Thursday, March 18, 2010
Wonka introduced a line of jelly beans back in 2006 (original review). They were matte, opaque pastel jelly beans with a strange grainy shell but familiar SweeTart flavors.
This year the product seems to have been reformulated, though there’s no mention of it on the package which is also redesigned. Readers alerted me that they were different this year.
The 2010 version of SweeTart Jelly Beans are more vibrant and come in the current SweeTart flavors of Cherry, Lemon, Grape, Blue Punch, Green Apple and Orange.
I noticed the color difference before I even took the bag home. They’re more opaque and shinier with consistent colors. They’re at once familiar and a little different.
The version I’ve had before had a grainy and cool-to-the-tongue shell. When I saw these and remembered the comments, I was wondering if Wonka was just using the Spree Jelly Beans which have a harder shell.
The shell is more crisp than the previous version and the flavors seem a little more distinct and intense. They also seem to be more faithful to the flavors of the chalky original SweeTarts disks. But what’s missing is probably the tangy hit that the real SweeTarts have.
As you’ll notice, I found quite a few abnormal ones in my bag. These were a few that had distinctive shapes, quite a few were just larger than what I’d call normal or smaller than what I would have thought should be the target. They all tasted fine - the narrow ones obviously had more shell to them proportionally.
They’re still nice - the grape is much better as it is tangier now. I enjoyed the citrus flavors even though they weren’t particularly sour. Green apple is okay, though bland and I usually pick out the cherry and blue punch ones but if I ate them it’s not the end of the world.
In the end, the update is definitely different but I wouldn’t call it an improvement. I think it brings them more in line with what I’d expect from a product extension but still not as good as actual SweeTarts. Now if they could only do the SweeTarts Chicks, Ducks & Bunnies with all the flavors of SweeTarts we’d have something to talk about.
The versions I’ve tried before (2007 & 2008) were made in Canada. This bag was made in Mexico. There are no allergen statements on the bag, so they may be nut free/gluten free and contain no animal-derived products.
Friday, March 5, 2010
They’re the third item in the new launch of the better quality Wonka chocolate products hitting store shelves now. The ingredients are all natural, the packaging revamped and the quality vastly improved.
Now that I’ve tried all three varieties I can say that they’re right, the quality of the chocolate is much better. The chocolate is smoother, has a bolder flavor and of course the fact that the ingredients are better should make it easier for families to choose Wonka. I’ve compared them before to Dove and Hershey’s Bliss - but what these have going for them is that the packaging is all about imagination - the bright striped foils are going to appeal more to kids than the sedate and elegant positioning of Dove or Bliss.
The pieces themselves aren’t quite as stunning to look at as the other two Exceptionals. The little domed blocks don’t stack either. I was hoping for some glossy dark chocolate, and while it’s tempered properly, the piece looks like well worn coat button instead of a sumptuous piece of dark chocolate.
The dark chocolate flavors are quite sharp. It’s acidic without being tangy, not quite chalky but a little dry. It’s smooth but I wouldn’t characterize it as the same silkiness as the milk and white chocolate from the Waterfall version. There are berry and raisin notes to the cocoa but nothing overtly complex. It’s toasty but not so dark that it’s roasty and too bitter like black coffee. The sweetness is pretty overwhelming, sugar is the first ingredient on the list.
As a dark chocolate, it’s very accessible, and probably won’t dissuade children from eating them. They remind me of eating chocolate chip cookies - the melt is similar to that in a fresh cookie.
I think Nestle has done a great job of reinvigorating the brand. It takes more inspiration from the original books and taps into the dreamy quality that Wonka has evoked in every kid who every kid who’s read it.
Wednesday, March 3, 2010
The new line of Wonka Exceptionals are better quality chocolate candies. Nestle calls them The world’s most incomparably imaginative chocolate. The initial launch includes three chocolate products and to increase consumer interest a Golden Ticket giveaway for 5 trips around the world valued at $40,000 (that’s 5 different prizes, not 5 circumnavigations for one person).
Since the products are just being rolled out, they may not be on shelves everywhere yet. I found the Wonka Exceptionals Chocolate Waterfall Pieces at Ralph’s at a rather shocking price point of $4.99. The bars, which are 3.5 ounces are supposed to retail for $2.49. The package is gaudy and rather befitting the proud Willy Wonky tradition. The back of the package has the fun quote from the original Golden Ticket text from the book and exhorts folks to read the original book by Roald Dahl. (How many candies encourage that?)
The Waterfall chocolate is logged on the package as Bar No 99: Delectable combination of swirled milk & white chocolate.
The pieces are wrapped in blue and purple striped foil. They’re a nicely sized block of one or two bites (9.25 grams or 1/3 of an ounce). They’re 1.25” long, 1” wide and about .33” high.
The package (which is sometimes hard to read because of how busy it is) says that it’s truly amazing chocolate made with natural ingredients and then says refer to the ingredients list. The list is then asterisked with only one ingredient not flagged as all natural - the soy lecithin. I’m guessing it’s because it’s from genetically modified (GMO) soy. Still, it’s all real chocolate - basically sugar, milk and cacao with a little vanilla & emulsifiers (lecithin - no PGPR).
The milk and white swirl is nicely done, usually in three expertly centered spokes.
The pieces smell milky and sweet. The bite is quite soft, but still has a good snap to it for a high-milkfat chocolate. The texture does not disappoint. It’s very smooth and silky with a good fatty melt. The chocolate flavors are eclipsed by the dairy, but it’s still a comforting cocoa note that sticks to the woodsy and malty side of things. It’s very, very sweet though. They’re quite different from the Hershey’s Bliss White Chocolate Meltaway, which is not as sweet but of course doesn’t have the milk chocolate component.
There aren’t that many milk and white combination chocolates here in the United States, so this is a fun and original option. It’s probably not one I’d choose for myself but I don’t see the folks at the office complaining about them. (I’ve had the selection of all three versions in a jar for about a week on my desk.)
Monday, March 1, 2010
The Wonka brand of candies was launched shortly after the release of the 1971 movie Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. They were originally made by Sunline but Nestle bought up Sunline (also the maker of SweeTarts and Pixy Stix) in 1988. At that time the Wonka brand consisted of a combination of candies mentioned in the book, such as Everlasting Gobstoppers but mostly fanciful original creations such as Peanut Butter Oompas (picture here), Super Scrunch (picture here). They later focusing more on profitable and successful sugar candies such as Wacky Wafers (picture here), Dweebs, Runts, DinaSour Eggs (picture here) and of course Nerds.
The early Wonka Scrumdidilyumptious bar was a “chocolately caramel crisp” - the format was rather long, thick and narrow. (See this counter display.)
Nestle is reinvigorating the brand, both the sugar candy side (new gummis like Sluggles & Puckerooms, sour filled licorice like Kazoozles and chocolate popping candy like Tinglerz). Their chocolate line called Wonka Exceptionals capitalizes both on the imaginative side of the Wonka character from the Roald Dahl books as well as the quality aspect which has been largely lacking in previous chocolate products. The launch is with three different bars and foil wrapped pieces: Scrumdiddlyumptious, Domed Dark Chocolate & Chocolate Waterfall.
This new version of the Wonka Scrumdiddlyumptious Bar is spelled slightly differently: diddly instead of didily. It’s listed on the back of the package as Bar No. 17 and described as Milk chocolate with scrumptious toffee, crispy cookie & crunchy peanuts. Sounds good! No one else is making a bar quite like this, so it’s exciting to see them creating something original instead of a different packaging format of an existing product.
The little foil wrapped pieces are cute. They’re 1.25” long, 1” wide and about .33” high. They smell lightly chocolatey, but not as peanutty as I expected. The texture of the milk chocolate is super smooth and silky - a far cry from the waxy stuff in other Nestle products. It’s exceptionally sweet though, so too much of it and it burned my throat. The inclusions were little bits of graham cracker like cookies (digestive biscuits is perhaps more appropriate for comparison), little buttery toffee nuggets and peanut bits.
The variations in the nuggets meant that some pieces and bites were more interesting than others. The toffee had a good crunch to it and a salty note. The peanuts were not deeply roasted and were more grassy but still gave a different chew. The cookie pieces were mild and gave a malty cereal note to it.
The chocolate quality is a huge upgrade from the Wonka Bar (which is now discontinued - these will replace it). I don’t think I’d spend the premium for this in a bar format mostly because the Green & Black’s Peanut bar is truly scrumptious, similarly price but also organic & soon to be Fair Trade). However, foil wrapped pieces are different enough to warrant consideration.
Each piece is less than 50 calories, so if you have trouble controlling portions with a large bar, these are a nice option.
The packaging is fanciful, though definitely cluttered and not that easy to read as most of the colors are the same value. The holographic plastic is a bit of overkill as far as I’m concerned (and probably resource intensive) but I’m guessing the bags without the “Golden Ticket” giveaway will be a bit clearer. I was most impressed with the fact that they were even creative with the bar code on the package.
The product line is expensive, we’re talking Dove or Hershey’s Bliss level, not the ordinary Nestle Crunch prices. The bags I picked up hold 9.5 ounces and were $4.99 each. (The press release from the company said retail is $4.49 and I’m guessing there will be sales where you can find them for about $3 a bag.) The bars are 3.5 ounces and retail for $2.49 each.
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
What I found most interesting about them, as the gooey center has been done quite a bit already, is the flavor array. These aren’t ordinary berries. Though there’s no Snozzberry the flavors are: Raspberry, Blueberry, Goji Berry and Cloud Berry.
Like the other new Wonka gummis, these are made in the Czech Republic and boast no artificial flavors or colors.
Each piece is about the same diameter as a nickel (about 3/4”). They’re high and domed candies. They’re not greasy to the touch, just soft and matte. They have a translucent amber colored gummi top with a dark red fruity goo center and it all sits on an opaque white base.
The texture is soft and chewy, with a good latexy bounce to it. The molding of each of the pieces is great and for filled gummies, I was pleased to see that none of them had oozed in the bag.
The goo reservoir in the center is rather small, just a little dab. It’s also not liquid, more of a jelly so it’s more moist than the rest of the gummi, but not a flowing syrup.
Raspberry (far right) is vivid and jammy. It’s not quite specific enough to be exclusively a raspberry, sometimes I thought it was more like a blackberry with a little black cherry note to it.
Blueberry (middle) is also lightly tangy. The unique flavors come from the goo center. It’s a little more tannic, more like it has notes of black tea mixed with the more vanilla berry flavors.
Cloud Berry - I’ve never eaten a cloud berry so I can’t talk about the authenticity of the flavor. What I can say is that it pretty much tastes like all the other gummis in this assortment. It might have a little note of green apple, but it’s very pleasant and a little more custard-like, probably because of the white kind of marshmallowy base. This was the most prevalent flavor in the bag, so I had quite a few of them.
I was hoping these would be a little more vibrant, that they’d have a little more pizazz. Wonka candies are usually known for being bold. Candies like Nerds and Runts are very specific. These were kind of tame. I appreciate the risks of making a naturally flavored & colored product and the unusual actual berry flavors instead of made up flavors. On the other side of that coin, all the flavors went together really well so it’s not like I noticed getting a “bad” flavor.
The allergen info on the bag has all the hot targets on it: made on shared equipment with peanuts, nuts, soy, milk, wheat and eggs. Also, it contains gelatin so it’s not vegetarian friendly.
Thursday, July 9, 2009
In case you haven’t been reading along, Nips are a hard caramel, first made by a company called Pearson’s which was later bought out by Nestle. They’re a great summer candy because they don’t melt but have a rich creamy flavor that can satisfy that craving even on the stickiest of days.
Both are variations on previously reviewed Nips, as they’re filled & flavored.
The Chocolate Parfait Nips are made up of a Caramel Nip outside and a chocolate flavored inside.
The caramel is a little salty, creamy and with a silky sweet melt on the tongue. Sometimes it softens up a bit for splitting & bending ... or cementing teeth together.
Inside the bliss of the confection loses track for me. The chocolate center is like an oily Tootsie Roll. The chocolate flavor is weak and the texture is worse than that, a sort of waxy, greasy mess.
I’ve had this box for several months and I’ve eaten all of four of them so far.
The Mocha Nips are a bit darker looking. The rich hardened caramel is coffee flavored, just like the original Coffee Nips. In this case the mocha element comes from the cocoa paste filling.
The creamy, milky coffee outer portion is just like the classic Nip ... a good rounded coffee flavor. The inside though, like the Chocolate Parfait isn’t quite chocolate, it’s more like a frosting.
The bold strength of the coffee flavored outside masks the chocolate deficiencies better than the Chocolate Parfait, so I did end up finishing most of the box.
While I appreciate the attempt to create a few other versions, the chocolate just isn’t good enough to make me chose these over the classic solid flavors.
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
One of their new candies is Puckerooms Sour Gummy Candy. They’re sour gummies (unlike the Sluggles, which are sweet gummies) in mushroom shapes and three different flavors.
The new Wonka’s Edible Garden are made with natural ingredients, including fruit juice and no artificial colorings or flavorings. (But of course they’re gummis and are not vegetarian since they use gelatin ... and in this case cochineal color, too.)
There are three flavors and three different shapes (though the shapes are applied to all the flavors):
Cherry - as you can see from the photo, I found a grape & cherry combo, but for the most part the cherry ones were single flavored. It’s a tart cherry with a black cherry darkness beneath but a lingering sour. It got my glands a’tinglin’.
Grape - it’s just so fun for me to have grape gummis, I have a hard time focusing on these for the review. The grape flavor is much like concord grape jam with Pixy Stix poured over it. (Come on, if you’d thought of it as a kid, you would have loved it!)
Lemon/Orange - I loved the look of these, the orange was always on the top, making the stem lemon. The flavors were a good blend of citrus zest and of course a sour punch that lasted beyond the grainy coating and permeated the soft gummi. The lemon and orange were distinct but blended well.
The sourness isn’t blisteringly strong, in fact, I found them barely more tart than the Sluggles, just more consistently tangy from start to finish.
I like the option of really potent gummis made without artificial flavors & colors, so these are real winners. I saw them at Target over the weekend for $1.59 for a 6.5 ounce bag, so it’s not like parents need to compromise here - the kids get a mainstream treat without going to a special store. (Of course that doesn’t mean adults can’t enjoy them.)
The package is mostly green instead of purple. The Wonka name is minimized and the name of the candy is more focused on Sour Puckerooms Gummies where it was originally just called Puckerooms with a descriptive logline of sour gummy candy below that. I do like the typography on the word Puckerooms better on the new version.
The new shapes are such a compromise from the earlier, well defined mushrooms that they’re mere shadows of the shapes they once were. There are really only two shapes, the pointier one is now gone. There are two slightly different rounded ones with wide round caps and wide bases and then the narrower stemmed one with a wide cap. On the package they look distinctive. In real life they’re
So, there you go. Wonka is receptive to your ideas.
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
As I was on my little candy walkabout late last week I noticed a lot of popular candies have a tropical flavor mix. So I decided to start picking them all up and do a little roundup.
For the most part I consider the tropical flavors to be pineapple, mango, papaya, durian (not that I advocate its use), carambola (starfruit), passionfruit, banana, lychee, guava and coconut. Citrus goes in there but things like strawberries and melons are definitely not a tropical fruit (my rule is if it can be grown in Ohio, it’s not tropical).
First, I have to say that I’ve never had Nerds Rope before. It arrived on the scene sometime after my candy experimental days (you know, when you’re a kid) but before it was launched as a new product during my Candy Blog phase.
But the concept is simple, a sticky gummi rope is rolled in Nerds. In this case it’s a Tropical Nerds Rope.
The candy is kind of odd in that it’s rather over-packaged and overpriced (look how long the rope is compared to the wrapper). It’s less than an ounce but costs the same as a regular candy bar. But then again, it’s a 100 calorie snack! (90 to be precise.)
There are no flavors actually mentioned on the packages, just eensy images of Nerds in swim trunks and flower leis. In this case the gummi cord at the center is a sparkly green. The tangy Nerds are mostly pineapple tasting.
The chewy center and excellent Nerd stickage makes this much less messy than I had anticipated. The combination of textures and flavors is really nice. I enjoy the pineapple quite a bit (maybe some papaya in there) and don’t really feel the need to try any other flavor after this. (I could see a build your own rope kit too, a little length of gummi and kids could roll their own.)
Rating: 7 out of 10 (Made in USA by Wonka/Nestle)
Now and Later were off limits to me for a long time, mostly because I thought they were too risky for my teeth. But now that I have a good dentist, I’m not as apt to give into such unfounded fears.
Tropical Now and Later has a flavor assortment that’s right up my alley: Mango Melon, Pineapple and Banana. (I’ve never met a yellow flavor I didn’t like.)
Often mango flavored candies taste a lot like peach to me. And peach flavored candies often taste more like over-syruped peach pie than actual peaches. This was pretty much like that. The dominant flavor was of the musky mango with a little cantaloupe thrown in.
It got tangier the more I chewed, which I enjoyed, because that took over the flavor profile for the most part.
These are everything you’d expect from a banana taffy. Bold and artificial tasting with a strange blast of dry cleaning smell in the back of my throat and the old standby - fingernail polish remover.
Still, I love banana taffy.
This is only slightly lighter than the Banana, but luckily they print the name of the flavor on there.
Tangy and fruity but with a strange, warm Play Doh note in the middle.
I found them pretty much irresistible even if they were rather fake.
Rating: 6 out of 10 (Made in Mexico by Farley’s & Sathers)
On the back of the box of Mike and Ike Tropical Typhoon is a flavor guide. It includes little images of fruits: banana, kiwi, lime, mango, strawberry and pineapple (also on the front).
The flavors, on the other hand, don’t quite match up.
Blue = Caribbean Punch: the initial flavor is a bit green & pine-ish. Then it becomes more punch-like. It’s all sweet and no tangy.
Peach = Mango: a little tart at first, then rather floral. Not exactly mango but definitely not peach and the longer I chewed the closer it got to the rosemary notes that mangoes have.
Red = Strawberry-Banana: the initial note here is sweet banana, then a little strawberry bobs by for a little floral note.
Green = Kiwi-Banana: it starts like the strawberry banana but then just stops ... it’s not that it’s an all banana flavored Mike and Ike, but just half-flavored. Some of them had a slight tangy melon flavor on the shell, but not all of them and it certainly didn’t taste like kiwi to me.
Pink = Paradise Punch : just a slight tingle of tangy in there, but it’s mostly a sweet punch flavor ... like the Caribbean Punch but without the strange balsam notes.
Overall, too much like the original Mike and Ike - too bland and not enough real punchy flavor in there. I really wanted some pineapple flavor in there, too. I’ll stick to Tangy Twister (which has Pineapple) or the Alex’s Lemonade Stand mixes.
Rating: 6 out of 10. (Made in USA by Just Born)
I have to say that I’ve always regarded the Tootsie company as rather traditional and slow to adopt to changing American tastes. But then it’s like they have this strange rebellious group known as the Dots Makers. They’re fully encouraged to do bizarre flavor assortments from the crazy Ghost Dots at Halloween (to be paired with Bat Dots this year which are Blood Orange flavored - which I would have called Blood Dots) then the Yogurt Dots but the real innovation came in the limited edition line called Elements that came in single flavor packages of Cinnamon, Green Tea, Wintergreen and Pomegranate.
So Tropical Dots are kind of tame in comparison, but they must be popular because they’ve been around since 2003.
Bright Pink = Tropical Nectar: it tastes like Hawaiian Punch with a strong bitter aftertaste. Sweet, tangy and definitely with that “tropical candy flavor” that I think is papaya.
Orange = Wild Mango: tart and rather citrusy with a pretty good imitation of mango flavor in there. Still tastes like the mango version of Tang.
Turquoise = Paradise Punch: an insane color for a candy, it’s rather similar to the Tropical Nectar but with more of a citrus twang to it and less aftertaste.
Yellow = Grapefruit Cooler: why didn’t someone tell me there was a grapefruit Dot? These are fabulous and I want to buy them by the box. The first notes are tangy then there’s a deep zesty flavor that has a black cherry note to it that dissipates and then it’s just a nice grapefruit & citrus flavor.
Green = Carambola Melon: - when my mother came to visit last time we went to a new Korean market in Little Tokyo (that replaced my favorite market, Mitsuwa). They had these little melons called Korean Melons ... they were small, about the size of a papaya or mango. Bright yellow with some mild bumps and distinct ridges. I bought two. I cut them up and was rather unimpressed with the flavor - like weak Musk Melon. The problem was later in the evening I kept smelling something like garbage. I turned out it was the melon. (I really like the idea of a one-serving melon though.)
Anyway, this one is supposed to be starfruit and melon. I don’t know starfruit that well. I usually eat it off of garnishes at dessert displays, but I’ve never actually bought my own from the produce department and tasted it. It had a rather musty taste to it that was also on the violet side of things ... it was just weird, but not in a terrible way, just in a “this is new to me” way.
The box was wrapped in cellophane so the Dots were soft and fresh. This didn’t stop them from sticking to my teeth, but still, it’s worth it for their smooth texture.
Rating: 7 out of 10. (Made in USA by Tootsie)
The final item on my list is Tropical Razzles.
Like all Razzles, they look terrible out of the package.
Yellow = Pineapple: Nice tangy burst but with a light flavor & texture of a chewable vitamin C tablet. It holds its flavor pretty well, though becomes less tart and more sweet towards the end when it becomes as appealing and chewed paper.
Pink = Strawberry-Banana: nice mix of strawberry & banana notes, almost reminds me of the old Wacky Wafers at first. Chewing too long just disappoints, I vote for spitting out when it become sweet but the grain wanes.
Red = Tropical Punch: definitely like Hawaiian punch. Strong bitter aftertaste & cherry notes towards the end. The gum was much tougher on this one too.
Orange = Tangerine: more orange than tangerine. The tangy notes aren’t as forward as some of the others. When the flavor is gone there’s a weird metallic aftertaste.
Green = Kiwi-Lime: if there was kiwi in here, I missed it completely. This was lime. Very lime, nicely tangy with a little bitter zest note (or maybe the food coloring).
Overall, I think that Razzles suffer from too much artificial coloring. After chewing the pieces they’re extremely dark & vibrant ... that’s a lot of food coloring. If I wanted to treat it like candy (which I do), it means a lot of sticky leftover bits in a very short period of time.
Rating: 4 out of 10 (Made in Canada by Concord Brands)
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.