Wednesday, June 01, 2011
3 Musketeers bars were introduced in 1932; at the time the name of the bar made more sense back then, when it was three joined sections, each with a different flavored filling: chocolate, vanilla and strawberry. The bar was later simplified in 1945 into three sections that were all chocolate flavored nougat. 3 Musketeers were one of the first candy bars advertised heavily on television. (They had a long-standing sponsorship with the Howdy Doody Show.)
The shape of the bar has also changed a bit along with the packaging, but the frothy soft filling and milk chocolate coating have pretty much remained the same. A couple of months ago Mars announced that one of their oldest bars was going to get an upgrade: Mars has reformulated the classic light and fluffy taste of 3 MUSKETEERS Bar to deliver a richer chocolate experience. Taste is the leading driver of sales for 3 MUSKETEERS Bar, and this new enhancement still satisfies as a lighter candy bar (45 percent less fat) while increasing the chocolate appeal among consumers.
Mars sent me a couple of preview bars, but I’ve already seen them on store shelves (Walgreen’s). I also picked up a classic formula bar for comparison. The new richer chocolate is on the left and the classic (still quite fresh) is on the right. The size and weight of the bars is identical, as is the nutritional panel. I also could not find any differences in the ingredients, which means that they made this a richer chocolate experience without altering the predominance of any item to the point that the label would need to be changed.
The filling is a nougat and is made of sugar, corn syrup, hydrogenated palm kernel and/or palm oil and then less than 2% of cocoa powder processed with alkali, salt, egg whites, artificial and natural flavors. So a smidge more cocoa that doesn’t exceed the amount of hydrogenated palm kernel oil and there’s no need to change the label ... unless it’s to sell consumers on the new richer chocolate experience.
The look of the bars on the outside is the same. The little swirls of the milk chocolate coating on the classic recipe were a little deeper, but that could simply be a difference attributed to a particular machine. When I bit into them though, I could see a difference in color. The new Richer Chocolate Taste does look a little more cocoa colored. The classic looks, well, colorless and a bit desaturated.
The bar feels light but still quite bulky. The scent is sweet but with a creamy cocoa note to it that’s quite inviting. The chocolate shell is okay, it’s not creamy or richly chocolate, more of a functional container for the foamy nougat inside. The center is soft and fluffy and I noticed that it wasn’t at all grainy. The nougat has a light salty note to it, not overly salty, just a different sort of tone from the chocolate coating. The cocoa flavor was so very light, but at least it wasn’t as throat-searingly sweet as I expected.
Upon comparing it to the classic formula, it is most definitely more chocolatey. But if I’d not tasted the original, I can’t say that this would turn me into a 3 Musketeers consumer.
The bar is quite big. Two ounces is a lot of candy, especially when it’s one that’s so monotonous. I got through half the bar but then had to put it down.
The candy bars are currently marketed to women and folks who are looking for lighter candy. It’s true that its caloric density is less than many other nutty and chocolatey-er candies. But it’s also bigger. So a full 3 Musketeers bar may have 45% less fat than “the average of the leading brands”, but that doesn’t take into account the portion size. In the end, calories are calories and this bar has 260 of them - more of them are empty, unsatisfying sugar that lacks a true chocolate punch with all of its fatty, melty notes. Maybe I’m just getting old and cranky (well, getting old, I’ve always been cranky) but I’m starting to come around to the whole idea that fewer ingredients make for a better flavor and texture experience. Real chocolate has rich chocolate taste. You want a real chocolate taste experience? Have some real chocolate. It’s probably better for you than the empty calories and hopped up hydrogenated de-rainforesting palm oils.
If you love 3 Musketeers, chances are you’re going to be keen on the slight improvements here. But if you love chocolate, stick to real chocolate. I’d say half the portion of actual real chocolate is more fulfilling than this empty thing. But if you love texture, then maybe the tweaked bar is your new best friend forever.
Update 10/29/2012: According to Mars they’re going back to the original formula. So look for packages that don’t say “richer chocolate taste” for the classic version.
Friday, April 15, 2011
Crispy M&Ms are made by Mars and are considered an extirpated variety of the popular candy. I know, it’s Friday, and here I am comparing species conservation with candy. But I find it interesting ... so here’s a brief digression after a tantalizing photo.
In Northern California there used to be a small sub-species of Elk called Tule Elk. They were exterminated, either hunted for their meat & hides or simply killed by ranchers to keep them from competing for food with the newly introduced domesticated grazers. Eventually they were all gone ... or so folks thought. Except a local rancher back in the late 19th century took a liking to the slightly smaller elk and took a small herd to a ranch in southern, inland California where they survived quite nicely. In 1978 a small breeding group was reintroduced to the area, thus ending their local extinction.
Perhaps North American Crispy M&Ms (shown above in their Canadian version circa 2006) were a flash in the pan, a evolutionary dead end. They were introduced in 1998 and had pretty much disappeared in the wild by 2005. But they’re still around in Australia, the Southeast Asia and Europe. In fact, in my visit earlier this year I saw them in both Amsterdam and Cologne and bought them in both locations. All the packages were identical and list France as their origin.
If you remember the Limited Edition Mint Crispy M&Ms that were released in conjunction with the last Indiana Jones movie, you might recall that they were larger than regular M&Ms, larger than Peanut M&Ms even.
The European version is about the same diameter as a regular Milk Chocolate M&M, but puffier, closer to being spherical.
The package is more square, just like bed pillows in Europe are more square than pillows in the United States, it’s just the way they do things. The packet holds only 1.27 ounces (36 grams) instead of the more calorically imbued 1.69 ounces of the American Milk Chocolate.
The colors are a little more muted than the American version and I expected this was because these were all natural. Well, some of them are, such as carmine (sorry vegetarians) and tumeric, but they also use Blue #1.
They’re sweet and crunchy and oddly nutty. I had to read over the ingredients (translating as I went, as it was in French) twice to reassure myself that there were no hazelnuts. There was something about the crispy center, it’s like a brown rice nuttiness. It’s lovely. Though there’s less chocolate than the old Crispy M&Ms, it’s still quite a cocoa punch. There is no malt flavor, but a light touch of salt.
They’re still more of a sweet snack than a chocolate candy for me. The crunch is great but there’s not quite enough chocolate satisfaction if I was looking for chocolate. It really is too bad that Mars doesn’t still make these in the United States because they do fill a certain void that the Pretzel just can’t quite touch.
But it’s still possible, that a small breeding population of Crispy M&Ms could be reintroduced to the United States, say only at M&Ms Stores or online. Just to see if the conditions are right for them to thrive.
Strangely enough, when I was traveling, I saw the Pretzel M&Ms rather often as well as the Peanut M&Ms, but less of the plain Milk Chocolate variety. In a vending machine in Amsterdam and at the grocery store.
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
The banner across the bottom of the logo says that this is Whipped Up, Fluffy Chocolate with Marshmallow Taste.
I don’t think they come in a full bar format, just this package of Minis. The bag weighs 9 ounces, but looks like it has a lot in it, probably because of all the teensy wrappers.
Mars thinks it can get into the marshmallow game. Actually, they’re not getting into the marshmallow game, they’re getting into the marshmallow flavored game. The one thing these have going for them is that they’re safe for vegetarians. There are egg whites in there, so it’d have to be lacto/ovo vegetarians. And those vegetarians would probably be better off never having tried a real marshmallow, so they won’t be quite as disappointed.
The pieces are tiny squares (almost cubes) - about three quarters of an inch at the base and a little over a half an inch high. They’re milk chocolate, though the chocolate coating is so thin it’s translucent in spots. The center is light and fluffy, though not quite foamy like marshmallow. The over-riding flavor is salty for me. There’s no malt to it and really no vanilla, so I was left with something that was trying to be less sweet but not quite succeeding. Though the salt covers up the sweetness on the tongue, it doesn’t disguise it in the back of my throat where it burns.
Plain marshmallows are airy and not quite sweet and are usually a generic vanilla flavor. These are just sugar flavored, I got no vanilla notes in there, and no toasted notes either.
Personally, a regular 3 Musketeers bar needs more flavor to please me. I even rechecked my 3 Musketeers opinion by eating some Minis side by side with the marshmallow version - there’s not enough cocoa or malt flavor and the texture is just too underwhelming. If you’re the kind of person who thought the classic needed less flavor, this is the candy for you.
The packaging says that 1 mini has only 25 calories, so it’s pretty easy to parcel out a portion of 100 calories. It also says that there’s 45% less fat than leading chocolate brands. Well, the calories per ounce are 124 by my calculation, so that’s more than a York Peppermint Pattie (113 per ounce) but less than a Twix (140 per ounce). I prefer both when it comes to taste.
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
For those who haven’t already noticed, it’s American Chocolate Week, and I’ve been featuring candies with American chocolate in them. You can read more about chocolate at the National Confectioners Association’s special website. Today I have something from Mars, who also makes their own chocolate for their candy products including the Dove Chocolate brand.
I picked up the new Easter product, Dove Silky Smooth Coconut Creme Milk Chocolate Eggs at RiteAid now that they’ve finally gone on sale. They were regularly priced at $4.99 for less than a half a pound, so I felt a little better picking them up at $2.99.
The bag contains about 18 foil wrapped eggs (well, half eggs). The back of the package exhorts me to Indulge yourself this Easter season with the taste of Dove Pure Silk Chocolate.
The eggs are wrapped in two different shades of light green. They’re about 1.66 inches long
The outside of the eggs is rather dull. They’re a molded egg with a cream filling (deposited). But the surface isn’t shiny, it has a very slight pebbled texture to it (I guess real eggs have that).
The eggs have a sweet, milky and coconutty aroma. It’s much more complex than the standard suntan lotion smell of some coconut candies, so I was encouraged. The creme center is smooth and thick with a similar texture to the milk chocolate shell. It’s all very sweet with a thick and sticky melt. I want to love them, because the textures are so nice. But there’s something missing ... actual coconut. There’s coconut oil in there, sure, which is nice. It means these little candies clock in at an amazing caloric density of 161 calories per ounce. The center is just smooth cream without any chewy coconut. I miss it.
I’ve noticed with the coconut flavored items that Mars has been introducing (Coconut M&Ms and Coconut Twix Bars) that none of them actually have coconut flakes in them. It’s like Mars is afraid of the stuff. But I suppose there’s a demographic out there of people who like the milk chocolate products with the flavor of coconut added to it. Personally I prefer the combination of coconut and dark chocolate and feel like this could have been greatly improved with a Dove dark chocolate shell.
If you’re one of those people who prefers the actual stuff though, you might want to stick to the Hershey’s Coconut Creme Kisses (which are also back for Easter), the exceptional Russell Stover version (which is a great value) or Mounds/Almond Joy.
Thursday, March 17, 2011
Starburst makes some excellent jelly beans and have expanded their line to include a couple of different flavor mixes similar to their fruit chew flavors. The new Starburst Crazy Beans are unlike the fruit chew ancestors. They feature a flavored and colored shell with a different colored and flavored center. There are six varieties in the package.
The package is fun, the bright purple and yellow certainly got my attention. The prospect of two flavors in one, instead of combining flavors is also appealing. The crazy part, I think, comes with the combinations that Wrigley’s has come up with.
The beans are opaque and note quite as jewel toned as the standard beans. There’s a slight mottling to the color which I liked, it was as if they were dyed little granite pebbles. The sizes are pretty standard and the quality of them is good - they were consistent and glossy. The package boasts that they use real fruit juice, but the ingredients say that it’s less than 2%. Unlike the regular Starburst chews, these have no additional vitamin C. They also contain a confectioners glaze so shouldn’t be considered vegetarian/vegan.
(These don’t go in the order of the photos above, just because.)
Grape-Ade (Purple) - the grape on the outside was easy to distinguish right away, just like a Pixy Stix. The lemon center was a little more muddled, but still had a little citrus note. Good start.
Peach-A-Palooza (Orange) - is definitely peachy on the outside. I don’t know what the center is supposed to be, but it tasted like cherry to me. Not a winner in my book, but I’m sure this is an ideal combination for someone.
Tropical Cherry Splash (Blue) - it’s unfortunate to find another cherry one, this one has a bit of a papaya note to it that makes me as equally unhappy as the peach. Pass.
Razzin Watermelon (Pink) - this pink one was a little confusing. It’s pink on the outside and blue on the inside. But the outside tastes like bubble gum instead of watermelon. And the inside is all sweet and fragrant like raspberry and strawberries. The shells on all of these were downright thick and crunchy as well.
Banana Berry Blast (Yellow) - it starts with a light whiff of banana but quickly becomes a standard tangy berry. I liked it though I would have preferred a little more banana in the mix.
Strappleberry (Green) - it’s true to its name, it’s a sweet golden delicious apple flavor mixed with a mellow berry note. These varied widely, some were puckeringly tangy, others were all sweetness and little flavor.
They’re much more expensive than other jelly beans, though I admit that they’re quite flavorful. However, this particular flavor mix didn’t really hit within my zone of interest. I’d prefer something a bit more on the traditional side or with more intense fruit flavors. (Or maybe they want to try doing candy coated gummis, since they’re already making Life Savers Gummis and Starburst GummiBursts.)
I feel like we’re running out of flavors and though there’s a large number of combinations possible - the results are merely proof of concept, not great candy.
I don’t know if these are a permanent item or just a seasonal one.
Friday, February 25, 2011
It seems like a natural extension, since they also made a Coconut version of M&Ms as a limited edition that went over so well they added them as a regular item.
The Twix package will be easy to spot, it has a white background but features the gold metallic background and red Twix logo in the center.
The coconut scent is convincing, it’s rich and buttery with that inimitable tropical note. The cookie is crunchy and sandy giving a great textural counterpoint to the chewy pull of the caramel. The chocolate is passable, it’s creamy and sweet but doesn’t pack much chocolate punch overall. The coconut flavor permeates all parts of the bar but actual coconut is nowhere to be found. So for fans of the Coconut M&Ms, these will be of equal fascination. For folks who were hoping for something more like a cross between a Mounds Bar and the old Cookies n Creme Twix (in this case the cream would be a real layer of coconut), well, you’ll be disappointed.
The first stick I ate, I wasn’t really that impressed. Twix really aren’t my favorite candy bar, I find them too sweet. But by the time I ate the second bar (which was admittedly months later), I really enjoyed how the coconut flavor moderated the sweetness and brought the textures together.
Like other limited edition Twix products, this was made in Russia. They are not Kosher and of course contain dairy, soy and wheat but also traces of peanuts, tree nuts and eggs. They’ll be available in stores in April 2011 (and sometimes these things pop up a little sooner due to eager store owners putting out the inventory early).
Tuesday, February 22, 2011
Wrigley’s (part of Mars) has quietly released a new variety of Skittles called Skittles Blenders. They feature blended fruit flavors.
The package is bright yellow with sky blue accents. I’m not sure if Blenders requires an exclamation point at the end or a tornado like the package shows. Unlike the Crazy Cores introduced about two years ago that have contrasting flavors for the shell and center, these flavor combinations are completely combined.
The package smells a lot like the Tropical Skittles at first.
Blue - Melon Berry Burst (tm) - the aqua blue Skittles have a distinct flavor that’s just like Tropical Punch but tastes nothing like the melon or berry mentioned in the name. It’s tangy and certainly vibrant.
I’m underwhelmed by this new version. There were two flavors that I picked out to eat, which left 3/5 of the package uneaten by me. I have nothing against the invention of new flavors or new flavor combinations but the fact that all of these are trademarked leads me to believe that there were more intellectual property lawyers involved in the creation of this candy than actual candy makers. I wish Wrigley’s/Mars would just stick to really great flavors instead of these strange mixes. They make a Citrus Mix for Australia, why won’t they give those a try in the United States?
The package states that they are gluten free and gelatin free. It also reminds you to do your part and dispose of the wrappers in the trash. Skittles are fortified with vitamin C and a package 40% of your daily recommended amount.
Monday, January 10, 2011
Here in the United States we have an iconic candy bar called Milky Way. There are a few different versions of it, it comes in dark chocolate (Milky Way Midnight) and an all caramel version called Milky Way Caramel.
In the United Kingdom and much of Europe the bar is called Mars and comes in a dark version as well as some other more fanciful varieties such as this Mars Delight bar that I picked up at Mel & Rose Wine & Liquors. I liked the design of the package and I was wondering if it was like the Milky Way Crispy Rolls (which are not based on the American Milky Way, but the UK Milky Way, which is like our 3 Musketeers).
The package says that it’s Surprisingly Crispy, Deliciously Smooth. The ingredients listing also helpfully breaks down each element of the bar into percentages and separate ingredients, which I love. The bar is 10% crispy rippled wafers (they’re very airy), caramel cream (21%), cocoa cream (24%) covered in milk chocolate (44%).
The bars were lovely. It’s hard to believe that this bar, which was only weeks away from its expiry date and half a world way in a flimsy wrapper looked so good. Each is about 2.5 inches long and pretty wide. Each one has about 99 calories in it, so maybe it’s for dieters who want a little treat. (Still, I think 200 calories for a whole package is a bit steep, I don’t think many folks will be able to control themselves and eat only one.)
The milk chocolate is soft but smooth and creamy. It has a pleasant fresh dairy flavor to it and an overall sweetness that’s deep and malty. The advertised caramel and cocoa cream wasn’t as evident to me, there was a bit of something in there between the chocolate and the wafers but nothing notable - not much texture and the caramel notes just came across as more malty sweetness. The wafers were light and crunchy with a toffee note to them, more like corn flakes than wheat flour wafers.
I enjoyed them enough that I ate both, but there was a full week between the two sessions. It didn’t leave me wanting more and the fact that I paid a ridiculous $1.75 for this because it was an import left me wanting it to be far superior to something I can get at any drug store. I think I’ll stick with the Q.bel bars, just because they’re easier to find not just because they’re cheaper but also use better ingredients. However, if Mars wanted to make these for the American market, I think I’d be more inclined to buy them, especially if they came in a dark version.
The bars were introduced in 2007 and had some pretty radical advertisements.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.