Wednesday, October 5, 2011
Mars has introduced a limited edition, limited distribution of a new variety of M&Ms for Halloween. M&Ms White Chocolate Candy Corn are appearing in WalMart stores exclusively across the United States. Since I’m not able to easily shop at WalMart (really not many in the Los Angeles area), some folks at Mars were kind enough to send me a bag for review.
It’s tempting when I hear about candies like this to write the review before I even get a hold of the candy. That would not only be a horrible disservice to the readers, it’s really unfair to the candy. I’m supposed to have an open mind. Luckily I kept mine open for this one. (In reality, I thought it sounded like a dreadful idea, and I blame the Hershey’s Candy Corn Kisses and Jelly Belly Buttered Popcorn candies for my predisposition.)
The M&Ms are larger than the regular M&Ms Milk Chocolate, though they vary a little bit in size and shape. They’re thicker and have a larger diameter. They come in three colors: white, bright yellow and bright orange. (The orange and yellow are actually different from the standard colors. The orange is darker and not as shiny and the yellow has a matte caste to it and a slightly neon note.)
Mars has marketed White Chocolate M&Ms before, in 2006 they introduced M&Ms Pirate Pearls in conjunction with Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest. Unlike the other limited edition version of Dark Chocolate M&Ms (tie in with Star Wars), they were never added to the regular or seasonal offerings.
Mars has stuck to their Real Chocolate pledge here, it’s real white chocolate made with oodles of cocoa butter (cocoa butter is the second ingredient - sometimes white chocolate products have milk fat before the cocoa butter). There are no other filler oils.
The candies smell a bit like strawberries or cotton candy, very sweet but not in an artificial way. I was fully expecting the liberal use of diacetyl. Happily that was not the case.
Candy Corn M&Ms on the left and classic Milk Chocolate M&Ms on the right
The shells are crunchy and seem thicker than the standard Milk Chocolate variety sports. Some of the shells were cracked, I don’t know if that was because this was sent to me and got shaken up in transit or if they’re particularly vulnerable.
The center is soft and yielding. It’s sweet and buttery smooth, like a well made buttercream frosting. The flavors are only slightly milky, the sweetness is rather clean and again reminds me of Cotton Candy. I was hoping for the honey notes that good Candy Corn has, but this was all a pleasant surprise.
They’re quite rich, both in fat and in sugar, so I found that I couldn’t eat more than about a dozen without feeling a little overwhelmed by the sweetness. Ultimately though I didn’t feel like they rose to the level of an actual Candy Corn flavored candy. Still, they’re nice, and for white chocolate fans who have so few choices for real cocoa butter white chocolate, you might be pleased.
Now I’m waiting for Egg Nog M&Ms .... mmm, nutmeg white chocolate would be dreamy.
One other note I have about this packaging. I noticed on the nutrition panel that they’re giving better information. In the serving size it gives the portion in variety of formats. A serving size is 1.5 ounces, 42 grams or about 1/4 cup. So you really get a sense of how much they mean. The new green what’s inside block also breaks it out very clearly. One portion is 220 calories and 11 grams of total fat (17% DV) and 7 grams of saturated fat (35% DV).
UPDATE 9/11/2012: White Chocolate Candy Corn M&Ms are back for 2012. They’re available in all stores, in both the large bags as well as 1.5 ounce individual serving bags (with a variety of different designs on the front).
Friday, July 8, 2011
A couple of years ago Mars introduced some new candy bars to the United States based on their popularity in Australia. They were called Fling and came in bright pink packages along with lots of marketing directed towards women. They came in three flavor varieties: Milk Chocolate, Dark Chocolate and Hazelnut.
About a year later the test marketing of Fling waned and a new bar came out nationally, the 3 Musketeers Truffle Crisp. The bar is described on the package as whipped-up chocolate truffle on a crisp layer enrobed in real milk chocolate.
The bars are narrow fingers, nicely domed with drizzled chocolate across the top. They’re light, literally - each weights a smidge over a half an ounce. (For comparison, a single Twix finger is about an ounce.) The package says that each one contains less than 85 calories. Well, that’s pretty easy since it doesn’t weigh much. In reality, the calories per ounce are quite high at 155 but the package limits your portion.
The bar snaps nicely with a light cracking sound. The construction is interesting (and this is where the bar is unique). The base is a plank of chocolate meringue. It’s crispy and airy with a light sweetness and hint of salt and cocoa to it. The truffle on top really isn’t - it’s a mix of cocoa and hydrogenated and/or non-hydrogenated palm and palm kernel oils. (In my world a truffle is made of actual chocolate and some sort of dairy fat.) The chocolatey cream is okay, fluffy but a little greasy and flavorless to my tongue. It’s all wrapped in a good amount of milk chocolate. The milk chocolate is sweet and creamy with a strong dairy note to it. It pulls it all together well.
The idea and execution of this is actually really good. I wish the truffle part was better and having had the Fling in dark chocolate, I know this is actually better in dark chocolate.
I actually like these bars, even with all my complaining about various elements of the promotion, packaging and ingredients. They’re unique and inventive, once consumers try them, I think the rest of the weirdness of the rest of it will be irrelevant. It would also be cool if Mars extended the use of the meringue crisp - I could see them as interesting centers for M&Ms, different flavored cream toppings for this bar (like coffee) and perhaps something berry with dark chocolate.
Though there are no wheat ingredients on the list, it is made on shared equipment with wheat (and peanuts) so it’s not technically gluten free, so try at your own risk.
Update 10/29/2012: I just heard back from Mars, they are discontinuing the Truffle Crisp bar. They just weren’t popular enough. My suggestion for those who love the bar is to write to Mars and propose that they bring them back seasonally. So you can stock up.
Monday, June 13, 2011
The Dove White and Milk Chocolate Swirl bar is no different, as the copy on the package indicates: bites of chocolate relaxation that create beautifully swirled partings of luscious flavors which taste as amazing as they look.
The bar is a large, narrow tablet (3.5” wide and 5.5” tall). It’s 3.3 ounces, so a little lighter than the standard 3.5 ounces (100 grams). It still has that pesky portion problem that large bars have. The package says that a single serving (230 calories & 42 grams) is 9 pieces. But the whole bar is 20 squares ... so there are two bonus squares. Why not just be honest that a portion is an absolute half of the package (1.65 ounces and 256 calories)?
The swirls are very consistent and make it appear that the blocks are half and half white chocolate and milk chocolate (though the ingredients say that milk chocolate dominates since it’s listed first).
The pieces are nicely formed and rather thick, which presents a wonderful bite. The bar smells sweet and slightly milky, like a vanilla pudding. The texture is like most other Dove chocolate products, a smooth and silky melt. This one has a bit more sticky sugar to it though, it’s also quite strong in the dairy flavors along with some caramel and toffee. The chocolate notes are subdued, it’s like this bar isn’t at all about the chocolate flavors, just the chocolate texture.
If you’re the kind of person who never cared much for white chocolate, this probably won’t change your mind. For me it was far too sweet on its own, but paired with some pretzels or almonds, it took the throat searing pain away.
Dove pretty much sticks to tried and true flavor combinations. While this new swirl line marks a departure for them, veering off into the previously uncharted territory of white chocolate, raspberry is a common flavor in their repertoire. The Dove Raspberry and Dark Chocolate Swirl bar is also a white chocolate bar, with the twist here that it’s colored pink and flavored with artificial raspberry.
Like all of the American Dove and Mars chocolate products, the back of the package has the Mars Real Chocolate seal on it. It’s refreshing to see a big confectionery corp keeping their ingredients transparent like this, especially since cocoa butter can be so expensive. But while they do use real cocoa butter for both the dark and white chocolate, there’s also a bit of PGPR in there (which is an additional emulsifier often used in lower quality chocolate, made from castor beans). There’s also a smidge of artificial colors with Red 40 and Blue 2, which seems unnecessary considering what they’re doing with natural colors these days.
The appearance of the unwrapped bar is impressive and lovely. However, I didn’t feel like it looked like food. It looked like some sort of plastic stuff that might make nice bangle bracelets or earrings or maybe be carved into a chess set.
The dark chocolate is the same silky smooth texture and cocoa rich taste. The raspberry scent is quite strong at first, but the flavor of it doesn’t overpower the chocolate, which is refreshing. I didn’t taste a lot of the milky notes I detected in the white & milk combo bar. It was sweet, but not cloying or sticky. The raspberry flavor was floral with a strong woodsy note of seeds.
It’s not my favorite bar, it didn’t have the flavor balance that I like, but I do have to say that the texture, melt and smoothness was excellent. I just wish their chocolate flavor was actually nuanced enough to swirl around in that.
Wednesday, June 1, 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.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.