Wednesday, March 4, 2009
Skittles Sour have shifted their flavor array. Originally Sour Skittles were just a sour dusted version of the Fruit Skittles in Strawberry, Orange, Lemon, Grape and Lime.
Somewhere along the way they dumped the Lime in favor of Blue Raspberry (which is a bit odd, considering that limes are the only other naturally super sour fruit besides lemon). I reviewed this version back in 2007.
So the new version is: Lemon, Strawberry, Blue Raspberry, Watermelon and Green Apple.
I think the addition of Green Apple is a natural evolution. It’s not one of my ideal flavors but really lends itself to a super-tangy version like this. The flavor was completely artificial, like some sort of off-gassing of some fresh plastic product, but that’s not necessarily a turnoff when it comes to ultra-artificial candies like Skittles.
The Watermelon is one of those bees in my bonnet. Unripe watermelon isn’t even sour, it’s just a different texture and lacking in sweetness ... it’s not like an unripe apple or strawberry. In this instance is a fake watermelon with a super burning blast of sour powder. It reminded me, though, of salty watermelon because of the sharp shock to the tongue.
Sour Skittles have their fanatical following, so I think it’s important for Skittles to cater to them. In my ideal candy world, the Sour Skittles would be more like the Crazy Cores, with a non-powdery shell that has the super tart blast and then the nicely flavored chew center. They’re really messy and even sealed packages are dusty and leave a sour residue on my fingers before I’ve even opened it. For me, I really only love the lemon one, so it’s not worth it for me to buy them.
Rating: 6 out of 10
The other new tweak on the market is Wonka Runts which seems to change their flavors about every 18 months lately. (Here’s my last review from March 2008.)
When originally introduced in 1982 Runts were Banana, Orange, Lime, Cherry and Strawberry. Each candy was shaped in some way like the fruit they were flavored for. Bananas are banana shaped, Oranges were little spheres, Strawberries were hearts, Limes were footballs and so on.
Then in the 90s instead of just a single substitution, Lime was removed and two new flavors were added, Watermelon and Blue Raspberry. Sometime in late 2007 there was a shift again and Watermelon, Cherry and Blue Raspberry left in favor of the more tropical Mango (a large football) and Pineapple (actually pineapple shaped!). I really liked the pineapple but many folks complained not only about the loss of their favorite flavors over the years, but also that the color variation was very citrusy.
So early this year I spotted the newest change.
Runts are now: Green Apple, Grape, Strawberry, Orange and Banana.
I was pretty excited about the Grape. They’re a big ovoid, I think the same mold as the Mango was. They’re extremely purple, but have that great fake grape flavor of SweeTarts or Spree.
The Green Apple is okay, but the addition of this flavor to the mix along with Grape makes this very similar to SweeTarts (though Banana still keeps these closer to the long-gone Wacky Wafers).
After munching on these for several days (it was a big 7 ounce box) I’m left with only the Green Apple ones, which aren’t bad so much as they were just more prevalent in my mix. (I really could have used more Orange and Grape.)
Of the two candies, simply because I bought this theater box at the Dollar Tree, it’s a really good deal - 7 ounces of candy for a buck, versus the 80 cents or so for the Skittles.
Rating: 7 out of 10
Thursday, February 12, 2009
The newest item on the shelves is this Starburst Sour & Sweet mix. (It’s a little unclear if this replaces the Starburst Sour or not, but the actual words on the package are New flavors - Starburst Sour - Sour (6 chews) Sweet (6 chews).
The two sour flavors are Sour Watermelon & Sour Green Apple and two sweet flavors are Sweet Strawberry & Sweet Blue Raspberry.
Sour Watermelon - hot pink - this has an immediate sour bite that’s almost salty. The flavor other than that is the typical fake watermelon. It’s quite intense all the way to the end.
Sour Green Apple - acid green - quite tangy and juicy, there’s the plastic flavor of chemical green apple and just a little dash of apple juice flavor in there.
Sweet Strawberry - maroon - This was weird. I thought it was just a regular strawberry Starburst, but the flavor, maybe from being near the green apple, is much more artificial and less floral.
Sweet Blue Raspberry - cerulean blue - at first this seemed much too tangy to be called a “sweet” flavor, but then I ate a few more sours and it seemed a bit tamer after that. The raspberry flavor is mellow, a little jammy but not much in the floral notes.
The balance of sweet and sour was fun, especially since I don’t think I could eat a whole package at once. The sours seemed much more sour than the previous Starburst Sours I’ve had. I enjoy Starburst’s smooth chew and intense flavors. I think they could probably lighten up on the food coloring, seeing how they’re individually wrapped. But the flavor assortment was kind of boring, I’d love to see them really reach for some exotic, powerful flavors instead of these same retreads.
Starburst’s website is insanely annoying. It takes two minutes to load ... and then another two minutes once I clicked on “products” ... then clicking on nutritional info takes me to a Mars list of products (okay, no biggie, central databases are good) but I have to navigate that list AGAIN. It also doesn’t list this product specifically, it still has the old flavor array for the Starburst Sour on the Starburst site and not at all on the Mars site.
Starburst Sour still contain gelatin but are listed as Gluten Free on the package.
Tuesday, February 3, 2009
Someday I may write a long(er) article about public relations, marketing and product launches. I have a few case studies. Well, not really case studies, perhaps they’re just essays where I make fun of PR. Mars’ new Fling would probably be at the top of the list.
(If you just want a review of the candy, skip down to the photos of the actual candy bars out of the package, because I’m gonna go on here for a while with liberal use of parentheticals.)
The Ranting about Marketing & Press Spin
Fling is a new candy bar being test marketed in Los Angeles. The tag line is naughty but not that naughty (tm).
It’s geared towards women, and even more specifically towards women with food issues.
But it’s packaged like tampons (the individual fingers sold in stand up boxes moreso), so maybe it gives women who are embarrassed to be seen with a chocolate bar a more discreet package to disguise it. (If I were a child or man searching through someone’s handbag for a snack, I’d certainly think at first glance that this was some sort of feminine hygiene product and not a sweet consumable.)
The press release that accompanied my single sample (yes, I requested samples since I hadn’t seen it in Los Angeles, yet and I was overnighted a huge box with a too-small tee-shirt, press release and one package of the milk chocolate ... no samples of the other flavors, which is pretty much what I do here, eat all the flavors and then provide oodles of description & photos) is filled with fascinating stuff that defies logic:
There was no accompanying Venn diagram to show me what the overlap of that was. Is that 75% that enjoy passionate kissing a subset of the 77% of all women that enjoy chocolate? (The footnotes did provide me with the information that these surveys were conducted in Los Angeles and San Francisco, so perhaps this is only the leanings of 500 California urban women who were willing to talk about items so personal?)
The only fact contained in the release that I think will be of interest to retailers is that “California women claim they are less likely to give up chocolate and splurging on clothes than other indulgent flings, such as drinking gourmet coffee, having girls’ night out and spa treatments.” So with the current economic situation, this product will thrive. I have to say, I am not these women! (I don’t drink gourmet coffee, I don’t have girls’ night out, spa treatments or splurge on clothes ... really the only thing that I fling my money at is chocolate.)
The other threats contained in the press release include a marketing campaign that will include innuendo-laden headlines. (Just when I was starting to recover from the Herbal Essence commercials - as long as they don’t become the GoDaddy of candy.) Oh, I could go on and on about the things that I found insulting about the press release. But hey, consumers don’t get to read it.
There’s a companion website as well, which actually contains information about what the product actually is (there is an accompanying fact sheet that does have some additional scant info with more marketing-speak).
The marketing mentions that these are 85 calorie treats, but they’re sold in packages that are pairs. So each package, each serving size is 170 calories. They come in three flavor varieties: Milk Chocolate, Dark Chocolate and Hazelnut.
The Actual Candy Review
The Fling Milk Chocolate is meringue plank with a layer of chocolate cream covered in milk chocolate. The milk chocolate has an iridescent/pearly finish to it.
The marketing calls this premium chocolate, yet careful reading of the ingredients reveals that it has PGPR in it. Odd.
The fingers are rather like a Twix bar, about 4.25” long in a mostly half-round log. There are little squiggles that distinguish it from the Hazelnut variety.
They smell sweet and a little milky. The bite is quite nice. The meringue is crispy and has a very distinct crunch. It’s a very smooth meringue, not like a honeycomb. The vaguely sweet and toasted meringue is set off by the truffle cream, which is silky smooth and a little salty. The milk chocolate coating is a bit milkier than the rest of the bar and gives it a little malty punch and pulls it all together.
It’s a rather nice bar, wonderful blend of textures and delicate flavors. A bit on the sweet side for me when eaten alone, but with some strong tea or a cup of coffee, it’s a good break.
The Fling Dark Chocolate is meringue plank with a layer of chocolate cream covered in dark chocolate (which contains milk, milkfat and lactose) but no PGPR.
The iridescent coating on this was more noticeable and frankly, more disturbing to me. What is that stuff? Eyeshadow? Crushed gemstones? Powdered mussel shells?
The smell of this bar reminded me a lot of Dove Dark Chocolate. It has a woodsy and slightly acidic/milky scent to it.
Again, the snap of the bar was really refreshing. It releases a little waft of toasted marshmallow flavor from the meringue. The darker chocolate gives it a dry finish and a bitter bite towards the end, leaving me feeling a bit more satisfied.
The Fling Hazelnut is the same meringue plank with a layer of hazelnut-flavored chocolate cream covered in milk chocolate. (The zig zags are doubled on these.)
I thought this one was the most innovative. Hazelnut isn’t a common flavor in the United States for candy found in single packs at grocery & drug store checkouts, so they’ve found a unique selling proposition right there.
The bar smells like a flavored mocha drink. Sweet, with a toasted nut scent like hazelnut “flavor.”
The crisp bite still pleases me in this version, but the overly fake hazelnut flavor doesn’t do much for me. I would have preferred an actual giaunduia instead of the truffle cream, but I recognize that the coffee drink culture owns this hazelnut flavor thing.
There are a lot of things to like here. It’s a completely new style of bar, they’re really well made. The attention to detail is great (even the imprinting on the bottom of the bar is little flowers & swirlies like the package design).
I think the use of meringue, the mix of textures and the finger format is excellent - perfectly proportioned. It was crisp, it was creamy and overall, two bars was satisfying. The dark chocolate was my favorite of the three, but all were definitely good and different enough that I can see people having favorites.
The calories controls stuff is a little disingenuous (as most stuff regarding dieting and portion control is). The packages only hold 1.11 ounces. The caloric density is actually higher than most other candy bars on the market at 153 calories per ounce ... just a smaller portion. Twix, which is their own product and perhaps the target audience for this is only 140 calories per ounce, 3Musketeers is about 125, KitKat is about 150. The big difference here is that it doesn’t look small. (I think this was a similar hurdle with the 3 Musketeers Mint.)
To bring this back to my earlier assessment of the marketing and positioning of the product, I think it’s a huge error to launch this as its own product line. I think it should be part of the Dove products, which are already about indulgence (and strike me as less likely to alienate men) and have a recognizable package & logo design.
The other striking thing is that Fling is not new to planet Earth. It’s been around in Australia for two years. (Candy Addict had a review of it on its launch.) The packaging there was less feminine (no pink) and though still aimed at women it had a quirky campaign that used the tagline, forever is overrated. Here’s an animated commercial. (Thanks Sera!)
Monday, January 12, 2009
Skittles Crazy Cores were announced late last year and have been on shelves for at least a month. I was lucky enough to find some at a convenience store in Studio City while I was refueling my car yesterday.
The orange package fits in perfectly with the current array of Skittles but sports one of Mars’ new features, front of package nutritional labeling.
It says right on the front what’s inside. You’re gonna get 230 calories per pack, that’s 12% of your daily caloric intake.
I don’t know if that makes it a good value for 99 cents or not. (Actually, I do know that it’s not a very good nutritional value.)
Crazy Cores are two flavors in each Skittle, and the centers are even colored.
Mango & Peach - is a pleasant creamy light orange color on the outside and a peachy color on the inside.
I don’t know what the layering on this was as I often find peach flavor and mango flavor rather similar. The coating, I belive, is peach and the center is a bit more peppery which would make it mango.
I love fresh peaches and mangoes, but I’ve never been a big fan of the candy flavors that come from them. These are no different. I didn’t avoid them, but they’re not a color I’d pick out for initial eating.
An odd note, I found the center of all of these to be rather hard, harder than a fresh Skittle should be.
Blue Raspberry & Lemon
Sadly I only got four of these blue beauties in my package. I usually eat blue things last as they’re often punch flavors. In this case it’s just a blue colored raspberry which is fine with me. The soft floral outside went really well with the tangy citrus chew of the inside. Kind of like a raspberry lemonade.
This was another one of those odd colors that Skittles sometimes end up. It’s mauve or maybe raspberries & cream.
It sounded pretty bad to me, but then again, I actually eat fresh melons and berries together all the time, so it’s not like this idea is so far fetched.
The outside is a soft watermelon flavor, rather like a Jolly Rancher. Inside it’s more tangy and also rather melon tasting with a little bit of a strawberry flavor.
At this point I was wondering which flavor was supposed to be on the outside, not that it should really matter. As with the Melon Berry, Watermelon Strawberry is a natural combo with fresh fruit.
It has a very strong artificial flavor component, but overall I was pleased with the fake watermelon and passable Strawberry Starburst flavor.
I thought I could make a go of this one, but the cherry was very much like cough medicine and not like Lifesavers. The lemonade was missing that good citrus burst & tangy component so it was a total loss.
Here’s the deal, there are five different Skittles here, each a combo of two flavors. But the number of flavors represented isn’t ten, it’s only seven (maybe eight, depending on how you categorize melon & watermelon as distinct flavors).
1. Lemon & Lemonade
I didn’t think I could be more disappointed in a package of Skittles since the Chocolate Mix ones came out in 2007. But these are just dreadful. There are some great fruit flavors out there that could have been combined to great effect. Instead it’s far too much in the melon & peach family, which will probably make some candy lovers very happy and I wish them all the best with these.
Odd note: gelatin is not listed in the ingredients. In fact, the wrapper now says “Gluten-Free, Gelatin-Free.”
I bought two packages and will now find someone who will eat the second one. (And I still have some Carnival Skittles left, so I’ll eat those instead.)
I’m going to say it one more time. Mars, make Citrus Mix Skittles: tangerine, meyer lemon, key lime, sweet orange & pink grapefruit.
Thursday, December 18, 2008
If I had to rank my all time ever favorite desserts, right there at the top would be a Pecan Pie I used to get at Larrupin’ Cafe in Trinidad, CA. It was a traditional styled pecan goo, more pecan than caramel but also had a healthy dose of chocolate in there. Then the whole thing was drizzled with a hot rum sauce. (Looks like I’ve mentioned this before!)
I knew going in that these Dove Pecan Pie Caramel Promises in Silky Smooth Chocolate weren’t going to measure up to that, seeing how there was no hot buttered rum sauce and no pecans.
The Promises are wrapped in foil. Because this was a Christmas-themed box, I think some of the missives inside were holiday related, such as Joy toy ... you, Warmth on the inside can melt cold on the outside or Togetherness in itself is a holiday treat.
They have a pleasant pecan aroma that smells a bit like Russian teacakes or shortbread. The milk chocolate shell is smooth and creamy and sweet. The caramel inside is thick and rich, with a strong woodsy pecan flavor ... a little over the top but effective at selling the whole “pecan pie” thing.
I would have loved to have real pecans in here, but as a nutless Dove bite, it’s pretty tasty. Sweet, but with some strong coffee they’re going really quickly.
Since they’re in Christmas packaging, look for these on the after Christmas sale, at 50% off they’ll be a great bargain.
Friday, December 12, 2008
Years ago there was a candy bar called Peanut Butter Snickers. It was the eighties and peanut butter was all the rage. The bar was simple, some peanut butter studded with peanuts and then the classic Snickers caramel all covered in milk chocolate. Then it was discontinued and people were sad.
Then last year, Santa brought a present to Peanut Butter Snickers lovers in the form of, well, Santa! The Snickers Peanut Butter Santas are an updated, Christmas novelty version.
I was curious if they were like the Limited Edition Snickers Nut & Butter Crunch which was a peanut butter nougat with peanuts in it covered in milk chocolate. This package doesn’t actually have a description, so I had to buy it to find out.
The package came with six little molded milk chocolate Santas, individually wrapped units not for individual sale. (Though I’ve bought the Snickers Caramel Creme Nutcrackers individually before.)
Outside of the brick red wrapper, the Santa is nicely molded. It looks exactly like the image on the over-wrapper, which is a comforting thought. (Though there really aren’t any other “promises” on the wrapper that it needs to live up to besides the fact that they’re supposed to be one ounce.)
Biting into the little fellow, I found that it wasn’t quite the old Snickers Peanut Butter nor the more recent Snickers Nut n’ Butter Crunch.
Instead it’s a hybrid of the two. It’s a peanut butter bottom. On top of that is a layer or thin, gooey caramel with crushed peanuts. (Not the thicker caramel of the classic Snickers.)
The milk chocolate has a nice snap but is very sweet. The caramel inside comes across loud and clear - it’s a bit sticky but also very salty (55 mgs per Santa). The peanut butter base is solid, the ingredients list it as a “peanut butter coating” which is made from sugar, palm oil, peanut flour, nonfat milk solids, peanut oil and some other stuff. It reminds me of those peanut butter baking chips ... or the inside of Reese’s Pieces.
It’s a nice size, not too big. The flatness means there’s a lot more chocolate flavor than a usual Snickers mini. Overall, I thought they were tasty and ate
four of them. They’re not quite as dense and filling as the old Snickers Peanut Butter, but still a tasty holiday treat.
Friday, December 5, 2008
One of M&Ms Holiday Mixes isn’t just a color shift in the regular offering. It’s the Mint Chocolate M&Ms, which aren’t available during any of the other special editions for other holidays like Easter or Halloween.
I haven’t had these in years, as I used to find them to be dangerously addictive and for the past few years I’ve tried to concentrate on candies that were new to me.
But this year I was happy to hear that they were back and thought it was high time that I had some again and of course document there here so fans could squee with delight. (Also, they were on sale, so I bought this bag and a bag of the Holiday Mix Almond M&Ms, which I ate in two days.)
The lentils come in three colors: White, Green and Red.
I pulled out a few regular M&Ms as a comparison (on the left) for the photo because I thought the green and red were actually a different shade. And so they are!
It’s tempting to think that these are just minted Milk Chocolate M&Ms, but they’re a little different in several ways.
Size: they’re bigger. Well, most of them are bigger. There are a few that are the same size as regular M&Ms. But they’re not even all the same size.
Colors: aren’t consistent. There are two different greens in there. Though I’m not sure if it’s on purpose or a quality control issue. They’re both pleasant looking, though I prefer the darker green.
Shell: the candy shell is thicker. This means it’s crunchier. I decided I really liked this feature.
Ingredients: list includes salt. So the milk chocolate is not only lightly peppermint, it’s also not-so-sweet.
Yeah, they’re really good. I love mint & chocolate and though the milk chocolate of M&Ms isn’t spectacular, it’s certainly fun to put away.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Tiramisu is another one of those desserts that I’d always assumed was around forever. That perhaps it originated in Italy, that every valley in Italy had a different regional take on it and every Italian-American grandma put their own twist on it.
Nope, totally invented, perhaps sometime in the 1970s, by a restaurant. But hey, traditions have to start somewhere.
Tiramisu is an odd dessert if you ask me, the recipe reminds me of other strange dessert concoctions torn from women’s magazines that require store bought cookies, flavored gelatins, saltines or pre-made syrups.
The flavors of tiramisu are coffee and sweet creamy cheese with a little cocoa thrown in. So it’s sort of like a mocha cheesecake.
The wrappers on these are more enticing that the day-glo yellow of the Bananas Foster, an attractive bronze with difficult to read gold print.
Caramel: corn syrup, hydrogenated palm kernel and/or palm oil, sugar, skim milk, milkfat, lactose, salt, artificial and natural flavors, potassium sorbate.
The Dove Desserts Tiramisu starts with a dark chocolate shell. It has a pleasant cocoa and light espresso aroma.
The caramel center has a light salty flavor, a custardy smooth texture. So the creamy marscapone aspect is missing, as are the spongy ladyfingers.
Does it scream Tiramisu to me? Nope. Caramel mocha is more like it, not that it’s a bad thing.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.