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.
Thursday, April 29, 2010
The newest variety of M&Ms is just hitting the stores. Pretzel M&Ms were introduced at last year’s NACS (National Association of Convenience Stores) show. I love the fact that they brought back the skittish and paranoid Orange M&M character for these, he used to be the mascot for the discontinued Crispy M&Ms (which also came in a blue package).
The new product is just what it sounds like: a salty pretzel sphere covered in milk chocolate then the colored M&M candy shell.
The little X-ray of the M&M shows the pretzel inside him. Well, it shows a twisted pretzel, what’s inside here is pretzel nugget.
Though the bulk of the package is similar to the Peanut ones, the weight is not. There were 16 candies in my package but it weighs only 1.14 ounces. (Milk Chocolate M&Ms are 1.69 ounces.) The front of the package has the new “what’s inside” nutritional info: 150 calories. That’s a great tally - a respectable and filling snack but not so many calories to displace a nutritionally balanced diet. The back of the package says that there’s 30% less fat than the average of the leading chocolate brands. This appears true, there are 132 calories per ounce, where most of the chocolate candies I review are between 142 and 160 calories per ounce. The pretzels are a lot of air and of course made of flour, a carbohydrate.
The candies vary in size; they’re about 2/3 to 3/4 of an inch in diameter. They come in five colors: Red, Green, Blue, Brown and Orange. (Milk Chocolate and Peanut M&Ms also come in Yellow.) As near-spheres they’re vexing for snacking at my desk. When I tried to line them up and separate by color they just rolled around ... the Milk Chocolate obloid spheres definitely have the advantage there.
They’re crunchy, a little salty and sweet. The crunches are different - there’s the candy shell which is light and sweet, then the malty and salty pretzel center. The milk chocolate gives a little cocoa and milk flavor along with a creamy note.
I didn’t love them completely, I don’t know what was missing for me, maybe it was that there wasn’t enough chocolate for me. I also prefer dark chocolate on my pretzels to milk chocolate. Still, they’re a great addition to the line and more snack than dessert. They’re an excellent movie candy since they’re not too filling, have a savory and sweet mix and of course the are easy to share. They should be placed in every movie concession stand for the summer season.
Pretzel M&Ms are available at WalMart now, they’ll be in wider distribution starting in June 2010.
Friday, April 16, 2010
Check out the first “from the wild” review I’ve seen so far from Sugar Pressure.
Friday, July 3, 2009
When I reviewed the upcoming Hershey’s Special Dark Pieces, I didn’t realize how crowded the field of dark chocolate lentils was getting.
Mars has expanded their line of M&Ms Premiums (which is barely a year old) with a new variety: M&Ms Premium Dark Chocolate.
The package calls them deeply decadent, rich and intense dark chocolate. They do look deep and dark, the package is a stirring red and brown affair that really jumped off the shelf at me at Target last week.
Like many mass-marketed dark chocolates these days the semi-sweet chocolate is more than cocoa beans, sugar, emulsifiers and vanilla. Inside these little morsels are three different kinds of dairy: milkfat, skim milk and lactose.
The deep maroon/purple metallic coating looks like food (the blue almond ones don’t actually look like something you’re supposed to eat, they look like fingernail polish).
As a solid chocolate piece, they’re not terribly large like some of the other layered versions, most are about the same size as the Peanut Butter M&Ms.
The scent is a soft cocoa, sweet and woodsy. It’s a mellow chocolate with a decent soft melt, but a not-quite-smooth texture. It’s a little chalky and has a bit of a dry aftertaste. They’re pleasant and certainly attractive but don’t quite hit me with a strong premium taste or texture. (This is the hazard of eating stuff like this after an Amano bar and an Askinosie.)
They don’t taste that different from the Dark Chocolate M&Ms either, they just lack that crunchy shell, so they’re a bit less sweet. (There’s also salt in there.)
They’re a great candy to chose for aesthetics over taste, but I admit that the field of good chocolate in lentil form is pretty narrow. (If you’re really looking for great little morsels, go for the Valrhona, they’re not little tiny pieces but they are awesome.)
Friday, June 19, 2009
If there’s one thing I think that’s might pull our government out of the red, it might Mars excessive registration of trademarks for their limited edition & marketing tie in candies.
For the new Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen movie this summer, Mars has created a line of collectible M&Ms packages that feature different characters from the Transformers pantheon plus M&Ms in Transformers-styled outfits.
The seven packages:
(Yeah, I’m missing some package images, but that’s all that came with the press kit Mars gave me ... how odd.)
What I think is most interesting about this is that the package is the only thing that’s different (besides, of course the Strawberried Peanut Butter M&Ms). Open up the packet of the M&Ms (mine was Bumblebee 2 of 7) and there’s no fun new design of the M imprint with a twist on the Transformers like they did with Pirates of the Caribbean Pirate Pearls, Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull and Shrek II (basically Mega M&Ms). The Star Wars ones, though introducing Dark Chocolate M&Ms, did not have fancy imprints.
What is good news is that the packages are no smaller. With many of the limited editions what you get in addition to “specialness” is less. The Milk Chocolate Chocl-O-Bots packages have the same 1.69 ounces as the standard Milk Chocolate M&Ms.
The only truly transformed product for the movie tie-in is the Snickers Nougabot (tm). Due to physical laws of the conservation of matter, the energy required for the transformations, the bar is smaller than an unTransformerized one. *
This isn’t the first time Mars has mucked with the nougat for a movie. Back in 2007 they turned it green for Shrek but left it the same size, because really, how could a Shrek-ified candy be smaller? The traditional bar is 2.07 ounces and the Nougabot is 1.83 ounces.
The difference, otherwise, is really just the addition of Yellow #5. Considering how much some parents hate Yellow #5 (hint: enough to get it banned in Europe), it’s hard to understand why a candy which was formerly artificial coloring free would add it. Further, the Snickers website doesn’t list the Yellow 5 on the page for the Nougabot bar (sorry, can’t link directly to the page because of stupid flash & beware of annoying sounds).
So how does it taste? About the same. The flavor seemed a little “darker” but I don’t know if that was the caramel batch ... sometimes even big factory candies like Snickers can vary from day to day.
The only thing I liked about it is the same thing that I prefer about the Snickers Dark, that there’s one less bite in it. Because honestly I think that 1.83 ounces is the perfect size for a Snickers bar.
* My theory of this kind of violates the whole world of Transformers and many other fantasy, action & sci-fi movies where small things turn into big things without the perceivable addition of extreme amounts of energy. Anyway, in order to turn back and forth without loss of mass, you’d need lots of energy to turn into matter ... conversely to shrink you’d need to have a way to store a huge reservoir of energy (if you wanted to grow again) or release it. I’ve always wondered if Alice became super-dense when she shrank and puffy, aerated & light when she grew.
Monday, June 1, 2009
The cream colored packet holds 1.5 ounces of green, white and brown milk chocolate morsels flavored with coconut.
As with most limited editions, the package is a bit slighter than the regular products. This one clocks in at 1.5 ounces instead of the normal 1.69 in a Milk Chocolate M&Ms pack.
The package is cute and playful, featuring Ms. Green reclining in the sand, leaning against a coconut filled with coconut M&Ms. In the background the Yellow Peanut M&M is falling out of a coconut palm laden with more coconuts.
The contents smell much like most M&Ms, sweet and slightly woodsy but only the slightest whiff of coconut.
The individual lentils are a bit puffier than regular M&Ms, though not as big as the Peanut Butter variety.
Inside they’re just milk chocolate but with an added touch of coconut flavoring (but no actual coconut to be found in the ingredients).
The chocolate is fudgy, the flavor is a little salty and tropical but with a strange yogurty tang (kind of like Hershey’s) ... the crunch of the shell is crisp.
On the whole, it’s a nice change-up, very appealing. It’s not something that I think deserves to be made part of the regular repertoire. But see the review on Hershey’s Almond Joy Pieces.
UPDATE 9/29/2009: Mars has announced that M&MS Coconut will become part of their permanent line of candies. You can expect them in stores starting in December 2009.
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
For the past few years M&Ms has linked up with blockbuster movies to make Limited Edition M&Ms. Shrek (Mega M&Ms), Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull (Mint Crisp M&Ms), Pirates of the Caribbean (White Chocolate M&Ms) and Star Wars (Dark Chocolate M&Ms). This summer is no different with the release of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.
To tie into the movie about aliens that are two kinds of robots in one (more than meets the eye) Mars is introducing Limited Edition Strawberried Peanut Butter M&Ms.
Not only are the candies inside of the “you’ve never tasted this before” variety, they’ve also made seven different versions of the wrapper. Pictured above is The Twins - Pack 7 of 7.
What is a strawberried peanut butter M&M?
They’re pretty much the same as the regular Peanut Butter M&Ms: a peanut butter center covered in milk chocolate and a hard candy shell ... except here the milk chocolate is strawberry flavored.
I admit at first I squintched up my nose at the idea. Then I thought about PB&J (which is ideal with concord grape and white bread on one side, but also fabulous with sunflower wheat bread and raspberry jam) and it kind of made sense.
The colors are red, brown and yellow.
There were no clever motifs on the printing, just the regular M imprint. Except the yellow ones had some red splatter on them (I’m guessing that’s red transformer motor oil).
The strawberry flavor is just that, a flavoring applied on top of the inherent flavors in the peanut butter and the chocolate. The chocolate flavor is pretty much overwhelmed by the floral and sweet berry essences. The peanut butter grounds it pretty well, it’s mostly smooth, rather soft and has a good salty pop towards the end.
They’re not my favorite M&Ms ever, but I had no problem eating the whole bag. They feel about as relevant to the movie as last year’s mint crisp was to Indiana Jones.
I’ll leave you with a photo of the Bumblebee Transformer. Because I had it (hey, I work in Hollywood, I see a lotta stuff):
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
For something as simple as a candy coated chocolate lentil, there sure is a wide variety of M&Ms products.
(IT’S SUGAR M&M wall at Universal City Walk)
This isn’t so much a review as a rundown of the products.
For the most part we buy M&Ms in single serve packages that hold an ounce or two of five different colors. Currently they come in Milk Chocolate, Dark Chocolate, Peanut, Dark Chocolate with Peanuts, Peanut Butter and Almond. (Then there are various limited editions like the upcoming Transformers: Strawberried Peanut Butter, last year’s Crispy Mint for Indiana Jones, Wild Cherry or Razzberry and the seasonal varieties like Milk Chocolate Mint and holiday color versions.)
Then M&Ms introduced Colorworks: the ability to buy individually colored or themed color mixes (circa 1996). Later they added in customized printing (2004). After that they allowed customers to not only add logos but now you can get your own picture on M&Ms.
Most recently M&Ms introduced their themed MyMMs.com tie-ins with Disney. These are called M&Ms Memorable Moments. (I got this bag as a sample from Mars’ PR folks.)
The theme on this assortment is Fairies. There are four colors & five imprints: Tinkerbell, Jasmine, Belle, “Believe in Magic!” and the M.
The candy itself isn’t very different (except for those of us who can taste artificial colors). I was a bit disappointed that there weren’t more images ... and the choice of the gals.
The colors are dark pink, green, yellow and teal. The printing was a little sloppy. The photo is of the best in the package, some were mottled with little splotches, that are all too familiar to me as a lefty. (The classic M&Ms are all imprinted in a creamy grey, not black.)
The other Disney assortments are:
The Disney themed are $12.99 for a 7 ounce bag and you have to buy at least 3. That’s over $29 per pound ... before you add the shipping. That’s some seriously pricey stuff - maybe dilute them with the plain colored ones ($6.99 for 7 ounces) to make the themed ones a little more precious.
Over the past few years I’ve been to a few parties & celebrations and have picked up some other customized M&Ms. Some were just text and some had logos on them.
Ordering from M&Ms there are a few options for pre-packaged favors. They can put them in little tins, clear boxes or tiny bags or you can just buy in large bags and put them in a buffet or bundle them up yourself.
Beyond the color mixes & pre-made icons, customized M&Ms are big. They’re a popular wedding and celebration item and of course the crazy internet kids like to go to mymms.com to probe the content filter of what they can put on their candies that won’t be censored.
Personally, I prefer a personalized container over the actual edible. After all, you want me to eat it.
On the whole, the Memorable Moments are passably unique and cute, but I think they’re really only for diehard fans of those characters. They’re extremely expensive for the actual product ... somehow I think just a properly themed box or other container would be a better deal.
If you have money to freely convert into perishable candy coated chocolate, well, this is pretty inventive.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.