flavor combinations (they invented the chocolate covered coffee bean and chocolate covered gummi bears!) but mostly because they’re just so darned pretty. It’s a quality product, made in the USA and is certified Kosher. They also have a wide selection of color variations.
A few weeks ago I did a huge photo shoot with a large selection (14 different colors) of the Koppers Milkies and I figured it was a sign that I should do a piece on them, more specifically in a head to head with M&Ms.
Colors: I picked up a pound of pre-mixed M&Ms at The Jelly Bean factory which features 21 different colors. Though Koppers makes at least 28 colors (and would probably do a custom color for you directly if you ordered enough) I think it’s safe to say that both have a great selection of colors.
Size & Shape: The candies are pretty much the same. The M&Ms are a little bit bigger around, but the Koppers are slightly higher in the middle. The Koppers are much more consistent in their size and shape and shell than the M&Ms. Of the Koppers that I sorted through, I found perhaps 3 or 4 “rejects” per pound. For the M&Ms I found at least 15 rejects in the single pound that I had to go on. I find at least one reject in a single serving bag as well (this would be a candy that is markedly out of proportion, has a problem with its shell in some way like bumpiness or missing part of it or irregular coloration).
Shell & Color - the M&Ms have a slightly thicker shell which appears to be colored all the way through. This gives it a consistent color depth. The Koppers has a white or colorless shell at its base and then a colored shell. I never encountered any that lacked a good coat of color on them. The color was more consistent and dense than the M&Ms, where sometimes had a slight mottled appearance, especially on the darker colors. M&Ms also have a little grey, lowercase M stamped on every one (including the grey ones, even though you really can’t see it). Koppers are unbranded and I like the look. I’m not sure I would if they weren’t so perfectly consistent.
The colors available for both are rather similar and it’s likely if you’re very picky for your occasion you should get some samples before you commit to large quantities. (I was able to buy a pound bag of the complete mix of colors at The Jelly Bean Factory.) Most of the colors in real life from both brands are remarkably consistent with those posted on their websites. Koppers has a larger variety of colors they produced, however, few stores carry all of them. (But might be willing to do a special order if you give them some lead time.)
Taste: M&Ms taste like, well, M&Ms. The shell is crispy and crunchy and the chocolate inside is mellow, sweet and has a slightly acidic milky flavor and maybe even a little hint of nuttiness.
The Koppers have a rather different chocolate flavor. In fact, they taste more like chocolate to me, especially since the shell is a bit thinner. The shell crackles at first but then dissolves away to leave only the chocolate. It’s a light milk chocolate which smells divine in large quantities.
The nutrition info on both was virtually identical (200 calories per 40 grams).
Price: M&Ms ColorWorks prices seem to be pretty carefully controlled. Buying on the internet you’re going to find very few shops that still have inventory left, and they’re probably not selling for much less than M&Ms direct. Just about every shop I go into that has M&Ms ColorWorks sells for $8 to $10 per pound. Koppers are sold at a variety of online stores (and not very many brick & mortars). I got mine from Candy Warehouse (because I do photos for them) but there are a few other online stores that are starting to carry the line. Most are about $8 to $10 a pound - even less if you buy in HUGE quantities. (Please check out any online retailer before you order something for a special event.)
Here are a few things I noticed:
It all comes down to what you want at your party, what you prefer, and perhaps even which brand has the colors that go with your motif best. Definitely give both a try (and check out the rest of the Koppers line ... I’m rather fond of their mocha lentils and licorice lentils). It’s fun to think outside of the normal Jordan almonds motif and the great thing is that the internet has made so many different kinds of candy available.
As mentioned earlier I have a lot of the Koppers Milkies and am planning a party for tomorrow evening where I intend to make all my friends eat pounds and pounds of the stuff. I’m going to create the ultimate “candy buffet” so look for some postings and photos in the future with ideas on how to make your own candy buffet.
The results of this head to head? I prefer the Koppers. I like the more authentic chocolate taste and they simply feel a little more upscale to me, mostly because of their high degree of consistency. However, M&Ms have a lot to recommend them. They’re pretty easy to get a hold of (and I’m guessing if you order direct they’ll be super fresh) and a known crowd pleaser, if a bit more “casual” in feel because of the branding.
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
I was thinking back when I wrote the review of the new 3 Musketeers Mint about the original 3 Musketeers. I’ve been searching high and low for images of it, but alas there are none to be found via my diligent use of google. What struck me as so wonderful about the concept was that it was much like the long-gone 7up Bar and the still here Sky Bar - a combination of segmented flavors.
The old 3 Musketeers would have been the Neapolitan nougat of candy bars.
Imagine my surprise as I ducked in the Rite Aid on Friday to pick up some things for my vacation (yes, I’m on vacation right now as I type this) that not only did the store have much of their Halloween candy on display, they also had this Autumn Minis Mix. It doesn’t say limited edition or anything. Perhaps it’s seasonal, there are golden leaves on it, after all.
Here’s an old commercial I found from the days of black and white television animation:
All for fun, and fun for all! Alexander Dumas would be proud.
The little mini bars are tiny, about the size of a normal boxed chocolate. Take them out of the wrapper and put it on an elegant plate and it might even pass for one at a glance.
While I’ve never quite understood what French Vanilla is (and it’s often used as a description for candles and ice cream), I appreciate that this 3 Musketeers is a little lighter tasting. Where a regular one has a rather malty and dark salt flavor to it, this is light. It doesn’t quite have vanilla oozing from its pores as a flavor (more like the absence of any other flavors distinguishes this one), it’s still pleasant.
Against my better judgment, I love the Strawberry. It absolutely reminds me of Neapolitan ice cream! The strawberry is sweet and has a light caramelized sugar touch to it, a little floral-y and certainly on the fake side. But the soft, fluffy and rather foamy nougat pulls it off. The chocolate is passable enough as an enclosure and adds the cocoa flavor to bring it together (I can certainly see me hating it if it were covered in white chocolate).
The pink color of the insides is a little shocking and I’m guessing where the artificial colors listed in the ingredients are used. Kind of unnecessary in my book (especially since it seems that folks accepted the uncolored insides to the new Mint bar).
Mocha Capuccino are surprisingly nice. Not too sweet, a good texture and creamy counterpoint of the chocolate to the nougat. However, they don’t taste like coffee. Nope, they taste like pecans or maple, but not like coffee.
I don’t mind the flavor in the slightest, and considered it my second favorite of this bunch, but someone really needs to tweak their “coffee flavor” that they’re selling to these candy companies. (It could have been much worse, it could have been that dastardly Mocha that those limited edition KitKats had.)
Overall, these are a nice change up from the standard 3 Musketeers and the simplicity of the bar in the first place makes the flavor changes perfectly acceptable.
The price point on these, $3.79 for a 9 ounce bag was a bit hard to swallow. I prefer paying about $2.50 for these sorts of things, but I figured, I’m on vacation (or will be).
Friday, July 27, 2007
Last year M&Ms introduced a limited special tin of eight new gourmet flavors. They were sold only through their website. They were absurdly expensive (I think it was $49 for the set in a tin) and I never saw anyone review them.
Flash forward to a year later and I was reading on Chocolate Bytes that Heather found what I think are individual bags of some of those gourmet M&Ms. She picked up Cherry Almondine and Vanilla Crisp at the Las Vegas M&Ms World. Since my husband was off to NYC, I sent him to the M&Ms World in Times Square to see if he could find the Vanilla Crisp for me. Sadly, all they had were Cherry Almondine, which he picked up anyway.
The stand up bag announces these as a Special Edition (not limited edition, I’m not sure of the difference). The package also describes them, “freshly roasted almonds wrapped in cherry flavored white chocolate.” Sounds enticing (if you like white chocolate, cherries and almonds).
The M&Ms come in two colors, a dark marooon and a creamy beige. They smell an awful lot like cherry cough drops. The crispy shell is great and the almonds, though small, are truly fresh and tasty. The white chocolate with cherry? Well, it is strong. It’s not too sweet, but the cherry is quite a kick in the head. There’s no tangy bite to it, it’s just all sweet and nutty and of course cherry.
I do have to admit that I’m coming around on my dislike of cherry things and found these pleasant and they were certainly a hit on a long bike ride that I took on Sunday. (I got the empty package back from my bud and our ride organizer, Will, at the end of the trip.)
At $6 a bag, I don’t think these are special enough to warrant buying them again. Koppers does far better interesting flavor mixes and on the whole if I were looking for a quick almond treat, I’d pick up the Milk Chocolate Almond M&Ms which have never disappointed me.
There’s no word if M&Ms is making any of the other gourmet Special Edition flavors like Crunchy Cookie Mint. Keep your eye out if you’re in an M&Ms World store.
Tuesday, July 10, 2007
Once upon a time the 3 Musketeers candy bar made sense. Back when it was first introduced in 1932 it was actually a set of Neopolitan bars. One was a vanilla fluff, one was a chocolate fluff and one was a strawberry fluff. In 1945 all three segments were switched to the chocolate fluff. Then sometime later (I think in the late sixties) it was formed into a single bar as we see it today.
The current 3 Musketeers bar is supposed to taste kind of like a malted milkshake. A chocolate outside and a chocolatey malted milk fluff inside. Though it’s not malty enough for me (and they long ago dropped that marketing aspect), the bar is very popular, especially among dieters who like the heft and satisfaction but lower fat (though it does still contain 260 calories at 2.13 ounces). The package even mentions that it has “45% less fat than the average of the Leading Chocolate Brands.” The commercials lately feature skinny women at the office and movies.
So that brings us up to today where 3 Musketeers is finally extending their line of bars, not by looking back to the glory days of Strawberry but forward to the cluttered field of Mint and Dark Chocolate.
The new 3 Musketeers Mint with Dark Chocolate is a very attractive set of bars. The package weighs significantly less than its chocolate progenitor at only 1.24 ounces but boasts two Musketeers inside. Dark Chocolate coating with an appealing and clean looking white fluffy filling. (I was afraid it was going to be pink or green or have sparkles.)
I rather like bars that come in smaller portions inside the pack. I like it in my Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, I like it in my Goldenberg Peanut Chews and I think it was the right move for 3 Musketeers Mint with Dark Chocolate.
I’m not a huge consumer of 3 Musketeers, I prefer them in the miniature size but sometimes I’ll eat a frozen one. So with that in mind I bought two packages of the 3 Musketeers Mint and froze one.
The room temperature 3 Musketeers are nice. They have an easy bite and an appealing sort of spongy give like the regular 3 Musketeers. However, my first impression after the nice dark chocolate shell is SALT. Then comes a light hit of peppermint, but really it tastes salty to me.
So I went and found a York Peppermint Pattie, just to see what the salt content is on that (and figured, what the heck, I’ll take a photo of it and really compare the two candies). The 3M (I just can’t keep typing that long name) has 65 mg of salt (3% of your daily value) ... that’s 52 mg per ounce. The York Peppermint Pattie has 10 mg in a 1.4 ounce pattie ... that’s 7 mg per ounce. So let’s see ... that’s more than 7 times a salty.
Maybe that’s the new fad 3M is starting here. They’re going after the crowd that enjoys artisan sea salt caramels ... it’s the new rage ... salted mints! (Hey, it’s been working for Licorice for a long time!)
Okay, all that aside, I enjoyed the salty difference. It didn’t feel cloying and sticky like some peppermint creams can. There was a bit of a grain to the fluffed center (as there is with the regular 3M bar). But since I had the York PP sitting nearby, I had to have some of that as a side by side comparison. The YPP is smooth and has a very noticeable minty blast, much more noticeable than the 3M.
However, upon taking the 3M out of the freezer, I noticed that the salty flavor wasn’t quite as apparent and the actual cold supported the cooling mint quite well. Freezing it though does make the center a little tacky and chewy, not really a selling point for me.
So, if you like a really strong minted bar, this isn’t for you. It you dig a really subtle hit of mint and perhaps need to recharge with some electrolytes (salt) this may be a pleasant change. Also, because this bar weighs less than the regular 3 Musketeers, it’s only 150 calories but still really quite satisfying. (For reference the slightly heavier York Peppermint Pattie is 160 calories).
3 Musketeers Mint have egg whites in them so are unsuitable for vegans. They are Kosher though ... may contain Peanuts.
Monday, July 2, 2007
Twix is one of the most popular candy bar brands in the country (and mighty popular in Europe, to boot). About 43 million are sold each year (source). There are quite a few different versions and limited editions that have come and gone over the years.
It was kind of an odd process. I submitted an email through the Contact page on the Twix website and two days later I got an email (referencing Peanut Butter M&Ms, which really confused me, because if I asked a question about PB M&Ms, it had to be over a year ago when I was trying to find out if they still made Crispy in the States) with a reference number and their toll free hotline. I called the number and gave them the number and they confirmed that there will be no more Peanut Butter Twix once supplies currently in stores and warehouses run out. (This would be the appropriate time to pick up a box at your local grocer when they go on sale for three for a dollar and then sell them for $2 each on eBay.)
The only difference between these two products is the cookie in the center. The original Peanut Butter Twix has a vanilla cookie (like the regular Twix) while the new PB Twix has a chocolate cookie (like the Limited Edition Twix Triple Chocolate).
This is how I feel about this bar ... it’s trying too hard.
I got a hold of the classic Peanut Butter Twix and did a side by side comparison.
I like the Peanut Butter Twix, not a lot, but enough to finish the bar on hand. The peanut butter is definitely the main attraction here. The bar isn’t very sweet and the cookie gives it a nice texture without doing much else. The chocolate, well, keeps things together.
The Twix looks the same from the outside. The cookie isn’t quite as crispy and satisfyingly crunchy. The peanut butter seems to be lost in the Hydrox-style cookie (no, not Oreo, I’m saying Hydrox for a reason). It all tastes like bad frosting. Not like peanut butter, not like chocolate. It has a nice salty balance and isn’t too sweet, but it just doesn’t have much going for it as a candy. I hate to say it, but when I eat this, the word that comes to mind is unctuous. I mean this in both senses of the word ... it’s kind of oily and it’s also kind of insincere and smug.
Now, if you’re a Twix fan, you’ll probably want to ignore everything I’ve written here. I’ve never actually cared much for Twix. Sometimes I’ll eat a miniature as a reminder to myself that I really don’t like them. I don’t know why. All the elements seem like a good idea. Is it just me, or do Twix always become a melted mess in your fingers too? I don’t have that problem with most other bars.
If you’re a fan of the traditional (and you should really try this one before you go getting in an uproar) then you should probably call Mars or send them an email to let them know how you feel.
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
A couple of week’s ago I saw a mention on the All Candy Expo website that M&Ms was introducing Dark Chocolate Peanut M&Ms on July 1st. I couldn’t find anything else about it though ... expect the commercial that’s running for Dark Chocolate M&Ms ... have you seen it? It’s themed on the Addam’s Family.
The curious part is that only Uncle Fester and Pugglsey are regular shaped, the rest of the family is Peanut. The M&Ms website makes no mention of the peanut version as of this date.
I can kind of shrug it off, except for the fact that I actually found them on sale at RiteAid last night. Well, of course I bought them!
Dark Chocolate Peanut M&Ms were introduced a couple of years ago as a themed promotion for Star Wars and called Darth Mix. I never got to try them (just the plain ones, which were also introduced as a regular version).
First, Peanut M&Ms are not my favorite. They’re kind of in the middle of the pack, I enjoy them but I find that they’re a bit uneven in quality, I really don’t like the Russian Roulette of getting a bad peanut.
A regular Peanut M&M single-serve package contains 1.74 ounces. The Dark Chocolate version contains 1.5 ounces. Do you think that’s exactly the milk content difference? Hardly, there’s plenty of milk in here ... lactose and milkfat are both ingredients, so this isn’t really dark chocolate.
They’re dark, that’s for sure. They crunch the same but the combination of peanut and dark chocolate is quite, well, dark. It’s a bit bitter, it’s a bit smoky, in fact, the whole thing reminded me of peanuts and molasses more of peanuts and chocolate.
The colors are nice and there’s no indication that these are dark on the shell (the plain dark ones have the occasional “dark” stamp on them).
Overall, they were just a little too “dark” for me. It’s not that they weren’t sweet, they were just too bitter.
Sunday, June 17, 2007
I was interested in what the UK version of Skittles were like compared to the American Skittles for two reasons. The first is that they don’t use gelatin in them. This means that vegetarians are free to enjoy, but I wasn’t sure what difference it would make in the texture. The second is that UK Skittles aren’t fortified with vitamin C. Did you know that a pack of American Skittles has half our daily RDA?
My friends Bronwen & Jay just returned from Europe and brought this super-sized tub of Skittles for me.
So, how different are Euro-Skittles? First, remember that Skittles were first introduced in Europe, so if anything, we’ve corrupted them with our gelatin.
I got some American Skittles and did a side by side.
It was pretty obvious that the colors aren’t quite the same. The Euro-Skittles are bit dull in comparison, in color and shine. The American Skittles are on the left and the UK sourced ones on the right.
The flavors are the same until you get to purple, which is Black Currant in the UK, grape in the US.
The textures are different. American Skittles are firm, have a pretty crispy shell and long chew that’s a little grainy and then descends back into a grainy sugary mess before dissolving.
UK Skittles are soft and have what feels like a thinner shell. The flavor seems a bit brighter on the citrus ones, especially the lemon that tastes rather like fresh lemon juice.
I’ve never been overly fond of the American Grape Skittle, I eat it, but it’s way down there at the bottom, right after Lime. So I was intrigued by the Black Currant at first. If anything, the whole tub smells like Black Currant (whereas I find American Skittles smell like Strawberry). What I found out is this ... I don’t like Black Currant Skittles. In fact, I might not like Black Currant as a flavor much at all.
I did a little reading on Black Currant, because it seems like a rather traditional British flavor and found that it’s one of the few fruits grown in the UK with high levels of Vitamin C, during WWII it was the only reliable local source. On this side of the pond, Currant cultivation was banned because the plants were encouraging the spread of a disease of pine trees needed for the lumber industry. So as they fell out of the American diet, they were practically forced down the throats of the UK kiddies. (See Wikipedia.)
American Skittles…..................UK Skittles
My dislike of Black Currant Skittles certainly wouldn’t dissuade me from eating Skittles in England or anything. The differences between the two, besides that flavor, are marginal at best. The good thing is that I have a huge tub of them.
Even though they have no gelatin, they’re not Kosher or Hallal.
Thursday, May 31, 2007
Just when I think I’m done, I get pulled back in again! I thought I’d reviewed all the Starburst on the market today when I saw that the Starburst Sour have new flavors.
It’s not like I was that thrilled with the original set of flavors in the Starburst Sour array, so the new ones might be better.
As luck would have it I picked up the new flavors, then saw the original flavors at the 99 Cent Only Store. Before you go thinking that this will be a redux of the LifeSavers, both of these products are fresh.
Original Starburst Sour were manufactured in June of 2006 with an expiration of 8/2007. New Starburst Sour were manufactured in December 2006. (Curious how I know this, check out What Does that Mars Code Mean?)
Here’s the flavor breakout:
Sour Tangerine (was Orange) - I really had to work hard on this one. The wrappers were the exact same shade of orange and the candies were the exact same shade of orange. I had to admit that the new Sour Tangerine was different from the orange. It had a “high note” of orange and tartness that just wasn’t in the original. I can’t say I prefer one over the other, but I’m glad there’s something citrus in there.
Sour Green Apple (was Cherry) - I was pretty surprised that this wasn’t in the original mix. It’s definitely a synthetic sour apple taste, but it’s quite intense and of course sour. It has some nice real apple juice notes to balance it out, especially as the chew goes on.
Sour Strawberry (was Grape) - While I enjoy a sassy tart and crispy apple and even a juicy tangerine, I have a hard time with sour strawberries, as they’re so much better when they’re sweet and ripe. It smelled like strawberry - a cross between summer flowers and cotton candy. The chew though, was a little less pleasant. It was sour but it didn’t match up with the flavor, it was like a blind date that was going horribly, uncomfortably wrong. It made me break out in a sweat twice, not because it was too sour, perhaps because of the red food coloring. I didn’t eat the third one in the mix.
Sour Blue Raspberry (same) - still an insane blue, still an unnatural flavor for food. Tart and a little on the lime side, a little bitter/dry aftertaste that I kind of liked it this time around.
Overall, I prefer the much more rounded flavors of the classic Starburst. I can see these being a nice change of pace and if I were doing more bike riding or running where I wanted a little something to get rid of dry mouth, this might be the stuff because they’re so portable and of course a good variety in every pack.
Some of our wheat sensitive friends will be happy to hear that the new packaging now says that New Flavors Starburst Sour are Gluten Free (please make sure that your package says that if you’re gluten intolerant since the old flavor set does not say that!).
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.