Monday, December 2, 2013
The hot flavor trend this season is gingerbread. Well, not as hot as pumpkin spice, which spans Halloween and Christmas holidays. There’s little difference between the spices in pumpkin pie and gingerbread, though the proportions of the actual spices are often different and gingerbread has a background of molasses or brown sugar.
The M&Ms Milk Chocolate Gingerbread are sold only at Walmart this season, though their companion Twix Gingerbread are sold at most stores stocking seasonal bagged candy.
The design on the front of the package looks like most of the other holiday M&Ms. In this instance the Red M&M is just holding a plate with a gingerbread cookie and pointing at it. Kind of lazy.
The Gingerbread M&Ms are a milk chocolate base with some spices added in. They come in three colors, red, green and brown. Not terribly exciting. The milk chocolate is the normal sweet stuff, creamy but on the fudgy and sugary side. The added spices give it a warm flavor but nothing distinct. Maybe there’s ginger, maybe some cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg. They add a light chalky note to the texture but I didn’t specifically get any ginger or black pepper in there.
What would have been extraordinary would have been a real piece of gingerbread, in the format of the Pretzel M&Ms. Or Sugar Cookie, or Snickerdoodle. There are so many exciting seasonal variations on the cookie center that could be accomplished. Even just the Pretzel M&M with this flavored chocolate on the outside would have propelled this to another level of specialness.
Intellectually, I know they’re not the same as the Pumpkin Spice M&Ms from earlier this year, but they don’t feel that different - just swap out the orange ones for red and tone down the cinnamon. No, Mars still hasn’t come out with the Egg Nog White Chocolate M&Ms I’ve been longing for. I guess they’re just not into nutmeg.
Today is the day many blogs decided to review the new M&Ms Milk Chocolate Gingerbread. The Impulsive Buy and ZOMG, Candy! would be the two that I’ve seen so far and previously Junk Food Guy and Serious Sweets. I think most of us are agreed, it’s a nice idea but not really a great M&M.
Friday, November 15, 2013
Last year Mars announced a new season flavor for their Twix candy: Twix Sugar Cookie. Sadly, they never showed up in stores in this dimension. Then this year they made their announcements for the holidays with nothing noted for the Twix line, so I was blindsided to find out that there is in fact a holiday version of Twix this year: Twix Gingerbread. (There’s also seasonal Gingerbread M&Ms out, but they are a Walmart exclusive.)
The description is a short listing of the elements: cookie bars - gingerbread caramel - milk chocolate. So it’s not a gingerbread cookie; it’s the caramel that’s flavored like gingerbread.
What I’ve always loved about gingerbread, whether in cake form or crunchy cookie, is the wonderful base of molasses that gives a touch of sweetness but mostly an earthy base for the spices. Recipes obviously call for ginger but also include clove, cinnamon, black pepper, nutmeg, allspice and/or coriander. The ingredients for Twix Gingerbread doesn’t specify the spice array and does not list molasses at all.
The Twix minis are a little over a half an ounce each. They’re not quite as big as the regular bar you buy in pairs. The calorie count, though, is pretty low at 80 per piece and they’re about 2.3 inches long ... it’s a nice little snack.
They smell quite sweet and cinnamony, with a hint of woodsy but undefined spices.
The overwhelming flavor profile of the caramel is cinnamon and nutmeg with hints of black pepper and ginger. There is no molasses, it’s completely missing that earthy sort of beet flavor. The chew is great, the milk chocolate was creamy and fresh and the cookie has an excellent crunch and texture to offset the caramel. It’s a good iteration of the classic candy. It doesn’t really ring as a gingerbread item. I wish the cookie was different, was an actual gingerbread cookie, but I’ll forgive them for their manufacturing limitations.
My overall feeling about these seasonal flavors like Snickerdoodle, Pumpkin Spice and Gingerbread is they’re pretty much the same thing (we may as well throw Spiced Chai in there). It’s just a mix of those cinnamon spice flavors ... all pretty generic when the end up in a mass produced candy. The Pumpkin Spice M&Ms didn’t end up that different from the Cinnamon M&Ms and probably aren’t that different from the Gingerbread M&Ms. I like the infusion of new flavors into classic candies, but when they start thinking outside the box, I’d like them to be a little more faithful to the inspiration and allow for more differentiation.
Tuesday, November 12, 2013
My European candy blogging friends latched onto a new product last year, the Peanut M&Ms Intense 65% Cacao which are made in France but sold in quite a few European countries. When I had the opportunity to do a candy swap with Kristian at CandyBrain.de, this was on my wishlist of items.
I have to admit that the United States has the most diverse selection of M&MS, and we’ve even had Dark Chocolate Peanut M&Ms in stores before. So, I was mightily surprised to see that France got 65% cacao M&Ms before we did.
The bag is pretty big, with 9 ounces in a stand up gusset package. Instead of the zip top that many snack sized packages are getting the US, this on has a little sticker on the back you can peel off to use to hold it closed after you roll the top down.
The color variety for these is interesting. I looked at the ingredient panel to check if these were all natural, and it appears that it’s nearly so. I looked up all the colorings and found the following listed:
e100 is Turmeric, a yellow-orange dye (derived from plants)
Here’s the weird thing about the coloring used on the shells. I could tell what some of the colors were without looking by the taste. The red one had a banana note and the orange one had a hint of curry.
The shell is quite the same as in the US version. It’s crunchy and not too thick but doesn’t crack easily. They smell nicely of cocoa and a hint of roasted peanuts. The chocolate inside is quite dark, with an immediate bitter note and a little bit of a dry undertone. It’s creamy and a little chalky but not in a grainy way. The peanuts however, were weird. I found most of mine were over-roasted, too dark, bitter and just plain ... well, not right. Maybe they’re not American peanuts, which I admit I’m quite acclimated to.
I wanted to like these more than I did, though I had no trouble eating them all. Of course the fact that they’re not available in the United States solves any issues I’d have if I did love them a little too much. Now ... maybe if they started putting Marcona almonds or Hazelnuts in there along with the dark chocolate ... then we might have something that would drive me to order from eBay regularly. I would be even better if the M&Ms World Stores would stock these international versions.
Wednesday, September 18, 2013
I usually wait until a trade show rolls around to introduce new candy product notes, but I was really excited about the new products set to be presented at the The Association for Convenience & Fuel Retailing show (NACS) in Atlanta from 12-15 October by Mars. So, I decided to roll out the announcement for these a little early. Sadly, nothing comes out this year, the earliest new release is January:
Name: M&Ms Birthday Cake
UPDATE: Here’s the review of Milk Chocolate flavored Birthday Cake M&Ms which started showing up in CVS stores in February.
Name: Mega M&Ms Milk Chocolate & Peanut
Name: Dove Promises Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Caramel
Name: Twix Bites
Name: Milky Way Simply Caramel Bites
Name: 3 Musketeers Bites
Name: Snickers Rockin Nut Road
Friday, September 13, 2013
The Pumpkin Spice M&Ms are a Target exclusive this year (just as the Candy Corn M&Ms were also exclusive their first year at WalMart). The package is cute and was easy to spot at the store. It features the orange M&M character looking like a pumpkin.
The flavor is not pumpkin pie itself, but the spices used to turn pumpkin custard into a seasonal dessert. Traditional pumpkin spices are a mix of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, allspice, and/or mace. The ingredients for these M&Ms are vague, just listing “artificial and natural flavorings” at the end of the list.
The pieces are, for the most part, the mega size. They’re larger than a standard M&M and come in three colors in the package: dark brown, orange and green.
The flavor is overwhelmingly cinnamon. Though they smell like chocolate, they taste like chocolate milk sipped in a room with too many Christmas-scented candles. The candy shell is crispy and the milk chocolate center is, well, a bit fudgy and grainy. I think I prefer the size of the regular M&Ms, since the chocolate is merely passable. In this format the amount of sugar easily overwhelms the chocolate.
I didn’t actually notice that much of a difference from the previous limited edition Cinnamon M&Ms from two years ago. Maybe a little more note of clove. I would have preferred more of the nutmeg and ginger spices than the Tic Tac notes of cinnamon candies.
Pumpkin Spice seems to be a pretty hot flavor these days (though the Hershey’s Kisses version has been around since 2008), a lot of seasonal candies are being released (see list below of previous reviews). If you like Spiced Chai or cinnamon in general, it’s a great time to pick up this twist on old candy favorites. If not, wait a few months and the Candy Cane and Egg Nog versions will emerge.
Finally, with all the crazy flavors of M&Ms that have come out over the years, I’m a loss to why they’d go with something like peanut butter and jelly before coffee.
Monday, September 9, 2013
Candy Corn is brilliantly simple and captures the essential nature of corn itself very well. Corn (I mean dent corn, not the fresh-eating sweet corn) is ubiquitous and exceptionally versatile; it can be used to create oil, sweeteners, cereals, starches, feeds and even plastics.
Candy Corn reflects that versatility well, in that it looks like food, but it is much better at boosting the appeal of other foods as a decoration or merely a side dish to more appealing things. Like corn in our everyday lives as North Americans, it’s everywhere at Halloween. Candy corn is a fondant, and fondant is basically a butterless, chocolateless fudge. It’s just sugar and corn syrup, sometimes flavored with a bit of honey and sometimes held together with a bit of gelatin or egg white.It’s kind of sad that candy corn has become some sort of punchline to jokes about reviled foods, but it must have lovers or at least likers, or else candy companies wouldn’t make so much of it.
Wrigley’s seems to have latched onto the seasonal quality of candy corn for their new Starburst Original Fruit Flavored Candy Corn but discarded most of the other qualities of candy corn. They’re brightly colored, fruitly flavored unlike normal candy corn. The only thing that remains is the triangular shape and layering of colors.
Each candy is three tiers of one of the Original Starburst flavors: cherry, strawberry, orange and lemon. All have white tips, light centers and dark bases.What’s particularly odd about them is that they’re flavored the same on all levels. At the bottom of the bag was a bunch of the little white tips that had broken off and they were absolutely just as flavorful as the colored bottoms. The other thing is they’re not a traditionally “flavored” mellocreme. The others that I’ve had are usually light - maple or cocoa flavored perhaps, or with mild fruit essences. The Starburst Candy Corn is going for true Starburst juicy flavor - sweet, fruity and tart.
Cherry was the darkest red. It tasted quite strongly of that artificial cherry that Life Savers and Starburst share. There’s a sharpness towards the end and an overall pleasant tartness. The texture is good, it’s soft and though it doesn’t quite melt in your mouth, it’s smooth. The flavor lingered, again, medicinal and artificial.
Strawberry was pink and had a similar sort of medicinal quality like the cherry. It wasn’t floral or jammy, just artificial tasting.
Orange was like a creamsicle, sweet but tart enough that it had a sort of aspergum finish to it. This too had a lingering aftertaste, kind of like yogurt or soured milk.
Lemon was probably the most successful, but that’s not saying much. The lemon had a hint of zest but mostly was like a lemon sherbet flavor.
On the whole, I found them a pleasant experience, but I was left wondering why I was eating them. I didn’t like the flavor variety, the aftertaste was odd and the tartness distracted from what is usually a very mild and comforting candy. I think to celebrate the season, I’ll just form my regular Starburst Chews into little triangles and enjoy them that way.
Starburst has really extended their fruit chew brand in a lot of ways. There are or have been jelly beans, lollipops, drinks, gummis and now mellocremes. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Starburst gum, red licorice type chew or chocolately Tootsie Roll styled product. Only time will tell.
The ingredients do not list any eggs or gelatin, which I found surprising. It does list confectioners glaze, which usually means shellac so it’s not a vegan product.
Monday, July 29, 2013
They come in three flavors: strawberry, red raspberry and cherry berry (which is not a real thing).
Their construction is different from the usual Life Savers Gummis. First, they’re smaller, about same diameter as a hard candy Life Saver, but without the hole. They’re thicker and have two layers. The top is the semi-transparent gummi layer and the bottom is called a white “light textured layer” which is a foamy gummi, a bit denser than a marshmallow.
Strawberry is the lightest color, a pale pink which sometimes looked a little orange. The flavor is well rounded, a good combination of tartness and sweetness. Strawberry is pretty easy to do well, as Life Savers have done here. The foamy layer is also a little tart and seems to be less berry, but not quite creamy.
Red Raspberry is the red and was the least successful of the set. It was tasty, but not jammy enough for me and didn’t distinguish itself from the other two. It was sweet and has berry notes, but it was bland overall.
Cherry Berry is dark red. If it’s supposed to be a mixed berry, that was lost on me, because this was a true Life Savers Cherry flavor. It’s zingy and intense, except for the foamy layer which gives it a bit of air without diluting the flavor completely.
I appreciate that Life Savers didn’t go out and make too many berry flavors to fit into this mix, just because they do five flavors in their rolls. Three is a good mix and all three of these were successful, though probably not a good match for my favorite flavor ranking. Now ... if they make a citrus mix, we’ll have something to talk about.
Right now I think they only come in the large resealable package, but will probably be available in the king sized packages as some point. They’re similar to the Wonka Whipped Wingers which I believe had natural colors in them.
Friday, June 21, 2013
As you would expect from the name, they’re mini versions of the regular Starburst chews. They’re also unwrapped. (Some folks who make chains from the wrappers will not find this to be a selling point.) The flavors are the same as the Original packages: orange, lemon, cherry and strawberry.
A wrapped Starburst is .75 inches square and approximately .33 inches high. Each is approximately 5 grams. The new Minis are slightly more than .5 inches square, though the sides are not straight, they’re pinched and are .25 inches high. So my calculations show that they’re about one third the size.
What’s more interesting is the ingredients list. Starburst contain gelatin. So, they’re off limits to vegetarians and have never been Kosher/Halal to my knowledge.
Starburst Minis do not contain gelatin. They use pectin, which is derived from vegetable/fruit sources. In addition to the artificial colors, the other ingredient of concern to some folks would be the use of confectioners glaze, which has shellac in it. Shellac is derived from insects,so it is not a vegan product. It is gluten free. Also, oddly, this is made in Mexico. (I checked my other recent Starburst purchase of Starburst Very Berry but confirmed that they were made in the USA.)
Aside from the size and the enhanced ability to combine flavors, the other difference is texture. I found that the pieces were slightly aerated. They weren’t as dense as a regular wrapped Starburst, and also not quite as intensely flavored. But they’re softer and easier to chew. The chew had the same long-lasting flavor and lack of grain ... but a lighter dissolve on the tongue (I think because of the aeration).
They don’t do well in humid climates. Humidity in Los Angeles, lately, has been around 40% and they’ve done well, but one damp morning and they were rather stuck together. I left them in the office overnight where it’s air condition and they separated again. So if you’re in a humid area, you might want to stick with the wrapped version or keep these sealed in a zipper bag when you’re not busy consuming them.
The key feature to recommend the Starburst Minis is not their size, it’s the fact that they’re unwrapped. But I’m sure there are a lot of folks who will hone in on the fact that they don’t have gelatin in them. I don’t like the texture as much, but I can see the appeal of these, especially in circumstances where the wrappers are a hindrance, such as snacking on a plane or in a movie theater. But mostly I figure Skittles are mini Starburst - not quite the same flavor array, but a good approximation and they don’t stick together.
UPDATE 9/3/2014: I picked up another package, because I’ve noticed some comments about the flavor and texture that were inconsistent with my initial review. Since that was a year ago and the candy has been in production for a while, I thought perhaps there were differences when the candy sits around on shelves for a few months or if they’d tweaked anything.
I found them to be quite firm, tough even. It’s workable, but not a feature I find comforting. The flavor is also off, especially on the citrus flavors ... I definitely got a little note of something metallic with the lemon and orange. If this is the way everyone else is tasting them, I’d downgrade them to a 6 out of 10. I’m sticking with regular wrapped Starburst.
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