Monday, March 25, 2013
This year was, I felt, the best we’ve had so far this decade for Easter candy diversity. It was a nice mix of classic products, new flavor twists on existing items and then some exciting new diversions. The stores seemed well stocked, better than I saw them two years ago, for example. It’s an encouraging sign for the economy and for our tummies.
Just Born is celebrating 60 years of their iconic Peeps marshmallow candies. They’ve come a long way from the early years when they came in plain yellow. Now they’re available in all the colors of the rainbow and special flavors.
To mark the anniversary, they’ve created a 60th Anniversary version in Vanilla Creme flavor. They’re the individual Peeps (not a conjoined row) and feature little sparkly flecks of multi colored candies, like edible confetti.
I prefer an uncolored Peep, as I think the artificial colorings get in the way of the pure sugary flavor. (Ghost Peeps, for that reason, are the best.)
The Vanilla Creme is a soft flavor, artificial and lacking in the complexity of a nice Tahitian vanilla pod, but still it has a soft and comforting flavor that cuts a bit of the sugary sweetness. They’re bouncy and fluffy and grainy. The little confetti add a little bit of a crunch, but mostly they dissolve quickly on the tongue.
These would be a fun version available all year round. I also heard that they’re releasing Birthday Cake Peeps which are a turquoise blue and yellow cake flavored. (Which is also a great idea for a year-round Peep.)
Rating: 7 out of 10
They’re just egg shaped gumballs.
Smarties Bubble Gum Eggs are made by Ford Gum in the USA with real sugar, there are no artificial sweeteners in there. I bought them for $1.49 at Cost Plus World Market, but then I saw them at the 99 Cent Only Store for a dollar.
They’re passably good. They come in different colors, but I really didn’t get a sense that they were different flavors, all vaguely and pleasantly fruity. They were soft enough to bite but have a satisfyingly crunchy shell. Each piece is a good size for chewing, two make for a little too much. The sugar takes a while to be dissolved, so there’s no bubble blowing right away. Even after the sugar is gone, they’re a little too stiff and snappy to blow a good bubble with.
At other times of the year, they’re also available as plain old gumballs. I bought them before and feel the same way about them. They’re okay. Mostly I like them because they’re pretty. I just chew the sugar out, spit out the gum and start up with a new piece.
Rating: 5 out of 10
The concept is that the bunny is flat instead of dimensional, and pre-sectioned to break apart easily. The version I purchased, for a buck, is 2 ounces, or about the size of a King Size bar. It comes apart into five pieces. Each is a good size for dipping into peanut butter, which was always my favorite way to eat my Easter Rabbit.
This is one of those products that solves a problem you didn’t know you had. I’m sure if this were sold on infomercials, the first part would demonstrate all the frustrating things about a sumptuous solid chocolate bunny and how hard it is to eat, how children fight over it and what it should be named.
I don’t have much to say except that it’s a rabbit shaped Hershey’s bar. It’s made from Hershey’s marginally satisfying chocolate, the same stuff in Hershey’s Kisses, Hershey’s Miniatures and those addictive little Hershey’s Candy Coated Eggs. While I don’t think Hershey’s Milk Chocolate is good chocolate, it’s mighty fine candy. It’s fudgy, grainy and tangy and comforting.
It’s also made in Mexico. (The Candy Professor had a bit of a rant about Snapsy.)
Rating: 5 out of 10
Friday, November 16, 2012
It’s winter, which means it’s time for hard candies. Nothing is as soothing and easy to carry as individually wrapped hard candies. We live in a wonderful era in human development where not can hard candies be ubiquitous and cheap, they can also be devilishly hard to find and expensive. Something for everyone!
For the past few months I haven’t been feeling well, including a recent and prolonged medically-induced sore throat. So, some intense hard candies that are also free of allergens might be just what the doctor ordered. (They weren’t actually, I haven’t spoken to my doctor about my Candy Blog, just my dentist.)
Torie and Howard is a new line of organic hard candies that feature interesting flavor combinations as well as carefully sourced ingredients. I tried them back in January at the Fancy Food Show, and though I usually like to find candy on store shelves before writing about it, I was kind of keen on trying them so accepted a full array of samples from the company.
They’re made from complicated yet simple stuff:
No Artificial dyes, nut free, no GMOs, no corn syrup, wheat and gluten free, casein free, soy free and dairy free. (So, yes, vegan.) They currently come in four flavors. The cutest part of their packaging is the two ounce tin, which retails for about five bucks, which is steep. They also have a little “purse” mixed bag which can help you find your favorite because the five pound bulk bags they also sell online are the best value as long as you know you really, really like them.
I was really excited to find a Pink Grapefruit and Tupelo Honey hard candy. The flavor is tart but with a bitter note from the grapefruit oils. I didn’t catch the honey, but did notice that it wasn’t overtly sweet like some citrus candies can be to compensate for the sourness. The oily zest notes lasted for quite a while, not in a bad way, more as a kind of background freshness for about 15 minutes.
The pieces are quite small, about half the weight of a regular Starlight Mint. But they’re exquisite, imprinted with a little raspberry design and the company’s logo.
Pear & Cinnamon is an interesting combination, much like apple pie. The pear flavor is mild, as actual pears are, it’s almost a baked banana flavor with a light tang to it. The cinnamon is like the spice and not the hotness of a Hot Tamale candy or anything like that. It’s pleasant and unassuming, though a little evocative of a holiday candle.
Pomegranate & Nectarine is not a flavor combination I would have expected. It’s strong and deep. The nectarine notes are like a peachy flavor, a little fuzzy and tropical with that woodsy note that stonefruits can have. Then there’s the pomegranate, which is like a raspberry mixed with cranberry, a little tannic and floral.
Blood Orange & Honey was more like a strong tangerine flavor with a lot of zest to it. The honey came out a bit later, as the citrusy parts faded away, there was a malty, honey sweetness that had a bit more staying power than a simple sugar.
Overall, they’re quite tasty with grown up flavors. They don’t do much to soothe my throat, but did give me a flavor boost I was craving after consuming most of my calories for a week in liquid form.
They are really expensive, which is odd for a hard candy. The labor is the same for organic and conventional candies, it’s just the ingredients that differ. In this case the candy, even in the bulk bags, is $11 a pound with a five pound minimum. (The tins come out to $40 a pound.) For that price I’d like to know that it was made right here in America, but these are made in Mexico (which is not that uncommon with organic hard candies these days).
Wednesday, September 12, 2012
Fruit Stripe Gum was launched back in the early 1960s as an extension of Beechnuts broad line of gums and fruity candies. The packages were a mix of five flavors, each with striped colors on the gum sticks. The flavors were cherry, orange, lime, mixed fruit and lemon (picture of early ad).
The history of the gum is rather convoluted, as it’s tied up with Beech Nut, which made both candy and baby food. In 1968 Beech Nut (which had also acquired Life Savers in 1956) merged with Squibb to become Squibb Beech-Nut Corporation. In 1981 Nabisco acquired just the confectionery portion with the brands of Beech Nut and Life Savers. In 1999 Hershey’s picked up the brand from Nabisco along with the more popular Bubble Yum, Ice Breakers, Breath Savers and Care Free gums but then sold off the Fruit Stripes brand, along with Rain Blo, Hot Dog and Superbubble, to Farley’s & Sathers in 2003. Just this year Farley’s and Sathers merged with the Ferrara Pan Candy Company.
The concept of Fruit Stripe Gum is largely unchanged over the years. It’s a flat stick of gum, made from a synthetic chewing gum base with artificial colors and flavors. The flavors are now Wet & Wild Melon, Cherry, Lemon, Orange and Peach.
The paper overwraps for the individual sticks are also temporary tattoos. They feature the mascot for the gum, a zebra known as Yipes.
Peach is Peach Smash and has a fresh flavor to it. It wasn’t my favorite, but not too fake or sour. The gum is smooth, the sugar is very sweet, so sweet that I kept checking the label to see if it was some sort of artificial sweetener. I’m actually not accustomed to chewing stick gum, as I prefer the candy coated chiclet styles for the variation in textures.
Yellow is Lemon and as expected, it’s the most sour of the set. The lemon flavor is like chewing on a candle, not at all like a fresh or zesty real lemon, though there are some more zesty notes towards the end but those are reminiscent of cleaning supplies.
Orange is Orange - the flavor starts strongly artificial, sweet and tangy with only a slight grain to it. Later chewing brings out more artificial notes, including the colorings, which have a slight metallic and bitter note to them.
Red is Cherry and seems odd, if only because it’s cherry gum, which isn’t that common. It reminded me a lot of Cherry Life Savers. The flavor lasted longer than the peach and faded into a kind of woodsy medicinal thing that was actually better than the initial overly sweet thing.
Green is Wet Watermelon (but in a pink wrapper) which was much better than I expected. I didn’t care much for the tartness of it at first, but the fake watermelon was rather fresh tasting and lasted longer than I expected.
Overall, it’s passable gum. I’m not that fond of it, but it does offer advantages over most packs of gum in that there’s a variety of flavors. Fruit flavored stick gum has become much more common in the past 10 years, though it was always around in bubble gums, especially the gumball style.
Here’s a classic ad for the gum from the early 1990s:
Tuesday, July 3, 2012
Hershey’s is introducing its first new candy line since, well, the last time they did it. (The last one was 2007.) The new Hershey’s Simple Pleasures line launched with three different products, all little foil wrapped chocolate patties that boast 30% less fat than most other chocolate things. Or something like that.
It’s odd to be reviewing another little chocolate covered patty after just reviewing some yesterday. Yesterday was something utterly simple, with only three ingredients (though peppermint). The Hershey’s Simple Pleasures Milk Chocolate with Vanilla Creme has oodles of ingredients:
Simple Pleasures, Complex Ingredients*: Milk chocolate (sugar, nonfat milk, cocoa butter, chocolate, lactose, milk fat, soy lecithin, PGPR, vanillin), corn syrup, sugar, glycerin, vegetable oil (cocoa butter, palm, shea, sunflower and/or safflower oil), sorbitol, nonfat milk, contains 2% or less of: natural and artificial flavor, milk fat, modified cornstarch, soy lecithin, glyceryl monostearate, caramel color, tocopherols, PGPR
* Actually, I added the Complex Ingredients part, so to be clear, their package copy actually states:
Go ahead, look back up at that list of ingredients and see if you can find brown sugar. Nope, I couldn’t either. Also, I’m not certain why they called them dry-roasted cocoa beans. I don’t know of another process. I don’t think anyone deep fries them, microwaves or steams them in a pressure cooker. So why mention that? To confuse people.
The patties are only 1 inch across and nicely made, a dome shape with a swirl on top. They were glossy and well tempered to give a snap when bitten or broken in half. (That’s actually not easy to do, because the filling comes out.)
The filling is less of a thick fondant like Junior Mints, it’s quite a bit more runny than that. It does smell quite a bit like vanilla, almost like pudding, which I found appealing. But the appearance of the filling is a little less appealing, since it’s just a sugar goo, like a lemon pound cake glaze that hasn’t set up yet.
The chocolate is more like the Bliss line, not the standard flavor profile of Hershey’s Milk Chocolate. It’s sweet, a little grainy but consistent and with a mild cocoa note to it. The vanilla flavoring of the center pretty much screams the loudest though it’s closely rivaled by the severe sweetness of all the sugar components.
The lower fat is achieved in this product by creating a filling that’s pure sugar and water. There are also a few sugar alcohols in there, sorbitol is used, though in very low amounts (3 grams per serving of 6 pieces). So while the UNREAL candy line I reviewed last week gets its lower calorie profile by adding in fiber and other nutrients (also ending up with an incredibly long list of ingredients), Hershey’s gets there with oodles of carbs.
The Hershey’s Simple Pleasures Smooth & Creamy Dark Chocolate with Chocolate Creme is kind of the richer version of the Milk Chocolate & Vanilla Creme version. They both have the same calorie profile, though the Dark variety has twice the fiber (a whole 2 grams).
In this case the package description on the back is slightly more accurate, this variety does have brown sugar in the ingredients list. But the qualification of the 30% less fat is qualified that it’s based on the average of milk chocolates on the market. I don’t know what the average fat content of dark chocolates is (I don’t even know where to find the source material for those statements - it’s not on their website).
The pieces are, again, well made and packaged. The red foil creates an appetizing wrapper and the chocolate does look really good, well molded and glossy. Each piece is only 30 calories, and a recommended serving is 6 pieces, which is quite generous. (The whole package holds 22-24 pieces, or if you lose it and eat the whole thing, it’s about 675 calories.)
This smells a bit fudgy, a bit like brownies. Sweet and dark. The chocolate center here is a bit thicker than the Vanilla Creme. It’s like a frosting, thick and sweet and not quite grainy. The cocoa flavors are actually much better than any commercial frosting in a can. The dark chocolate shell is much sweeter than the center and actually started giving me a sore throat after the second one.
The portion control is pretty good on these. Three could be a nice treat and come in under 100 calories and look like a sufficient indulgence. But the bang for the buck and actual satisfaction I got was sub par. The reliance on sugar instead of flavor meant that mostly I was left with the feeling that I’d eaten a bunch of sugar, not some chocolate.
The Hershey’s Simple Pleasures line also includes Smooth & Creamy Milk Chocolate with Chocolate Creme but I didn’t find those at the Target I got these at.
The fact that Hershey’s has such huge brand recognition and is on so many shelves means that these may succeed in spite of their drawbacks. I don’t care to spend that much money on so little chocolate, I’d rather have a handful of at least all-chocolate chips in a smaller portion. That’s a simple pleasure. This is just too complex for me.
Simple Pleasures are made with dairy and soy. There’s no mention of shared equipment with nuts, peanuts, eggs or wheat/gluten. They’re made in Mexico.
Monday, January 9, 2012
Angry Birds Fruit Gummies were introduced late last year to tie into the popular video game of the same name. They’re made by a company called Healthy Food Brands which says on the front of the box that these are made with Real Fruit Juice, in addition to Natural and Artificial Flavors (plus a heaping helping of artificial colors).
They come in a theater style box. There are four “collector editions” of the box, each themed for a different main character of the game: Red, Yellow, Green and the Blue, which I chose.
The box is 7 inches long, 4.25 inches wide and .75 inches deep. The interior white packet is 5.5” long, 4 inches wide and the .33 inch thickness is that of the gummis themselves when they’re spread out (and don’t even fill the bag). So, it’s what I’d call a big box for a small amount of candy. There are 3.5 ounces in the box and I paid $1.69. Of course I bought them at 7-11, which is very expensive for candy. But still, it’s a poor value for sugar candy. Other sugar candy movie theater boxes give you at least 6 ounces for the same price (Dots, Mike and Ike, Hot Tamales, etc.). Chocolate candy is the only exception to that, but I expect there to be a price difference for nuts or chocolate, not licensed shapes.
Each flavor is a different color and a different character. They’re bright and soft and bouncy. They’re not terribly greasy, but do have a little waxy coating to keep them from sticking. They’re rather small and mostly round - a little less than 3/4 of an inch in diameter.
Cherry (red): The Red Bird - it’s cherry. It’s soft and has a strong chemical flavor to it, not very well rounded and has a slight apple juice note to it (but the fruit juice concentrate used is white grape).
Basically, these are serviceable but hardly improve upon other gummies out there. They’re expensive with the only thing to really recommend them, aside from the nicely designed box is the fact that they’re gluten free and nut free (if those are things you’re interested in). They’re made in Mexico.
My suggestion? Buy one box, you know, for the box, and then keep refilling it with something better. I suggest Albanese Gummi Bears, or any of the cute shapes they also come in like butterflies, army men, worms or flowers. Those are made in the USA, come in really great flavors and cost half as much.
Check out Jess’ review on Foodette Reviews.
Thursday, December 1, 2011
The Trader Joe’s Classic Holiday Candy Mix qualifies as classic solely in its looks. They’re cute little pillows and waffle pieces of hard candy but come in a curious array of flavors that are as much tropical as they are wintery. Pomegranate, Cherry Cream, Passion Fruit, Cranberry Orange and Lemon Ginger. The flavors are all natural and the colors are created with vegetable and fruit extracts.
The packaging is simple, the box is a little smaller than a box of raisins or prunes. Inside is a half pound of hard candy in a simple cellophane pouch.
The pieces have that classic Holiday Mix look to them. Most are the standard pillow style of hard candy. The hard candy is briefly pulled (either by hand on a hook or by machine) to add air and a silky shine to it. That is then wrapped around a slightly aerated but not as attractive center. The the log is then rolled down into a rope which is then put into a cutter that gently squeezes the candy as it cuts it. Other pieces are rolled through a mold that give the waffle weave before they’re cut.
Cherry Cream is deep red with amber stripes. The cream flavor is a little artificial, like a butter flavor instead of a real creamy note. Kind of like a cream soda. The cherry flavor is good, like a black cherry but with a sort of burnt berry pie note to it. Sometimes I thought that it tasted like Dr. Pepper.
Cranberry Orange (orange and dark red) was easy to spot, as the pieces were mostly half orange and half red. The orange flavor was front and center, the cranberry was just a tartness in the background with a little strawberry floral note.
Pomegranate (pink, white & deep red striped pillow) It’s enchanting to look at an a nicely rounded pomegranate flavor with a lot of raspberry notes.
Lemon Ginger (yellow and white) were the easiest to figure out. This one tasted a little sparkly. Most of the pieces were the flat waffle but there were a few short straw ones too. The lemon is quite zesty and the woodsy ginger has a very slight warmth to it.
The candies are made in Mexico. I believe this is the same facility that also makes the Trader Joe’s Old Fashioned Sweet Sticks and the Life Savers all natural knock-off Sweet Story (and probably also the Organic Lollipops which are also sold as Yummy Earth). They’re made with glucose syrup which is from wheat, so they may not be suitable for gluten-free folks. There’s no other statement about allergens such as nuts or dairy products. They’re made with cane sugar but no other animal products so it’s up to you if you think they’re vegan. Kosher.
It’s a good price for all natural hard candy. It’s not extraordinary candy and probably only suitable for someone who actually like hard candy. The charming homespun quality does present a beautiful tableau in a dish and would probably be great as a decorative element on a Gingerbread House.
Monday, September 5, 2011
Trader Joe’s has been stepping up their introduction of classic candies lately. They have their gourmet versions of Milk Duds and Dutch Mints. I was quite shocked and delighted to see these Trader Joe’s Candy Coated Licorice a couple of weeks ago.
The box has a great, comforting design on it that conveyed everything I needed to know about the product. It’s licorice, it comes in pastel colors and it’s candy coated. But the really appealing part of this product for many people will be that it’s made without artificial colors or preservatives and contains no animal products. (It is missing the Trader Joe’s vegan symbol though I can’t find anything on the list of ingredients that would be considered non-vegan, except perhaps titanium dioxide, which is neither animal or vegetable, it’s mineral.)
If you were afraid that natural colors would be muted and bland, let me allay that fear. These are bright - a deep purple, bright yellow, brilliant orange and a clean white.
The candies are short little pieces, squat and with all the candy coating, rather rounded. They reminded me a bit of the Wiley Wallaby Outback Beans, made by Kenny’s Licorice. However, these have a few key differences. First, they’re made in Mexico and Kenny’s is made in the USA. Second, the Kenny’s had a rather soft shell to it. The Trader Joe’s Candy Coated Licorice is quite crisp.
The shell is thick and very crunchy. As with many natural or artificial colors, some taste different from others. The purple and orange candies have a light violet floral note to them. Otherwise the candy is all about sweetness, licorice and molasses. The candy shell provides a long, sustained sugar zap while the center is quite soft and has a slightly doughy chew. The molasses is a little bitter, smoky and woodsy. The licorice is light and sweet with a hit of anise as well as a grassy note of fresh fennel.
They’re a lot more affordable than the new Panda Candy Coated Licorice, which is also slightly different as the shells are flavored.
As much as these have going for them, first they’re dirt cheap at 99 cents for a 6 ounce box, I can’t say that they’re my absolute favorite candy coated licorice of all time. For me there’s too much shell and not enough intense licorice flavor. But the texture mixes are balanced very well. I’ve eaten three boxes so far, so these are definitely my go-to munching licorice. But I’d like an Extra Licorice version, maybe that has a little hint of anise in the shell itself.
Monday, August 15, 2011
Jolly Rancher (part of Hershey’s) introduced their Jolly Rancher Fruit Chews ten years ago. The chews are individually wrapped and have a texture similar to Starburst or an intense taffy. When I first tried them they were sold in a long stack of pieces, much like Starburst.
When I was at the convenience store a couple of weeks ago I saw the newer packaging which is a little, brightly colored paperboard box. It holds the same amount of candy, 2.06 ounces 14 pieces). The Jolly Rancher Tropical Fruit Chews come in four flavors: Pineapple, Strawberry-Kiwi, Lemon-Lime and Tropical Punch.
What exactly makes these Jolly Ranchers? When they were first introduced Jolly Ranchers became widely known because of their smooth dissolving texture with no air bubbles and intense flavors. Their slogan is Famous for Flavor and when I think of the brand I do identify it with my first experience with Green Apple. The company was founded in 1949 in Colorado, but the national obsession with the candies didn’t begin until after Beatrice Foods took over the candy in 1966 and distributed them nationally.
Hershey’s now owns Jolly Ranchers and has expanded the brand to include Gummis, Lollipops, Jelly Beans and Chews. All feature intense flavors but very generic flavors on the whole with bright colors.
The chews are rectangular, one inch long and 3/4 of an inch wide. They’re soft and pliable and a cross in texture between Starburst and Now and Later.
I was happy to see that I picked a box where Pineapple was the densest flavor. The chew doesn’t smell like anything but has an immediate tart and floral flavor of pineapple. The texture isn’t entirely smooth like Starburst, but retains its flavor and texture, kind of like gum all the way to the end when it dissolves.
Lemon-Lime was quite zesty and has a little sizzle to it, it’s so intense. The flavor is more on the lime side of lemon-lime, but not so tart that it’s unbearable. It reminds me of a Gin and Tonic without the Gin.
Tropical Punch was in the intense red wrapper and was nearly maroon when unwrapped. The flavor is peppery and very much like Hawaiian Punch, strong guava and papaya notes along with some hints of raspberry and pineapple. There was a slight artificial color aftertaste, but it couldn’t really rival the riot of artificial flavors.
Strawberry-Kiwi was pink and looked like bubble gum. The flavor combination was really intense and I could actual perceive the different fruits - the Kiwi was grassy and had notes of the seeds and the strawberry was tangy and with the toasted sugar flavors of cotton candy.
Overall, it’s a good flavor variety to add to Jolly Ranchers line. I question the packaging in a box. It’s nice to pick through the assortment for the flavor I want, but the box was only about half full, so it took up far more volume than necessary. I like the compactness of the Starburst style package, which also protects the pieces very well with double sealed wrapping.
They’re made in Mexico and are not Kosher and have no notice of nuts or gluten or any other common allergen (it does contain soy). It does contain gelatin so it’s not suitable for vegetarians.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.