Monday, March 29, 2010
This little milk chocolate square is from a collection with names themed to the American Revolution but made in the Swiss style. Package photo here.
Tuesday, March 2, 2010
When I started Candy Blog about five years ago I imagined it was going to be one of the many blogs I wrote and ran, all would fall under my unique domain called Typetive. Typetive is a word I coined that basically means talkative, only with a keyboard. I’d been keeping a blog since 2001 called Fast Fiction about my National Novel Writing Month exploits but I have so many other obessions. So I thought I’d have one for whalewatching, one for my novel writing & process, one for my playwriting and of course one for candy.
Well, the candy kind of took over.
I’ve held the www.CandyBlog.net domain for nearly as long as Typetive.com but just never got around to doing the migration. After hemming and hawing about how it might affect my search engine optimization, I realized that Candy Blog belongs on its own proper domain so that it can grown and flourish.
On March 1st, 2010 Candy Blog moved from Typetive.com to CandyBlog.net.
Nothing really changes for readers. The old links you may have for typetive.com will redirect without interruption to the same pages on candyblog.net. If you have me on your blogroll, you can update with the new web address. If you’re using a feed widget, you don’t have to do a thing, Feedburner took care of that.
Feed readers will notice a new improvement. At the end of each review you will actually get the summary stats of the product. So you’ll know everything everyone else knows when they visit the blog. The only thing missing would be the comments - so you’ll still have to visit to get those.
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
After oodles of wrangling and rumors that Nestle, Ferrero or Hershey’s would step in and partner or outbid, Kraft made it official (though it’s still tentative): $19 billion in cash and stock.
Kraft owns other confectionery divisions such as Terry’s Chocolate, Toblerone and C?te d’Or but Cadbury brings some pretty huge brands to the table besides Cadbury chocolate (available in dozens of countries) with their gum (Trident) and sugar candy (Swedish Fish & Sour Patch Kids) groups. A big concern for many is how this may stall Cadbury’s venture into Fair Trade, beyond their Green & Black’s brand and into their regular line of Dairy Milk bars.
Consider this your open thread to vent about it one way or another.
Monday, January 18, 2010
Sunday was the first day of the annual Winter Fancy Food Show at the Moscone Center in San Francisco. It’s my fourth time attending. This year I have a list of 250 companies exhibiting with confectionery products. I hope to make it through the list ... though my first day was cut a little short as I had to drive all the way from Los Angeles at six in the morning.
I haven’t noticed any specific trends, which is great to be honest. Yeah, there’s a lot of sea salt, chili and exotic fruits in candy now, but sometimes it’s not so much about trends but just new availability of ingredients. When I’m at Fancy Food, I usually concentrate on candy, but that doesn’t mean that other foods and drinks catch my fancy.
Here are a few things I noticed:
I love hot chocolate, though of course I don’t write about it much here because it’s not actually candy. Still, when I’m at trade shows I love to try the stuff. One of my favorites is the Mexican-style which varies quite a bit. This version from Kekua is stone ground cocoa, a touch of sugar. The tablets are easy to crush up and dissolve in milk (or water) either hot or cold. It’s available with or without almonds. I tasted the almond-less version.
What I liked about it was how it had a hearty toasted flavor, kind of like malt-o-meal or the barley tea I drink from Japan. They also make them in little nuggets so you have the option of either making hot chocolate with them or just eating them. Since the sugar isn’t combined with the cacao completely, it’s grainy and more like a dry cookie dough. (Kekua website.)
Lake Champlain has introduced a new Five Star Bar: Five Star Granola Bar. It’s in the same shape as the rest of the line and features a ganache/cream center filled with crunchy oats, almonds and cranberries covered in dark chocolate. The variation in crunch is fun as is the cereal heartiness of the granola. Of course the chocolate is nice too!
They also said there will be two new Breakfast Egg versions for Easter - they’re a larger Five Star Bar in either the Granola version or a Peanut Butter Crisp.
The folks at How Do You Take Your Coffee who make Javaz, the expertly roasted coffee beans covered in chocolate and beautiful shell also have some over-caffeinated products. I reviewed their GoGo Beans before and saw that they’ll have GoGo Drops soon. They’re the size and format of M&Ms, except the coffee flavored chocolate in a candy shell is then hyper-caffeinated. Not something I should be eating, but definitely a find for students and folks who need an extra kickstart.
Just about anything with whole nuts attracts me. I stopped at Valor which is a Spanish chocolate company that I’ve never reviewed before. They make an incredible hot chocolate, for those who have had Churros y Chocolate, you’ll what kind I mean. They also have chocolate bars and I mentioned in a previous Candy Tease that they introduced single portion bars. Well now I’ve tasted them - whole Spanish almonds in silky chocolate ... quite satisfying.
The other whole nut stop was Lindt where they were showing off their new Grandeur bars which come in milk or dark chocolate and feature whole Hazelnuts. I’m a sucker for hazelnuts as well, and Lindt’s chocolate pairs excellently with it. I’ve already seen these in stores (Target) and plan to pick up a full bar (or both bars) for review in the future.
Things are beautiful. Food is beautiful. Pralus, whom I’ve already fallen for, had an amazing display of their beautifully packaged products at their booth. There’s so much attention to detail at the Fancy Food Show. There were several other companies that I got a similar vibe from (that I’ll be covering later) that understand that we feast first with our eyes, then with our mouth and then with our minds. It’s a whole experience and I think gives more to appreciate.
One of the other non-candy things I do is discover cheese. I love cheese, but as I’ve gotten older I’ve become lactose-sensitive. So I have to eat less and less. The cool thing is that goat and sheep milk cheeses are easier for us lactose-averse folks to digest. So at the show I made full use of the tastings to find new products. One of the new lines I found is from Marcelli Formaggi of Abruzzi, Italy. They use sheep’s milk to make an incredible array of ricottas. There was a cave aged ricotta that was like a blue on the outside and a firm creamy ricotta on the inside. Amazing. I fear I’m going to be putting in a few web orders soon if I can’t find them in stores. (Marcelli website.)
(All photos above by Emanuel Treeson)
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Half the time the stuff being announced in as new products aren’t really new. They’re just repackaging. Not that I have anything against that. I love a clever and useful boxes and tins and of course an engaging and colorful wrappers.
First thing that I noticed a few years ago is nostalgic packaging. The first one I heard about was a retro version of 3 Musketeers, Snickers & M&Ms sold at WalMart stores. Then I started seeing Hershey’s special packaging.
This year Just Born is into the act with nostalgic boxes for their most popular products: Mike and Ike, Hot Tamales and Goldenberg Peanut Chews.
Is the candy different? Did they go back to the original recipe or something? No, pretty much the same.
But I have to say, the Goldenberg’s Peanut Chews (review) taste a lot better than Chew-Ets. Maybe it’s that these were extra fresh ... or that it’s the first King-Size package I’ve had since I moved to California. (Though they were a sample from All Candy Expo folks, all the other above items pictured were from my personal stash.)
First, Mars is going to be making their M&Ms Premiums (review) available in single-serve boxes. Pretty hot looking. I like the flip top, I like that the box was jam packed with the little triple chocolate premiums.
I don’t have much info otherwise though ... I’m hoping they won’t be much more than the price of King Size M&Ms. (They are 1.2 ounces, not as much as a regular bag.)
Hershey’s is also creating a bar format of their new Bliss line (review).
I got this sample of the new Hershey’s Bliss Rich & Creamy Dark Chocolate Bar, it’s about the equivalent of five little Bliss bites.
Look familiar? Yeah, not that different from the format of the Dove chocolate line. Kind of sad how much they look alike.
Even though it feels like stuff is getting smaller and more expensive, I did find one bright spot in the news (in addition to the awesome new products, of course).
Instead of the classic tray the LifeSaver Gummis (review) now come in a 2 ounce single serve pack (“With 33% More Gummies”). I saw these at them on shelves at the 7-11 already.
The thing that I learned that was so surprising is that LifeSavers Gummis are the number one selling gummi in the United States. Not Haribo (who have been doing it far longer) or even previous domestic brands like Trolli or Black Forest. Nope, LifeSavers.
The final news nugget is the renaming of Crackheads to Jitterbeans (well, that’s not entirely true, you can get them with either name). I reviewed them last year and Candy Addict’s Brian even appeared on TV to talk about the branding of the product (advocating a name change ... and this is a pretty good choice).
The package is kind of intimidating. The same size as a regular Lemonheads box ... but this one advertises that it has as much caffeine as 6 cups of coffee. I haven’t counted up the beans, but I’m pretty sure that four would be my limit and never to be eaten after noon if I wanted to sleep.
There are probably lots of other associations we’re all going to be making when we see the stuff on the shelves. (Especially when the old & new styles are sitting side by side.)
What have you noticed so far?
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Today is the start of All Candy Expo, the national exhibition of candy & snacks sponsored by the National Confectioners Association. Over three days over 450 exhibitors will sample their wares on the show floor while tens of thousands of candy store owners, chain store buyers, wholesalers & distributors will will walk the aisles. It’s an awesome and intimidating place to be, it makes me a bit giddy and also overwhelmed (there’s so much!). Once again my dayjob prevents me from attending so I’ll sit here and remotely broadcast items of interest.
Here are some new product announcements:
Name: Wee Glee
Name: Sour Patch Chillerz
Name: Black Forest Juicy Oozers
Name: Goetze Gourmet Caramel Creams Licorice
Name: Sour Punch Bits
Name: Caramel Apple Pops
Name: Werther’s Original Creamy Caramel Filled
Name: Ghirardelli Luxe Milk Chocolate
All photos courtesy of the manufacturers unless otherwise watermarked
Friday, February 20, 2009
I have a bit of a cold and don’t think it’d be fair to review anything else this week. So here’s your candy tease of new products, some just arriving on shelves.
Name: Reese’s Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups
Name: Toxic Waste(r) Shockingly Sour Hi-Voltage(tm) Bubble Gum
Name: Gimme Calcium
Name: Breath Savers(r) Strong Mint Menthol and Energy Mint Caffeine
Name: Chocolate Flavored Mega Smarties
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
At the Fancy Food Show in San Francisco, I missed the opportunity to watch Joseph Schmidt make his famous chocolate bowls - though I did get to see the fresh works and talk with him briefly. Though some of the high end items like the bowl from Joseph Schmidt are undoubtedly crafted items, the current mass manufacture of the truffles doesn’t really keep with the artisan vibe.
Are they still artisan confections when they’re consolidated into one manufacturing plant in Illinois? Were they even still artisan when Hershey’s bought them in 2005?
A little history: In 2005 Hershey’s started a spinoff company and seemed to tap into a new trend in the United States: small batch, carefully crafted confections. They created an autonomous company called Artisan Confections Company and into it went Joseph Schmidt and Scharffen Berger and later in early 2006 Dagoba.
Milton S. Hershey started as what could be described as an artisan confectioner. He made hand-stirred caramels, eventually made his fortune with a company called the Lancaster Caramel Company. Of course this was all at the same time that the industrial revolution and the assembly line was transforming everything from stockings to cars and then chocolate with Hershey’s five cent milk chocolate bar.
But mass production doesn’t mean bad. Or at least it doesn’t have to mean it.
What this meant initially was greater distribution and monetary muscle for these tiny chocolate companies. (Scharffen Berger & Dagoba are chocolate factories, Joseph Schmidt is a chocolatier.) And it’s done quite a bit for the public. Access to these varieties of products has done munch to educate consumers about the nature of chocolate, how flexible it is, how specific beans grown in a particular valley can taste vastly different to mixed beans. Dagoba showed us that organic and ethical doesn’t have to taste like the heaps of faint praise given to children who make macaroni art.
But most chocolate lovers have been waiting for the other shoe to drop. After all, this is Hershey’s - a company that isn’t known for the quality of its products these days or the respectful way that it treats its customers.
The announcement yesterday sounded like this:
The names Scharffen Berger and Joseph Schmidt appeared nowhere in the official press release. In fact, I read over this fourth quarter report, even twittered a smidge, without even realizing what that meant. Subscale? Rationalization? It wasn’t until later that evening that the SFGate posted the news and Cammy from Munchcast popped me a note.
There were assurances from Hershey in 2005 that the company would retain its staff and location (though it did expand, I don’t think anyone can be upset by that, as they did say that they wanted to grow the brand). The sad truth is that this is merely a formality. Scharffen Berger chocolate has, for the most part, been made in Illinois for a couple of years. The Berkeley factory is a bit of theatre. Sure, it’s a working factory, but it may as well be Chocolate World for the well-heeled.
But this leaves a hole, a new opportunity for the actual hand crafted chocolate makers out there. And Scharffen Berger should look sharp, there are far more than back in 2005 when it got its infusion of cash. Askinosie, Amano, DeVries, Taza, Theo, Tcho, Patric, Mast Brothers, Original Hawaiian Chocolate Factory, Rogue Chocolatier and Jacque Torres ... that’s just bean to bar folks in the United States.
If you’d like to see Scharffen Berger & Joseph Schmidt’s roots, I’d recommend a trip soon.
UPDATE 1/29/2009: It appears that Scharffen Berger has already stopped the free tours, even though word is that the factory will continue production at least until April.
UPDATE 2/10/2009: Joseph Schmidt is closing its doors for good, there is no shift of production. They will continue and fill orders through the Easter holiday. Though 150 other Bay Area folks are out of a job (including the Scharffen Berger folks), Joseph Schmidt himself will continue to be employed by Hershey’s. I expect that he will continue his appearances at trade shows and events, and perhaps consult on recipes.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.