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.
Monday, June 3, 2013
Dove is again expanding their line of foil wrapped pieces with Dove Mint & Dark Chocolate Swirl Promises.
Dove has done some wonderful things with white chocolate lately, the best thing is that they’re using cocoa butter instead of substitute oils. This is expecially noticeable in products like this one where chocolate and white chocolate are together. Dove did a great job with their Peppermint Bark for the holidays, it’s a great layered combination of chocolate, white chocolate and mint candy pieces.
I assumed that these new Promises would be similar to the Peppermint Bark but without the crunch. These feature a combination of the classic Dove semisweet chocolate swirled together with artificially-colored white chocolate flavored with peppermint.
Other than finding the color of them a bit unappetizing, I think these are great. They’re minty, but it doesn’t overwhelm the chocolate. They have an incredibly silky melt and just two or three are a satisfying treat. I don’t think they needed the coloring, in fact, I think it detracts from them. The foil does enough to denote the flavor inside, a white or off-white would have been just fine for most people.
I prefer them in the pieces, I don’t think I’d be up for eating a whole bar of this. I’m fond of Andes Mints, but these are much better ... better ingredients, better melt on the tongue, real chocolate ... and pretty much the same price.
Mars is moving towards using all ethically and sustainably sourced chocolate through Rainforest Alliance for their Dove line.
Tuesday, May 28, 2013
Small and plentiful is the trend these days. Most of the top candy makers are creating unwrapped bites of your favorite candies if they don’t already exist. This isn’t new, they’ve come and gone as brand extensions through the years, but that doesn’t mean that they’re not a good idea.
The Mars Milky Way Unwrapped Bites are similar to the Snickers Unwrapped Bites I already reviewed. They’re little cubes, super tiny versions of the popular Milky Way bar. The base is a fluffy nougat, topped with caramel and coated in milk chocolate.
The little nuggets are 2/3 of an inch cubed. A serving is eight pieces, which comes to about 1.34 ounces. They clock in a bit lighter on the calories than the Snickers, mostly because they don’t contain peanuts, which are a bit fattier (but also contain 50% more protein).
They’re easy to eat, sweet smelling and have a soft bite and easy, aerated chew. There was a bit of a cereal note to the smell, but overall they were just sweet and tasty.
This is another interesting example of how ratios of different element can change a candy. I know that some die hard Milky Way fans will probably detest this, but I happen to like it much more than the bar. The bar was always too big, too filling and too sweet but also lacking in any distinct flavor element. In this version the malt of the fluffed nougat is the most forward; it also combines well with the slightly salty caramel to create a great balance.
My only complaint with the bites is that the thinner chocolate shell makes them more delicate. There were several clumps in my bag where one spilled its caramel and they got stuck together. I don’t see myself buying these regularly, but I can see them being great for recipes, especially as an ice cream topper perhaps inside cookies.
Wednesday, May 15, 2013
The new trend is reducing packaging. Well, maybe that’s what the food companies want you to believe. The new line of Unwrapped Bites from Mars means you get lots of little miniature minis without all the wrappers that become evidence of how much you’ve eaten.
Hershey’s launched something similar a couple of years ago, so it’s no wonder that Mars is in on it as well.
The package, with a zipper closure, holds a half pound of teensy Snickers cubes. Easy to dump into a bowl, or just eat out of the bag. They’ll also be available in smaller single serving bags.
Mars is utilizing this new icon system on the front of the package for serving size and calorie counts. The serving here is 8 bites or 41 grams, which comes to 190 calories. (3 grams of protein from the peanuts.) Stacked up, the little cubes are cute and hold their shape pretty well. They do get scuffed up in the bag, so they’re not that glossy, swirled perfection found in the individual wrappers.
I can see these being very useful for recipes ... though kind of expensive at 2.99 for 8 ounces, but no worse than premium chocolate chips.
What they got right here is the ratios. Even though they’re not perfect large Snickers ratios, these strike an extremely pleasing balance of nougat, nuts and chocolate. By far the nuts take center stage. Instead of omitting the nuts or putting teensy crushed ones in there, they’re still big peanut pieces. (Though I did get on that had no nuts.) There’s a hint of salt in the nougat which balances the sweet chocolate and caramel. The caramel really doesn’t do much here, maybe it adds a little chew.
What I really enjoy though is the portioning. I like that I can eat only three or four at a time, then maybe three or four later. A full portion is eight pieces, which is less than a regular Snickers, but feels like a lot. Of course the bag is 8 ounces ... nothing keeping you from eating the whole thing in one sitting. These are pretty much the antithesis of the Snickers Slice n’ Share 1 Pound bar ... and actually a better value since a full pound of the Bites retails for $6 instead of $10.
Snickers are made with peanuts, dairy, soy and eggs. They’re also processed in a facility with almonds and I cannot find anything that says that they’re gluten free. Mars has not rolled over to sustainable, ethical sourcing for their ingredients, though they’re on track for 2020.
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