Wednesday, January 13, 2010
As we’re in the middle of Candy Season one of my favorite things to do after a holiday is to see what’s on sale from the previous holiday and glance at the early merchandise on the shelves for the next one. The Epiphany usually marks the emergence of Valentine’s Day candy. I scour the aisles looking for something new. So when I saw the new packaging for Necco Sweethearts I thought they’d expanded their line. They have been offering an all-chocolate version, Spanish language version and lately a Tart version. I thought this new fruity array was an addition.
I bought them but didn’t open them, just tossing them on my pile for review. Then the comments started trickling in from readers, who were finding my old review and weighing in on the changes. It appears that it’s a complete replacement for the classic Necco Sweethearts (see my review of them in 2008).
There are so many things wrong. Let me start on the front of the package.
The Official Candy of Love
Does Love have a governing board that can decide these things, like the Olympic Committee? No, no it does not. Love, Freedom, Justice and Anger ... these concepts and emotions are boundless and cannot have anything official about them. Invoking any sort of official in association with them is false advertising. Love does not do endorsements. (Unless Necco would like to step forward and show me their contracts with Love.)
New Package Design
I actually like it. It’s bold but still soft and, yeah, a bit feminine and childish. At first I though the colors of the hearts were a little too vivid, but after seeing the actual candies inside, I’m setting that aside. The choice of Love Bug as the statement on the featured heart is a bit odd.
It’s marked in a black stamp there in the upper right corner, 99 cents and the package holds 7 ounces. Can’t really beat that, especially when the little boxes are usually selling for 50 cents for one ounce (though sometimes on for as little as 20 cents each). Not terribly attractive but kind of makes me nostalgic for the time before bar codes.
Lack of Branding
The front of the package does not bear the name of the maker. The name Necco isn’t actually on the package anywhere ... just New England Confectionery Company under the nutrition facts panel (followed by the web address of www.necco.com). The previous years’ packaging does have Necco and its logo featured prominently both on the front and the back of the packages.
It’s January 13, so a little more than a month before Valentine’s Day. Valentine’s candy has been in stores for at least a week. On the back of the package is says for baking, gifting, craft ideas and more visit mysweethearts.com. You know what’s on that page as I write this? It’s a placeholder about some sort of iPhone app. No promised recipes or craft ideas ... not even any mention that would be what I expect to find it there. (See screengrab.)
The New Flavors - Show You Care ... 6 Delicious Ways to Share!
Strawberry, Grape, Green Apple, Lemon, Orange and Blue Raspberry.
I’m not going to break the flavors down one by one. What was nice about Necco Sweethearts was the subtle sweet flavors, nothing exciting, they were simply pleasant.
The new flavors are a blend of sweet and tart. The texture is smoother than the usual compressed dextrose candy like SweeTarts, because this is made with mostly sugar and corn syrup instead of dextrose (which is just a powder form of glucose and has a different mouthfeel).
The citrus flavors are completely artificial with a tangy note that is wholly un-citrus and more like a chemical. The pink ones taste like a combination of lipstick and the old wintergreen ones, which is just a disgusting mix. Grape has as much clove flavor in it as food coloring though the mixture is nearly palatable.
These do not show I care ... these show that I have no regard for my lover or friend’s expectations of what a heart shaped candy should taste like.
It’s as if Necco took all the artificial colors that they aren’t using for their new All Natural Necco Wafers and pouring it all into these improved Necco Sweethearts. Simply put, they’re a mess. (Now, I would’ve been thrilled if the conversation hearts were also going to be all natural, what an awesome innovation that would have been.)
Once I opened the bag I was in trouble. The smell is a blend of Love’s Baby Soft and strawberry candles. And if I were just sniffing the bag, well, yeah, I have to expect that. But this thing made my car smell, they make my office smell. When I’m done with this review they’re going in the trash someplace where I am not.
The one thing they have improved upon was one of my beefs with them previously. They production quality is better. The pieces are well formed and most especially the printing is clear. Sure about a quarter of them aren’t printed square in the center, but they’re still readable.
The sayings are cute. They’re using the heart symbol quite a bit. Hey Baby, Smile, Sweet Love, Dream Big, You Rock, Puppy Love, Meet Me, Love Me, Hug Me, Kiss Me, For Ever, Ask Me, even Marry Me
I’m not saying they shouldn’t make these, someone probably likes them, but they should be an additional product in the line, not a replacement for the iconic original.
UPDATE 1/27/2010: It’s been a few weeks and it seems that the response posted here has been overwhelmingly negative about the flavor change (few have mentioned the new texture).
So I talked to Jackie Hague, the Vice President of Marketing for Necco who navigated this new change (along with the All Natural Necco Wafers, which I fully support). We had a great talk about candy in general (she worked for Mars for 20 years and was responsible for many of the limited edition M&Ms that so many of us have loved over the years).
First, you can still get the classic Necco Sweethearts. The change over was made mid-way through the production schedule. So the first part of the production run was the classic flavors (Banana, Wintergreen, Orange, Cherry, Grape) and then they switched over the ingredients and equipment for the new formula. They are sold at very few stores, basically the discounters: Dollar Tree, Dollar General, Family Dollar , 99 Cent Only, Freds , Odd Lots, Wakefern and Sav A Lot. (The image shown here is the classic flavors on the left that I found at Dollar Tree and the ones on the right are the new flavors/colors - here’s what the package looks like.)
Second, Ms. Hague said that the changes were made based on consumer feedback. The most common requests from folks who wrote or called were for a softer texture and for more intense & modern flavors. Banana was not well liked, apparently yellow is not ordinarily expected to be banana. The texture was introduced first with the Twilight version of Sweethearts (though future versions won’t have Passion Fruit) as well as the tangier, more vibrant flavors.
So the takeaway from this would be, if you don’t like the new flavors, make sure that Necco knows that. Return the product, write to them or call. I wouldn’t expect a whole lot in return (a canned response) but I do think that they log the feedback - it’s in their best interest. (Ms. Hague also said that they’ve assigned more people to help out with the feedback process, so perhaps the responses will be more appropriate instead of a copy/paste FAQ.) Ms. Hague understood my frustration with not just the lack of information but the contrary information provided by the website and candy packages and it’s apparent they’re working on that.
The Necco website’s Sweethearts product page used to say this, “One thing Sweetheart lovers can count on each year is the candy’s simple, familiar formula. The basic recipe has never been changed. Both Sweethearts and the familiar NECCO Wafers use the same batter—sugar, corn syrup, gelatin, gums, coloring and flavoring.” However, they’ve finally updated their websites to reflect this new change and have omitted that statement that they honor the time-tested flavors ... because they were tested by time and after about a hundred years, even as the #1 Valentines candy selling 8 billion hearts a year, they lost. Necco thinks that this new version will appeal to more people, which is possible, but it’s clear it’s not the same people who have been buying them.
Update 2/10/2013: Both versions of Necco’s Conversation Hearts are on store shelves this year. By far the most ubiquitous are the newer fruity version, but I did find the almost-classic “Conversation Hearts” at Walgreen’s. The old ones are called Conversation Hearts, not Sweethearts. I’ve only seen them in the little boxes, only as singles (not in the shrinkwrapped five packs and no bags).
The classic version has white (cinnamon), green (lime), yellow (banana), pink (cherry), purple (grape) and orange (orange). So they’ve eliminated clove and wintergreen. It’s too bad. The texture has returned to the crunchier version. The colors are more vibrant and the printing just as inconsistent.
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
The Twilight Saga: New Moon opens in theaters all over the world at the end of November. It’s expected to be a huge hit, as was the first movie in the series, Twilight. New Moon again stars Kristen Stewart as Bella Swan and Robert Pattinson as Edward Cullen. If you’ve been under a literary rock for the past five years, it’s based on the popular young adult/fantasy Twilight quadrilogy by Stephenie Meyer.
Necco, maker of Necco Wafers, Sweethearts, Clark Bars and Mary Janes has a licensing deal with Summit Entertainment. It started earlier this year with Forbidden Fruits Sweethearts and has expanded now with the line of chocolate candies under their Sky Bar brand called Heart’s Desire.
The products are various bars and individually wrapped pieces. Gigi Reviews had the full bar, which is like a regular Sky Bar but with only three segments but a hipper looking wrapper. I found these little individually wrapped pieces, which are one ounce each and retail for about fifty cents.
The package calls it a creme filled milk chocolate heart. The ingredients actually sound pretty decent for a movie tie in product. Real milk chocolate filled with a sugary, corn syrup, invert syrup, artificial flavors, salt, egg whites and invertase.
It’s odd though that the candy of choice for New Moon would be a boring old vanilla cream. The Sky Bar has four fillings: caramel, vanilla, peanut and fudge. Of those I think the peanut one would be best. It’s definitely different from other candy products on the market because the peanut section in the Sky Bar is a peanut flavored caramel ... worthy of a starring role by itself.
It’s rather large for a filled chocolate, they’re 2 1/3 inches tall and 1 1/4 inch wide at most. The highest part in the center heart is just shy of one inch.
The molded design is of two stacked hearts. The heart on top bears the female protagonist’s name: Bella (though when I first looked at it I thought it said Petta, which made no sense to me). The second heart says Cullen and looks like it may be the family crest. The crest is a hand print over a profile of a lion with a chevron with the outline of three shamrocks.
It smells rather like a Cadbury Creme Egg and honestly, it’s not that different. Of the three that I opened, two were cracked around the edges and leaking (but dried).
The chocolate is pretty good for a cheap piece of candy. It has a nice snap and a milky flavor. The creme center is smooth, a bit soupy and merely sweet with no other features worth mentioning. The whole thing though was a bit off, a little bit musty tasting and lacking that fresh pop of real vanilla. It’s too bad that it couldn’t distinguish itself with a fresh vanilla flavor so it would be more like a Valomilk than a Cadbury Creme Egg.
As a little treat to stuff in your pocket before heading out to stand in a long line at the movie theater, it’s a decent enough value. Not something I would buy, but if I were a parent and going to see the movie with my kids (or just driving them there) it would be a thoughtful little celebratory gift. As an enduring confection ... well, it’s not befitting immortal status, especially when it bleeds its contents so easily.
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
Yesterday I reviewed the new All Natural Necco Wafers. Today I have the All Natural Chocolate Necco Wafers and I’m sure some people are thinking, Why review a single flavor from the regular Necco Wafer roll?.
When Necco went all natural, they also tweaked their Chocolate roll to include four flavors instead of just one. Now it contains Milk, Dark, White and Mocha.
I’m was scratching my head, wondering if something so un-chocolately and bland can possibly come in four different flavors when the original is barely flavored.
First, I like the new package. I like the little brown on brown dots on the background. I don’t like the new logo, but hey, the frustrating paper wrapper is usually torn into little strips to get to the candy, so it’s not like I’m saving it and making noisy jewelry out of it.
The first problem I encountered when trying to review them was determining which disk was which flavor. I had to assume the white one was white chocolate, but beyond that I really couldn’t tell. There’s definitely a medium chalky brown that I assumed was milk but then I lost the key, the dark colors were too close for me to call and they weren’t even that much darker.
White Chocolate - this is not chocolate. There is nothing chocolatey about this. It’s not creamy, it’s not milky, it’s certainly not cocoa-ish. It’s an unflavored Necco Wafer. It’s like the test strip for Necco Wafers. You can reset your tasting abilities with this. It’s sweet, maybe it has a hint of vanilla but a toasted marshmallow would have been better. (Or maybe they could have done salted caramel instead of the white chocolate.)
Milk Chocolate - it’s like the old chocolate Necco Wafer, a bit like cardboard in both texture and taste. Not quite musty but not anywhere near chocolate or even chocolate milk.
Mocha - I think this one was the lighter of the dark browns. It was just as sweet as the milk chocolate and did have a hint of coffee flavor. But half the time I didn’t know if I was eating the mocha or the dark, so again I missed the point. It was kind of like eating old frosting from a donut wrapper. By far the most successful in the roll for me.
Dark Chocolate - I can accept chocolate ones in the regular roll because they’re just kind of sweet and different and not trying too hard. But in a roll where I’m supposed to be having a great time with four great flavors I’m greatly disappointed. Maybe it even rises to the level of irritated.
I had two rolls of these. The first roll I photographed and then threw into a little bowl to munch on while I watched TV. After three days of not munching on them, I kept smelling something that was akin to paper grocery bags. (I had no trouble eating the regular rolls though.) So I threw them out. Then I took out the second roll and started on those for the review. They can’t be stale or old, they’re brand new. Just so incredibly bland.
If you want to buy a candy to help you lose weight, this is something to stock up on. You’ll never touch them. For fans of the original Chocolate roll, I think you’re going to be disappointed.
Monday, November 2, 2009
It’s hard to believe that I’ve never reviewed Necco Wafers. In the early years of Candy Blog I tried to concentrate on candies I’d never had before, but it became apparent that in order to discuss things that were new (or new to me) I had to cover the classics as well. So I’m slowly adding those.
Necco Wafers were introduced in 1863 by the Chase and Company candy makers. They were known for their hard candies (boiled sweets), lozenges and “Oriental style” sweets including Turkish Delight. They also innovated machinery and techniques to create confections like the wafers. Chase later merged with Ball and Forbes and Bird, Wright and Company to become the New England Confectionery Company in 1901. By the time they’d been around for almost fifty years they finally settled into their present day name, assortment and packaging style in 1912. Necco Wafers were available in different sizes and were a popular penny candy of the time.
The wafers are lightly flavored and colored disks of sugar. The product is rather unusual for the modern era of confections and is more similar to breath mints than regular candy. They’re not fussy but perhaps a little homely and dated.
To make them, a dough of sugar and corn syrup is mixed up and stabilizers and binders such as gelatin, tragacanth, xanthan and gum Arabic are added. Then after the base is created it’s customized with the flavors and colors. The whole mass is loaded into a roller like it’s some sort of infinitely long pie crust then the disks are cut and stamped with the Necco name. They’re not baked, just air dried.
What’s created is a beguilingly crunchy lozenge. Crisp, thin and sweet.
The classic roll of Necco Wafers contained eight flavors and has always been a random assorted stack sealed in a glassine wrapper. I know most folks who like them also searched the store shelves for one that had just the right mix of colors they preferred.
This year marks a new generation of Necco Wafers now with all natural flavorings and colors. Because of the new restrictions Necco placed on itself, they dropped one flavor from the original that could not be replicated adequately: Lime.
The current flavors are chocolate, cinnamon, clove, lemon, licorice, orange and wintergreen. Since no artificial colors are used I was hoping that the flavors would be truer. (I’ve always had a problem with the pink ones having a bad bitter aftertaste.)
I haven’t been able to find the large two ounce rolls in the stores near me, but I did finally find this package of the mini rolls at CVS in the Halloween section. (I visited about a dozen stores in two states in a month looking for them.)
The colors are quite a bit more subdued, as if Necco Wafers weren’t already a bit washed out. They’re so muted that I have trouble telling the pale yellow, lavender and white apart. And for folks that like to preview a roll before they open it, it’s quite hard to tell the light colors apart. The new wrapper also sports an updated logo ... though I find the logo to look more like something from 1998 (when the titled oval was all the rage in logos) than a modern candy, but not quite a reflection of its classic past.
Clove - I always avoided the clove for two reasons. I don’t like clove flavor and I didn’t like the food coloring aftertaste. In this case the clove (faint lavender) is much more mild and less caustic than before. Of course there’s no weird aftertaste either. I still didn’t like it much and was a little irritated that it was so hard to pull them out of the mix in anything other than bright sunlight.
Chocolate - the easiest to spot and one that needs no coloring. I found the cocoa flavors to be overly sweet, but at least true. It was like an old piece of dried chocolate frosting. A little pointless if you really want chocolate, but it has a freshness to it that doesn’t leave me thinking of cardboard.
Wintergreen - I was so happy about these. The color is still a teaberry pink, so they’re easy to spot. It’s exactly like a piece of teaberry gum if it was a crunchy piece of sugar (and a stale piece of gum can be like that). The flavor starts out rather soft and quaint, but builds up to a bit of a Ben Gay burn later. There’s a lingering buzz in the mouth. The best part of the finish is that it’s all flavor and no food coloring mess. My tongue looks like when I started (normal pink) and no metallic aftertaste.
Cinnamon - this white piece lots its mojo in the conversion to all natural. It’s sad how lacking in cinnamon punch it is now, it’s not that it’s bad, but I just don’t feel like picking them out and eating them first any longer.
Licorice - the color is so much lighter on these, it took me a while to realize that they weren’t the clove ones. They’re a light putty color that sometimes has a lavender cast to it. The flavor is quite a strong anise note. It’s sweet and has an aromatic and slightly menthol quality to it. It reminds me a little bit of the Fisherman’s Friend lozenges.
Lemon - the lemon flavored Necco Wafers were never spectacular and they haven’t changed one way or the other. Sweet and with only the slightest hint of lemon flavor, there’s no tartness (thank goodness - if you’ve had the SweetHearts Sour Conversation Hearts you’ll know what I mean), no zest.
Orange - this faint orange colored one has a little orange peel note to it. It didn’t seem as sweet as the lemon one, but that’s not saying much about it. It was mostly inoffensive.
I don’t miss Lime, but I did enjoy the flavor. As an assortment, I’ve found myself munching through the bag of minis without any problems. I’ve picked out most of the clove, but find all the other flavors enjoyable. So I consider the new mix a definite winner. The only issue was the strength of the flavors varies - the clove, licorice and wintergreen were very strong and left a distinct burn in the mouth while the rest were pretty mellow. So after a licorice, I could barely tell that I was eating a lemon.
Each roll of 9 pieces has only 50 calories. They take a while to eat and of course there’s the variety, so it’s a nice snack that’s easy to take anywhere. I do have a problem with the little white powder that seems to get everywhere though. (I tend to wear a lot of dark colors.)
I think this is a great development and I’m actually looking forward to see if the classic SweetHearts Conversation Hearts will also go all natural. They do still have gelatin in them, so sadly no good for vegetarians and they’re not Kosher/Halal. I really like my candies to taste like candy, not artificial colors.
Monday, May 18, 2009
With the wild popularity of the Twilight series of books by Stephanie Meyer, it was only a matter of time before the first book was made into a movie. And of course its success means a licensing agreement was reached for some candy.
Considering the fact that the story (I’m doing spoilers here) is about vampires and love, candy hearts are a natural choice.
Necco’s Sweetheart conversation hearts were released as a limited edition: Sweethearts Forbidden Fruits. Instead of just getting a box branded with a few characters on it and maybe some new sayings, these little hearts are also in different flavors themed for forbidden fruits plus have some sort of sparkling Dracula dust (pearlescent pigment) on them.
The candy seems to have been timed with the DVD release, not with the film in the theaters. Still, I never did find them in stores (perhaps I should have been looking in video stores, but I have a Netflix subscription ... which makes me think there should be a Netflix for candy).
The candy hearts don’t look terribly different from the regular Valentine’s version. Except the colors are different. The pearly coating (that looks like it’s glitter on the box) is pretty darn mild, I mistook it for chalky powder.
The flavors are:
The sayings on the hearts vary in their legibility. They seem to be lighter but clearer on the pearly ones but bold & smudgy on the uncoated.
Sayings that I was able to tease out were: Soul Mate, Bite Me, Secret, I (heart) EC, Live 4 Ever, Dazzle, With You, Lamb, Bad Guy, You R My Life, Always, I Trust You, I Love You, Forks.
Oddly enough, as noted above in the photo, some were blank. I didn’t know if this was intentional, like some sort of heart that only vampires could read. Or maybe there’s a version of the Twlight books that are choose your own adventure and I’m in charge of this heart’s message.
As far as a limited edition offering, they’re a rather bland revision of conversation hearts, but they’re rather ordinary to begin with. The execution of the lettering and the “dazzle dust” were weak. But I liked the box design (though I’ve only seen this one in person) and think that it’d be a fun item to have while watching the movie with friends. (As long as you had some snacks on hand that were actually good to eat.)
Like all Necco conversation hearts, these have gelatin in them, so are unsuitable for vegetarians/vegans/those who keep Kosher or otherwise eschew pork. (I have no idea how the Twilight vampires feel about pigs.)
Wednesday, April 1, 2009
I picked up this package of Necco Paas Gummi Baby Bunnies at the Dollar Tree. I was a bit miffed even before I purchased it. As you can see from the photo, the bag is mostly empty. The product takes up, at most, a third of the bag ... though I have to say it did weigh a hefty nine ounces, which is a generous amount of candy for a buck. (The back of the package says “this product is packed by weight”, which I’m guessing means they’ve gotten some comments.)
The package design is rather lame. The illustration of the Easter Bunny with his basket of baby bunnies isn’t really very contemporary, and I don’t even know what’s going on with the yellow fluffy duck with red hiking boots in the background.
The package promises gummi bunny shaped candies in six creamy flavors. I’m accustomed to transparent gummis, these are opaque, but also apparently creamy.
All my other confusion and miffed-ness aside, these were a pleasant surprise.
These juvenile lagomorph confections are a little bigger than a gummi bear, clocking in at about one inch high. They’re soft opaque colors, matte and a little milky looking. The bag smells a bit like marshmallows and maybe a hint of circus peanuts.
Though the name says they’re gummis, they’re really not. There’s no gelatin in there (so I guess they’re vegan as long as you’re happy to eat modified corn starch, partially hydrogenated coconut oil and titanium dioxide). They look like mellocremes (fondant like Candy Corn), but they’re much smoother than that. They’re firm but give easily when bitten, not as sticky as a gumdrop, not as hard a Jujyfruits.
Banana - Yellow - I think this is the one that overpowers the bag. It’s a plastic-like fingernail polish flavor that wafts like some sort of VOC emission from an auto body shop. Still, I rather liked them, because I like fake bananas even though they made my lungs hurt.
Orange - Orange - rather like the lime one, the orange flavor is quite subtle. Reminds me of a creamsicle, or maybe the distant memory of the last creamsicle I ate about three years ago.
Cherry - Hot Pink - when I looked at this, I wasn’t scared of the cherry flavor, I was immediately turned off at the thought of all that Red 40 dye. The cherry flavor is stronger than the other flavors in the set. Then there’s a bitter component that I find pretty off-putting even if the cherry was rather nice.
Grape - Lavender - this was a baffling little rabbit. It tasted like the only one with a bit of a tangy bite, kind of like yogurt. But the grape flavor was barely there. It also had a bit of a bitter aftertaste.
Marshmallow - White - a rather believable toasted vanilla flavor. Smooth chew ... these are kind of what I’d always hoped Bunny Basket Eggs would be like.
Lime - Green - mellow lime flavor that lingers for a while, a bit of vanilla and it’s definitely smooth. A little bitter aftertaste.
They candies are soft and dry to the touch, so throwing them in the Easter grass out of the packaging like jelly beans is a decent option. They’re also cute enough to display in a jar or dish. (Really, anything is better than leaving in the lackluster package.)
Overall, I had no problem eating whatever I drew out of the bag, instead of picking through. (Though when given the opportunity, I threw the grape and cherry back.) The chew is soft and pleasant, not too sweet. They did tend to stick to my teeth, but not as much as something like Dots. They’re definitely worth the dollar I paid for them, but I really urge Necco to make the bag smaller by half, if only to save themselves some space & plastic costs.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Way back in the ancient days of the 1920s the Stark Candy Company of Milwaukee (well, Pewaukee to be exact) made an innovative little candy called the Snirkle (photo here). There were a couple of varieties but it was basically a swirled caramel & taffy pop. (They were also sold as individual pieces without the stick.)
Later in the 60s, when the whole world was going day-glow with color TV, Stark came out with the Slap Stix. It was based on the original and popular Snirkle, only this pop was a swirl of vanilla, cherry & banana taffy inside a caramel pop. The Slap Stix are made to this day and come a variety of sizes, a little .7 ounce variety and this attractive 2 ounce version.
Stark, who also made a conversation heart product, sold their company to Necco in 1990. Necco recently closed the Pewaukee Stark Candy Factory but transferred production to their Revere, Mass plant.
The pop is about the size of a business card and doesn’t really make a slapping sound when thwapped against a hard surface. But it does okay when smacked against the palm.
The pop smells sweet and caramelly. The caramel outside is rather firm, like a Milk Maid Caramel but has slightly more “pull” to it. Once bitten there’s a strong banana flavor. I didn’t really notice the cherry layer at first, but later on there’s a slight bitter aftertaste and a slight cherry flavor. The banana and caramel go well together, the chew is substantial and not too sweet. I could use a little hint of salt in there and would probably prefer strawberry to cherry. It’s not a slick & smooth caramel like a fresh Sugar Daddy, more like Laffy Taffy on a stick.
It’s a fun and really attractive treat. I found it a bit overpriced at $1.25 at Cost Plus World Market, but I’m sure they’re around for a bit less if you look carefully.
I don’t know why Necco doesn’t make the Snirkle any longer. It’s such a great name.
Thursday, May 1, 2008
Wintergreen is a natural flavor derived from a few sources, one of them being the Wintergreen plant. It’s also found in the North American teaberry and birch bark. Wintergreen is sometimes called Winter Mint, but isn’t really a mint (in the sense that it’s derived from a mint plant), but it still falls into the “aromatics” of flavors. (Still, I characterize it as a mint flavor, because it reminds me tooth powder - yes, I’m old enough to remember tooth powder.) It’s a flavor that’s more popular in North American than the rest of the planet. It’s also a flavor found in Root Beer and Birch Beer, two other uniquely North American flavors.
For many of us Wintergreen is associated with things like Pepto Bismol, Icy Hot or Ben Gay. So even if you enjoy the flavor, other people associate it with those things and when they smell it they ask if you have sore muscles or a queasy stomach.
Canada Wintergreen are built on the flavor and don’t seem to have suffered for it. They’re a simple candy, just a firm sugar-based dough with some gums & gelatin in there to hold it all together in a firm chalky tablet.
Canada Mints are made by Necco, who makes another slightly different version of these called Necco Wafers in different flavors (the only real difference in the ingredients is some dextrose and glycerine).
They’re a bit more intense than Necco wafers. The texture of the tablet is a little softer than a conversation heart. They’re crumbly, not too sweet and have a pretty intense wintergreen flavor, so much that it makes my mouth a little numb. (There’s also a slight and quick-to-dissipate bitter aftertaste, but I chalk that up to the presence of Red #40.) I prefer the texture of these to something like the LifeSavers Wint-O-Green (but there’s no spark-making with these).
I pretty much love these and don’t care of someone thinks that I’ve been rubbing muscle-soothing balms into my muscles (but my pink tongue is probably a dead giveaway that it’s candy related). The only problem I can think of with wintergreen is that it doesn’t really go well with coffee.
Canada Mints come in a peppermint version in white as well (and supposedly a spearmint version that I haven’t found in years). They’re supposedly available in rolls, but I only ever see them in bulk bins or in these types of bags. I used to buy them a lot when I was a teen and when I was in college, I think because it was a dirt-cheap candy, usually less than a dollar a pound. Now I just buy Neccos every once in a while (mostly because they’re available in rolls).
The package heralds that they’re fat free. They’re also 100% carbs, for those watching those. (About 12 calories each, for those who just track that.)
As a strange side note, there is a plant that’s known as Canada Mint, Corn Mint or simply wild mint (Mentha arvensis) which is the only mint species native to North America. It’s not wintergreen flavored though. The name Canada Mint in this case was because it was sold in Canada starting in the 1880s and looks pretty much unchanged since then.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.