Friday, March 21, 2008
Here are a few combo candy-toy items for Easter baskets and beyond:
I thought this little M&Ms mini figure was pretty cute. He’s made of some sort of durable hard plastic, not that cheap thin stuff.
The little figure is full of mini M&Ms. They’re regular M&Ms, not the Easter pastel version, but I’m okay with that.
The most vexing thing about this is the little hat that twists/pops off to reveal the candy. It was like a frelling child safety cap without the insane instructions.
There were a few varieties, including Green, Red and Yellow. I liked the Blue because it felt most like Easter pastels even if he did have some sort of a goofy look on his face. I don’t know if the bunny hats are swappable for other non-holiday novelties.
It was expensive for the scant amount of candy involved, $1.99 regular price. But a fun grab next week on sale, perhaps.
When I was a teenager I had a thing for sheep items. (Well, in college we actually had a sheep living at a house I was renting a room at, but he was more of a lawnmower.)
My obsession caused me to rewrite passages of Shakespeare with sheep in mind:
I’ve kind of moved on from the sheep thing (though if I ever have one I get to name, he’ll be called Fleance).
While this little cheap plastic egg with sheep features was only 99 cents, it also only has give Hershey’s Kisses in them. (At least they’re pastel foil.)
Moving up in price, Candyrific recently expanded their toy/candy line with some M&Ms themed items.
They fall more in the realm of toys than candy containers and are pretty fun combinations.
The first is a set of fans. Candyrific came out with a really good candy novelty a couple of years ago, which is the fan that has little LED lights on it and a candy container in the handle. This new version has the M&Ms characters in various colors holding the fan. The central container at the base of the handle holds .7 ounces of regular M&Ms. (There’s supposedly a version of this for Easter, but I got the year-round version as a sample and haven’t seen the pastel ones with bunny ears in stores.)
The second is a miniature Etch A Sketch that holds a small fun-sized pack of M&Ms.
I have to admit that I enjoy these a lot. I don’t care about the candy inside. I wish that they lit up like the other versions do, but I’m guessing the money they spend on those LEDs in this instance goes to M&MS for the licensing of the characters. But at least they have real M&Ms in there.
They’re well made and even have a real battery compartment that can be opened and replaced for actual lasting play.
I really could have used a few of these last September during that blackout on Labor Day weekend where my house was over 100 degrees inside.
The fan blade is made of a soft foam, and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t hurt myself with it. Maybe if I stuck it in my eye. (Please don’t try that, or if you do, please don’t blame me.)
The other fun item is this little Etch A Sketch with a couple of M&Ms on there. They come in a few different colors, but they’re pretty much the same. I had an Etch A Sketch as a kid and enjoyed it ... actually got pretty good at drawing on it. This one doesn’t work quite as well, the little stylus draws a very thin line, probably a little too thin on the first pass, so I ended up going over my lines twice.
The biggest drawback is trying to clear the Etch A Sketch, which everyone knows involves turning it over and shaking it wildly. With the M&Ms in the little container part it makes a lotta noise and to clear the EAS properly, I broke some of my M&MS.
There is an easy solution to this of course, just take the lid off (the part that has the EAS on it) and just shake that. Like my problems with getting the hat off of the Easter minis, I’m sure a child would figure this out much quicker than I did.
The last item is a bit of a re-review of one of my favorite candy novelties so far, an Easter version of the Gummy Lightning Bugs.
This version has little gummy rabbits and is called Lightning Bunny Candy by Kandy Kastle. They’re all one flavor, instead of a mix. I was worried when I saw that they’re all red, but it’s cool, they’re strawberry, not cherry.
For only 99 cents there are 9 little gummis and the cute purple light up tongs.
The package said that the tongs were redesigned. Actually, it says “New & Improved Tong Included” so they’re better than before and there’s only one. (Tongs, I’m guessing are like scissors and pants and are always plural.)
The tongs aren’t really improved, if you ask me. They’re just shorter than before, probably easier to grasp for little fingers and they don’t stay on as readily, which probably provides a lot more longevity.
This is the kind of exploratory toy that I think is good for kids. It makes them slow down and really look at everyday things in a different way.
I tried them on some other items, they don’t open as widely as they used to, so anything as large as say, a Spearmint Leaf is too big. But small items like jelly beans (awesome!) and chocolate covered coffee beans (boring) are the right size.
I think adding a little toy in an Easter basket is fun. (I think the best one I ever got was a kite, which me & my brother and sister took out to the field across the street behind the cemetery and promptly got caught in a tree within an hour.)
The Hershey’s one isn’t the best toy in the world, but the design is nice. The filled M&M is also nice and certainly well built, but doesn’t offer much opportunity for interaction. I can see it being collectible though. The fan & Etch A Sketch are the best of the bunch, but a little pricier for “candy” items at $3.99 retail, but still a good value for a small toy.
If parents are looking for a way to still have a bit of bounty in the basket, a novelty item that contains a small amount of candy (especially something that can be refilled on a regular basis) is a good compromise. I mean, I wouldn’t have felt cheated if I got one of these as a kid.
They all get a solid 7 out of 10. The Lightning Bunny was made in China, in all other cases the candy was made in the USA, but the toys were made in China.
Friday, January 25, 2008
Mars has messed around quite a bit with Snickers over the past few years with various limited editions. Snickers Almond (more nuts with added almond pieces), Snickers Xtreme (all caramel & nuts), Snickers Nut ‘n Butter Crunch (all peanuts & nougat), Snickers Dark (dark chocolate) and Snickers Shrek (green nougat). What they haven’t done yet is put something in Snickers that wasn’t already there.
That comes to an end as Snickers thinks that we need to wake up.
They’ve introduced their new Limited Edition Snickers Charged which boasts 60 milligrams of caffeine, taurine and other B vitamins (about 10% of your RDA).
The bar is slightly smaller than their regular one, again this is the same with all the limited edition bars. It’s 1.83 ounces instead of 2.06.
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Of course a slightly smaller bar means fewer calories. This one is 250 calories compared to the 280 in the regular bar.
It smells much like the regular Snickers, has the same texture ... same crunchy peanuts, chewy caramel and super-sweet nougat with a hit of salt. And then it comes along, the caffeine kick. And when I say kick, I mean in the mouth. It’s a bitter aftertaste that sits high and in the back of the mouth. It just kind of lingers there, like maybe it’s not something you ate but something you smelled (sometimes strong skunk will do that to me). And it stays with you, probably as long as the caffeine is in your system. I clocked my aftertaste for eating one half of a bar at 90 minutes.
If you’re one of those people who doesn’t notice the bitterness of coffee, it might not be such a big deal. The nice thing about a regular Snickers is that it’s an anytime bar ... this one I wouldn’t be able to eat late in the day or the evening because I simply can’t sleep if I have caffeine that late. If they’d made this a coffee flavored bar like the Twix Java, well now then we’d have something!
That 60 milligrams is nothing to sneeze at:
1 - 8-ounce soft drink contains 20-40 milligrams (about 150-170 calories)
Honestly, it’s a great value as an edible dose of caffeine goes. A candy bar is usually about 75 cents at a convenience store. A cup of coffee is usually $1.25 and a soda is $1.00 ... you might be able to get an energy drink for about $2.00. (Let’s not even go into the caffeine, calories & price of those blended coffee drinks.)
I got four bars as samples from Mars and I’ll probably eat them all, but unless I have a specific need for unhydrated caffeine, I don’t see myself picking up one of these. (Add that to the fact that they’re limited edition, which will likely make them harder to find.)
Tuesday, January 8, 2008
You know what makes a candy satisfying? Sweet fat and protein. It’s a delicate balance, but I find that peanuts are usually up for the job. Mars pretty much knows that and designed the Snickers bar to take full advantage.
When I first heard about the Limited Edition Snickers Nut ‘n Butter Crunch I was wondering if it was going to be a Butterfinger knockoff, as the Butter Crunch portion of the name might indicate. Then I wondered if it was a remix of the Snickers Cruncher. But it turns out it’s something altogether different.
Instead of nougat, peanuts, caramel and milk chocolate in the regular Snickers, this new Snickers Nut ‘n Butter Crunch is peanuts and some sort of peanut butter mass (something they call “peanut butter taste” on the wrapper) in milk chocolate. I’d characterize this stuff as a chewy peanut butter fudge or maybe a chewy peanut butter nougat. I think it falls into the nougat camp since there are egg whites in there.
The bar is a little smaller at 1.71 ounces, but still rivals the fat content of the regular Snickers which is 2.07 ounces.
It’s odd, because the texture of the bar makes me think that there’s some caramel in there, it is definitely chewy. But look at that cross section ... it’s jammed full of that “peanut butter taste.”
I like it, I really really like it. I actually like that it’s smaller than a regular Snickers bar, which is always just one bite too much for me. I like the solidness, I like that it’s less sweet and I actually like that it has 5 grams of protein. I’ll be curious to see if this becomes a regular item like the Snickers Dark did.
Friday, January 4, 2008
Last fall they introduced the seasonal Autumn Mini Mix that had Strawberry, French Vanilla and Mocha Cappuccino. I was quite surprised that I liked the Strawberry and was rather excited to hear of the new flavors coming out this year: Cherry 3 Musketeers for Valentine’s Day and Raspberry 3 Musketeers for Easter.
Like the new 3 Muskteers Mint (not a limited edition item), these are covered in dark chocolate.
I admit that I approached these with a bit of trepidation. I’ll also admit that my strong dislike of cherry flavored candies has dissolved into the “don’t prefer” column. I eat cherry things in service of my reviews and sometimes when no one is looking.
This little morsel is quite cute. They smell very strongly of maraschino, even before I bit into it. They center on this one is very strongly pink, almost fuschia courtesy of my nemesis Red 40.
The center is fluffy and has the slightest salty hit to it that offsets what is otherwise an ordinary cherry flavored fluff. The dark chocolate shell is pretty thin, but passably creamy.
There are a few varieties of the little wrappers for the individual candies. Some are pink, some are silver with little hearts. They also feature little “conversation” sayings like, “Hug Me”, “Be Mine” and “Crazy 4U”. Kind of fun, though until I read the package I didn’t realize they were there.
When I was offered this preview of the new 3 Musketeers flavors by some PR folks for Mars, it was the prospect of trying the Raspberry 3 Musketeers without having to search five or six stores to find them.
The format here is the same, dark chocolate covering a raspberry flavored fluff center.
The package here specifies that it’s a Limited Edition item and has some crocus on the front in addition to the freakishly glossy raspberry close-ups.
The individual pieces are also pink, though two different shades. They don’t have any sayings on them, as I don’t think Easter really lends itself to such things and usually sticks with symbols of spring like bunnies, chicks and eggs.
These do not smell quite as strongly as the Cherry ones, but are still sweet and fragrant. The scent is rather like flowers and a bit like berries with a little woodsy component that I can only say smells like raspberry seeds. It also smells like chocolate, hooray!
The interior fluff is only lightly lavender (Red 40 and Blue Lake 5 in here!). It has the same fluffy texture, very sweet but with a good airy melt on the tongue. The raspberry flavor is all on the sweet side, no tangy bite.
I preferred the Raspberry by a longshot, but I still think as a fruit 3 Musketeers go, I liked the Strawberry from last fall best. I think these work well as minis, but I doubt I would be able to stomach a full sized bar or even the pair of smaller bars like the Mint 3Musketeers in these flavors. The small size is ideal.
Honestly I would have preferred a mix of flavors like the Autumn Mini Mix. Strawberry, Raspberry and Cherry all in one bag would have suited me fine.
I’ve heard from readers that the Cherry ones are now appearing in stores with the Valentines merchandise, so keep your eyes peeled. The Raspberry should go on store shelves after Valentines (but you never know, I found Russell Stover Maple Eggs in with the Christmas stuff at Walgreen’s this year).
UPDATE 2/17/2009: The Cherry & Raspberry returned for 2009. Raspberry is on the shelves with the Easter merchandise.
Thursday, December 20, 2007
If I bought a product that was simply named Snickers Nutcracker and given no other information, I would assume that it was a Snickers bar in the shape of a nutcracker. And what would I think a Snickers bar is? Nougat covered with a stripe of caramel with embedded whole peanuts and then covered in milk chocolate.
Of course I did buy a product name Snickers Nutcracker and I did not get a Snickers bar in the shape of a nutcracker.
Instead I got a nutcracker chocolate shell filled with caramel creme with crushed peanuts.
This is in stark contrast to the Snickers Egg I had back in March 2006, which was pretty much a Snickers bar in elongated hemispherical form.
But expectations and disappointments aside, this product is a little one ounce bar shaped like a squat nutcracker soldier. Inside is a caramel creme with crushed peanuts in it.
The center caramel is salty and tastes strongly of peanuts, not like peanut butter, but actual roasted peanuts. It’s not quite chewy, instead it’s a bit more flowing but still pretty smooth. The milk chocolate is sweet and contains the caramel well (no broken oozes in any of the nutcrackers I’ve had so far) and in good proportion.
It doesn’t have that “satisfaction” element to it that the heavy nut-ratio a Snickers bar has. I thought it was kind of fun, after all, how many gooey peanut caramel products are there? But I was really hoping for a Snickers.
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
Dove has been adding to their line of Promises, the little chocolate nuggets they sell. It’s nice they have such a diversified line and I do enjoy a little foil wrapped treat. Lately they’ve been stuffing caramel see review) inside those little nuggets of milk or dark chocolate. Now they’ve added a few more versions of those to the line by flavoring the caramel:
Milk Chocolate Hazelnut Flavored Caramel - this was less caramel and more like a hazelnut creme. It had a nice nutty flavor to it, though I didn’t quite identify it as hazelnut. A little salty hit cut through the sticky sweetness of the milk chocolate.
Most of my little pieces were dented. I don’t know if that was a function of the travel or if they’re particularly delicate. (5 out of 10)
The Mint Caramel Dark Chocolate terrible, terrible pieces of confectionery nonsense. Gobbledygook, I tell ya! Gibberish! There’s nothing wrong with caramel, nothing wrong with dark chocolate, nothing wrong with mint. But put them all together and you get this humongo double take of “what the heck were they thinking?”
The caramel is just weird - it’s like it’s over emulsified, if there is such a thing. It’s gooey, but has no buttery element, no burnt sugary elements ... it’s become its own strange, pudding-like product. That’s it! It’s like peppermint-butterscotch pudding ... with dark chocolate. It’s just all kinds of wrong when I think too hard. (4 out of 10)
The strangeness continued with the Dark Chocolate Raspberry Caramel.
Luckily I didn’t have a whole bag of each of those, just a little handful ... and now they’re on their way to Kimberly, who won the drawing! (I should have had her sign some sort of a waiver.) Again, it’s like raspberry flavored butterscotch pudding. I just didn’t like all the flavors together and the salty hit of the caramel with the raspberry was just over the top. (4 out of 10)
The happy news is that the rest of this is all good. The more traditional new offerings to the Dove Promises line are just the regular milk and dark chocolate with some crushed almonds added in.
Almonds are a personal favorite of mine, I practically live on them (really, I eat them just about every day as a snack). What’s always bothered me about Dove chocolate is its foolish consistency ... it feels too perfect, too manufactured and lacking any personality. The crushed almonds in the Dove Dark Chocolate with Almonds fix that.
They add some texture, they add some extra flavor, a little crunch ... they just complete the Dove Dark Chocolate. Any trepidation I had about their chocolate has disappeared with the added element. (8 out of 10)
The Dove Milk Chocolate with Almonds benefits similiarly from the crushed almonds. It makes the milk chocolate, which was always a little sticky sweet to me, more malty and rich. The milky flavors now take on a toasted, darker tone.
They please me. (7 out of 10)
A single Milk Chocolate with Almonds has about 45 calories in it.
I don’t have the nutritional info on the Caramel line or the Dark Chocolate with Almonds, just the Milk Chocolate with Almonds, as that’s the only one I have the complete packaging for. I’m not sure when these are showing up in stores, they’re not on the Dove website yet. Anyone see them in stores yet?
Tuesday, October 2, 2007
The cookie and caramel covered in chocolate combination is pretty flexible and creating new versions of this doesn’t mess with the essential Twix-ness (just like there are many different cream and chocolate variations for the KitKat).
I’ve been searching for a good coffee flavored candy bar for years, for a country so obsessed with coffee it’s rather surprising that we don’t have one. (Yes, I’m aware of the Coffee Crisp and it just doesn’t do it for me.)
The bar is the standard construction: a chocolate cookie with a stripe of coffee-flavored caramel covered in milk chocolate.
It smells sweet and a bit like caramel and graham crackers but not much like coffee at first.
Once broken in half and the caramel revealed it has a pleasant roasted-coffee aroma. The caramel is a bit salty with an actual authentic-tasting coffee flavor to it (in addition to the natural and artificial flavors they list espresso ground coffee as an ingredient). The chocolate cookie is crumbly and crunchy with it’s own salty contribution. The milk chocolate on the outside is super sweet but pulls it together.
I didn’t like the bar much when I first tried it out on the floor (I split a package with Ginny). But I have to admit that it was day two and I’d really only been eating candy for 36 hours (except for an awesome pile of shrimp at a party the night before).
But with the clarity of a lone bar on my desk without the clutter of a gagillion other flavors in my mouth and a billion other conversations flitting by on the show floor ... I really like this bar. I think it’s the best Twix bar I’ve ever had. Yes, it’s still a little sweet for me, but in combination with some nearly black coffee, it’s growing on me.
You can expect these to start showing up later this year (reported release date is December 2007). In other news, if you were a fan of the Triple Chocolate Twix, it’s actually back in the miniature form. Mars released a few “autumn mixes” this year (that included the Vanilla, Strawberry & Mocha 3 Musketeers). The Twix one has regular Twix, Twix Dark Chocolate and Twix Triple Chocolate. I found them at RiteAid in the Halloween candy aisle.
I hope the Twix Java at least finds its way into a seasonal bag ... and in dark chocolate please!
UPDATE 9/29/2009: Mars has announced that TWIX Java will become part of their permanent line of candies. You can expect them in stores starting in April 2010.
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
One of the exciting new products teased at the All Candy Expo is the new Chocolate Mix Skittles. This is a permanent flavor addition to the Skittles line which already includes: Original Fruit, Tropical, Smoothie Mix and Wild Berry.
The Chocolate Mix has five flavors: Vanilla, S’Mores, Chocolate Caramel, Chocolate Pudding and Brownie Batter.
I was pretty skeptical. First, Skittles are known for a lot of flavor being packed into that candy shell. Second, one of the best things about chocolate is the whole experience of both the meltiness (fat) and the cocoa solids (flavor), there’s no way they could get that in here. Third, two of the five flavors in this mix were introduced in the Ice Cream Skittles last year and they were (chocolate and vanilla). I detested the chocolate ones ... and here’s a whole bag designed around that?
S’More (pale caramel colored): slightly tangy candy coating, a good toasted flavor to it ... not a trace of chocolate, but a little graham/cereal taste to it. Pretty good. Very sweet.
Chocolate Caramel (caramel colored): the prettiest color in the bag. A nice sweet chew with a little burnt sugar note to it and maybe a trace of cotton candy, but I wasn’t catching any chocolate at all.
Chocolate Pudding (dark brown, almost purple colored): vaguely chocolatey, mostly sweet, kind of like cocoa towards the end of the chew.
Brownie Batter (darkest brown): fudgy and kind of like a cookie all at once, which I guess is why it’s called brownie batter. It doesn’t have the complete chocolate flavor, more on the cardboard side and not nearly as satisfying as a Tootsie Roll.
I know everyone’s really excited about these, but I don’t like them much. They’re watery, not vibrant or really engaging my tastebuds. I know that the Carnival Skittles were similar in that they diverged from the intense fruit-ness that Skittles are known for, but these just didn’t have that zing that even they were able to muster with their delicateness. Quite a few folks have stopped by my office to try the new stuff I brought back. They try them, but no one’s come back for more.
The good news is that they contain no dairy and no gelatin ... so as long as you’re okay with a dash of hydrogenated oils, these might be the Skittles for you! The package also states that they are “Gluten Free.”
These should be available in stores later this year, post here if you’ve spotted them in the wild!
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.