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Monday, January 18, 2010

Fancy Food Show 2010 - Day 1 Notes

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:

Kekua

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.


Seattle Chocolates has a new line of chocolates called J. Truffles (website). I know, ho hum, everyone’s got truffles these days. What I found appealing about this line was the design, they’re created by Jean Thompson, the owner of Seattle Chocolates, as well as the flavor line. Each is shaped like a pyramid, four different molds and of course three different shells (milk, dark and white chocolate). At first I thought that the design was pretty but the truffles are rather large (so you’d better like the flavor - they’re nearly an ounce each). For tasting samples on the show floor though, they made special minis which were perfect. I could try three or five and not feel overindulged and still get a huge variety. Turns out so many people loved the little ones that they’re going to make those as well. More about the design of the product on their blog.

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.

Finally, it’s not so much of a tasting note but an eye candy note.

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.)

I’ll also be doing some more live posting notes today and tomorrow via my Flickr stream and Twitter if you simply can’t wait for the later reviews.

(All photos above by Emanuel Treeson)

POSTED BY Cybele AT 6:35 am     CandyFancy Food ShowFeatured NewsNewsComments (2)

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Candy Trends: Packaging

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.

Nostalgic Packaging Samples: Just Born, M&Ms and Hershey's

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.

Goldenberg's Peanut ChewsKinda fun.

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.)

M&Ms Premiums single serveFor the most part the other items I’ve seen lately are resizing of the regular packages.

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 Bliss Rich & Creamy Dark Chocolate BarHershey’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.

imageEven 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.

imageThe 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.

New Dove Bars - with three little bars insideI’ve pointed out the new Mars packaging of their Dove large tablets in three pre-portioned & wrapped bars (review) which was followed by their organic wing Seeds of Change (review) doing the same.

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?

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POSTED BY Cybele AT 9:30 am     All Candy ExpoCandyFeatured NewsNewsComments (3)

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Candy Tease: All Candy Expo 2009 # 1

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:

imageName: Wee Glee
Brand: Gleey Gum (Verve, Inc.)
Description: In a brightly packaged box full of miniature pieces of mixed flavors of chewing gum, Wee Glee provides a fun-filled chewing experience sure to brighten the moods and tickle the taste buds of children and adults alike. Like the rest of the Glee line, Wee Glee is all-natural, vegetarian, additive-free, lactose-free, dairy-free, wheat-free, gluten-free, casein-free, egg-free, yeast-free, and nut-free with no artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives.
Notes: I tried this at ExpoWest a few months ago. The little pieces are a bit thicker than Chiklets. I find their gum sticks to my fillings, but the flavor is much clearer than a lot of other gums (but dissipates quickly).

Sour Patch ChillerzName: Sour Patch Chillerz
Brand: Cadbury-Adams
Description: Leaving you with a long-lasting shock that’s Sour then Sweet (r), Sour Patch Chillerz(tm) is a soft and chewy Sour Patch candy creation that leaves a surge of cool at the end! Sour Patch Chillerz(tm) come in a movie-theater size bag with an assortment of delicious flavors including Berry Punch Chiller(tm), Frozen Lemonade(tm), Strawberry Shiver(tm) and Frosty Grape(tm). Each bite-size candy screams with out-of-this-world tartness.
Notes: There have been a few candies lately that have mixed this “cool feeling” of menthol and fruity flavors. Sometimes it works ... sometimes it doesn’t. I have a package and have to admit, they do look pretty cute.

Name: Black Forest Juicy Oozers
Brand: Ferrara Pan
Description: Get chomping on Cherry Gummy Sharks, the shark-a-licious wild cherry chews burst in your mouth with juicy centers and 10 percent DV Vitamin C. Or pucker up and try Sour Gummy Fun Fish, a pack of squishy, gushy sour flavored gummies that come in a variety of four different sea creature shapes and four fantastic juicy center flavors: Twisted Triple Berry, Screamin’ Strawberry Kiwi, Tangy Tangerine and Wacky Watermelon.
Description: Yes, if you make a gummi product in 2009 you must make a variation with a gooey center if you don’t already. It’s a law. Look it up.

imageName: Goetze Gourmet Caramel Creams Licorice
Brand: Goetze’s
Description: These marry the rich flavor of black licorice with our classic rich and creamy center. Naturally flavored with Real Licorice Extract, each serving of this wholesome confection is also fortified with 30% RDA of calcium and 11% RDA of fiber. These 9oz stand up bags are available in 12ct cases with a Suggested Retail Price of $2.99 per bag.
Notes: I was reading somewhere that Goetze used to make Licorice Caramel Creams, so I’m very excited at their return. I’m not sure what this whole “gourmet” part is, but I’m on board no matter what.

imageName: Sour Punch Bits
Brand: American Licorice
Description: Packing a wallop, chewy Sour Punch Bits(r) is the perfect pairing of mouth-watering strawberry and watermelon fruit flavors rolled up into one bite-size soft candy chew. Scrumptious in Strawberry-Watermelon, the sweet-yet-sour Sour Punch Bits(r) will surprise your mouth!
Notes: I love little morsels as an option for candies that are usually in ropes or bars. The curious part about these is that they’re actually paired in each piece. I’m not sure I want them together in every bite, but I’ll give them a try (I have a box).

Name: Caramel Apple Pops
Brand: Tootsie
Description: If you’re a sucker for lollipops, try an Apple Orchard Caramel Apple Pop(tm), the delicious apple candy pop with smooth caramel coating. Enjoy the ripe apple flavor and creamy caramel taste with every lick, now available in Golden Delicious and green apple caramel apple flavors.
Notes: For several years now Tootsie has brought out the Caramel Apple Pop as a seasonal item (maybe it’s available all year round). Now they have a few new variations. I have some samples and will try to post about them late this summer.

imageName: Werther’s Original Creamy Caramel Filled
Brand:
Description: Featuring a smooth caramel shell, with a creamy caramel filling! Now available in peg and laydown packs. 
Notes: These remind me a bit of Pearson’s Caramel Parfait Nips. But I don’t know if the caramel is hard or soft. It’ll be interesting to try.

imageName: Ghirardelli Luxe Milk Chocolate
Brand: Ghirardelli Chocolate
Description: New Ghirardelli LUXE MILK chocolate bars and bags deliver the ultimate milk chocolate experience with rich and creamy Ghirardelli milk chocolate using simply delicious, all natural ingredients. As with all of our premium chocolate products, we hand select the world’s finest cocoa beans to create our proprietary bean blend and roast them to perfection. Then we slow-blend in the purest ingredients such as real cocoa butter and natural vanilla, to achieve our distinctively intense chocolate. Special packaging for Valentine’s Day.
Notes: The Luxe Milk line has been out since the beginning of the year. I was quite enamored of the crisped rice bar. I’ve tried the other varieties and found Ghirardelli’s milk chocolate flavor quite odd. More on that soon.

imageName: Waffaretto
Brand: Landrin, USA
Description: Landrin Waferatto Perfections are a collection of gourmet confections available in five exciting flavors; all capturing the fine blend of a crisp wafer shell, smooth filling and crunchy nut, creating an unforgettable triple taste sensation. Landrin - Experience the delicate taste of Landrin Classic Waferatto, a combination of white chocolate and shredded coconut with a whole California almond and silky cream center surrounded by a crisp wafer. Or discover Landrin Waferatto Gold with its exquisite chocolaty hazelnut filling, embraced in delicate cream, wafer and the finest crushed hazelnuts.
Notes: These folks won’t leave me alone and seem to have captured all my email addresses from various trade shows I’ve attended. Basically they’re like Ferrero Rocher. I’ve picked up samples before several times but have yet to actually eat one. Soon, soon I’ll try them.

All photos courtesy of the manufacturers unless otherwise watermarked

Related Candies

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POSTED BY Cybele AT 8:11 am     All Candy ExpoCandyNew Product AnnouncementFeatured NewsNewsComments (6)

Friday, February 20, 2009

Candy Tease: February 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.

imageName: Reese’s Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups
Brand: Hershey’s
Description: Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups in a dark chocolate shell. 
Notes: Available starting June 2009 along with a “Reese’s Loves You Back” prize promotion. This isn’t the first time Hershey’s has released a dark chocolate RPBC, most recently it was a limited edition version of mini bat coins for The Dark Knight and before that back in 2003 (with some other appearances in between).

imageName: Gemstones
Brand: Atkinson Candy Company
Description: Hard candy in pretty gem-like packaging.
Notes: For those who miss the Peerless line of hard candy, you’ll be happy to hear that Atkinson Candy Company of Texas bought much of their line (recipes) and have restarted production on many of the classic candies including their premium sugar free line. (All made in the USA, as well.) My favorites have always been the Honeycomb Peanuts and Anise Squares. (Available online now.)

imageName: Toxic Waste(r) Shockingly Sour Hi-Voltage(tm) Bubble Gum
Brand: Candy Dynamics
Description: In a hollowed out rope gum fashion filled with ultra sour powder offering more than two combined feet of delicious bubble gum in each individual package and presented in three different yummy sour flavors: Amp’d Aple, Surgin’ Strawberry and Blackout Blue Razz.
Notes: I don’t think anything can every top the classic Quencher gum when it comes to mouth tingling & salivation, but I suppose I could give this a try.

imageName: Gimme Calcium
Brand: Brightspot Brands
Description: We start with a crispy crunchy ball of rice and drench it with the best milk chocolate that’s been infused with TruCal(r) calcium. Then we seal in all this goodness with a thin candy shell with no artificial colors.
Notes: I’m always dubious of fortified candy, but this sounds pretty good. Each serving has 500 mg of calcium and sounds like a malted milk ball.

imageName: Breath Savers(r) Strong Mint Menthol and Energy Mint Caffeine
Brand: Hershey’s
Description:  Breath Savers Strong Energy Mint Caffeine offers a “boast of energy” with a touch of caffeine. Available December 2008. Also available in Breath Savers Strong Mint Menthol.
Notes: I’m curious how much caffeine is in those Strong Energy, but I suspect it’s either very little or so much it leaves a horrible bitter aftertaste.

imageName: Chocolate Flavored Mega Smarties
Brand: CeDe
Description: 2.25 oz. rolls of the super-big Smarties disks. Available now.
Notes: A couple of issues here. First, I’ve had the chocolate flavored Pez and thought they were dreadful, and I can’t imagine these would be any better. Second, Smarties in every other part of the world are made by Nestle and are actual chocolate lentils, so a powdery chocolate disk is only going to create more international confusion.

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Images courtesy of the respective manufacturers.

POSTED BY Cybele AT 9:39 am     Comments (11)

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Hershey’s announces closing of Joseph Schmidt & Scharffen Berger Bay Area Facilities

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:

During the fourth quarter of 2008, the scope of the Global Supply Chain Transformation program increased modestly to include the closure of two subscale manufacturing facilities of Artisan Confections Company, a wholly owned subsidiary, and consolidation of the associated production into existing U.S. facilities, along with rationalization of other select items. These initiatives, which will be completed in 2009, increase the expected total cost and savings of the Global Supply Chain Transformation program by approximately $25 million and $5 million, respectively. Approximately $15 million of the increased costs are non-cash charges. (source)

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.

Joseph Schmidt (previous review)
3489 16th St
San Francisco, CA 94114

Scharffen Berger Chocolate Maker (factory tour)
914 Heinz Avenue
Berkeley, CA 94710
(510) 981-4050

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.

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POSTED BY Cybele AT 1:02 pm     CandyFeatured NewsNewsComments (9)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Have You Written to Hershey’s?

Hershey's Milk Chocolate (retro wrapper) - now with PGPR!I’ve gotten a couple of notes from readers about their experience writing to The Hershey Company about the changes in their favorite products.

So I’m curious what Hershey’s is saying to consumers when they write in. (I’ve had my own experience that I’ve documented.)

You might be curious to read about another blogger who noticed the changes in Kissables earlier this year and what she was told.

So, if you’ve written to Hershey’s, tell us here what their response was! (And if you haven’t, give it a try.)

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POSTED BY Cybele AT 7:56 am     CandyFeatured NewsNewsComments (50)

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Today Show Interview: What Wasn’t Covered

I’ve gotten a few comments and emails and I thought I’d address them:

Kissables King!1. Palm Oil
Yes, one of the oils in the array on the ingredients list is Palm Oil and/or Palm Kernel Oil. If you’re following along with the environmental coverage on this issue, things are not at all rosy with these products. They’re linked to widescale deforestation in places like Indonesia and Malaysia. The plantations do not process as much CO2 from the atmosphere as the former rainforests, there is a devastating loss of habitat (which threatens the existence of the Orangutan in Borneo), loss of topsoil and clean water (as natural watersheds are contaminated with runoff).

Environmental matters aside, consider the health effects of merely eating Palm Oil. The World Health Organization believes it contributes to cardiovascular disease. New research reveals that not only does cocoa butter not harm us, it actually increases the antioxidant properties of chocolate and is neutral to our blood cholesterol levels. (But it’s not like the health benefits of a milk chocolate coating on a candy bar are in any way remarkable.)

There are a lot of stories, web pages and sites devoted to the issue, so you can read up on it elsewhere for a fuller picture than I can paint. (And in various posts I’ve made other helpful readers have left links to websites they recommend.)

Reese's Select Cluster2. Hershey’s New Facility in Mexico
I have talked about this a bit on the blog in other places, though only long-time readers have probably seen all of my commentary. Here it is: Hershey’s closed two of their major plants, one here in California at Oakdale. That facility was purchased by Sconza and will be up and running soon though not employing nearly as many people. The second was in Smith Falls, Ontario. Those were just the Hershey’s branded factories, they also shut down a few smaller facilities in Reading, PA and Nagatuck, CT. What some people think is that Hershey’s has moved completely to Mexico and the products we’re getting on the shelves now are made in Mexico. This is untrue, they’ve only moved some of their manufacturing there and much of it was candy products that were for export anyway at this time. (Though that could obviously change.) The only product with the Hershey’s brand on it that I’ve seen from Mexico was the new Reese’s Clusters. Hershey’s still makes their famous Milk Chocolate and Kisses in Hershey, Pennsylvania. However, they have outsourced the production of their cocoa liquor, which means they are no longer a bean to bar company and it’s unclear if that will always be produced in the United States.

UPDATE 8/14/2009: Hershey’s is now making the Hershey’s Miniatures in Mexico as well as the York Peppermint Pattie.

Hershey's Heart's Desire3. The Word Mockolate
I did not coin this term, though in the past 18 months I might owe its creator some serious royalties. I first heard it on an episode of Friends (Episode 32, “The One with the List”), though I’ve also heard that it may have appeared in The Simpsons. I was really hoping the Today show would play one of the clips from the show.

Basically mockolate is any product which pretends to be chocolate but doesn’t qualify for one reason or another due to the FDA definition of chocolate. In the case of the Friends episode, I believe that product had absolutely no Theobroma cacao content at all. The present Hershey’s products do actually “contain” chocolate but for the most part the cocoa butter has been replaced completely or in part by other vegetable oils.

I use the word because in many of the cases where it appears in a confection it’s intended to act like chocolate. (And might have been a real chocolate product at one time.)

Nestle Carlos V Dark Knight - It's got Chocolate Style4. Other Companies Making Substandard Products

I did mention the Nestle mockolate products to the producers of Today, but that was not the focus of the piece (and that’s certainly their prerogative). So I confined my examples to Hershey’s products. There are also companies that have always made poor quality chocolate and mockolate. That’s not what this story was about either.

Old and new Kissables5. Images and Examples

I provided as many candy products as I could find over the weekend that were both the old and new formula. That was pretty much the Kissables and Almond Joy (and since Hershey’s confirmed that they went back to milk chocolate, that became moot). Everything else was representative items of the “new versions”. I referred the producers to some great sources of what the wrappers used to look like: Mike’s Candy Wrappers and Brad Kent’s Wrappers (and even Flickr).

I think the Kissables change was a good example of how subtle it was ... removing one word and putting in a different one. Milk Chocolate became Chocolate Candy. It would have been great to have the old and new Mr. Goodbar, because the print is so much smaller for the new “made with CHOCOLATE AND PEANUTS” versus the former “PEANUTS IN CHOCOLATE.” (As of today the Hershey’s Mr. Goodbar page still displays both versions - the new one on the top of the page and the little one in the middle of the page.)

Kirk Saville, spokesman for Hershey Company said later to the Harrisburg Patriot News, “The Mr. Goodbar formula was changed to allow the peanut flavor to come through.” I take issue with this because there was never any change to the wrapper except for the legally obligated ones. No big splashy “better tasting!” or “more peanut flavor.” Instead it was done quietly and subtly.

Hershey's Almond6. Other Changes

Hershey’s has not left the venerable Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bar, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Kisses and KitKat untouched. While they are still milk chocolate products, the formula has changed. If you want to tell for yourself we’re in another crossover right now. The Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bar now has PGPR in it. It’s an additional emulsifier to the soy lecithin that nearly all chocolate products have.

If you look sharp you should be able to find both products (and the previous PGPR free ones still fresh) and can compare for yourself.

(Long ago I called Hershey’s to ask about this PGPR stuff that I saw in the Kisses ingredients list, it took a lot of wrangling to find out the origin of the product, theirs comes from castor beans. For some reason they always state where the lecithin comes from but not the PGPR.)

While I don’t know if there is a real difference in the flavor or texture, but I have gotten two notes from readers that say that the Hershey’s Kisses do not behave the same when baking. (Specifically when making those thumbprint cookies the Kiss comes out chalky instead of fudgy.)

Hershey's Krackel Miniatures (Faux)7. Action to Take

I never said boycott Hershey’s. I said that I will not be buying the inferior products any longer (basically the Kissables and Take 5 - I stopped buying the 5th Avenue years ago), I’ve not taken all Hershey’s products off my list. A boycott is not when you simply don’t like a product any longer and don’t recommend it. I will still be buying products for review - that’s kind of what I do here.

I don’t think that this issue has enough traction to be a successful boycott anyway. However, as was demonstrated with the information at the end of the segment, Hershey’s did bring the milk chocolate coating back to the Almond Joy after consumer feedback. So maybe that’s all that’s required here.

Have you eaten something you weren’t happy with? Have a concern about an ingredient? Don’t like the way something’s advertised? Call them or send them a note.

1-800-468-1714
Monday - Friday
9 AM to 4 PM ET

Or via their online contact form (be prepared to tell them how old you are and they’ll ask you lots of other personal info that you probably don’t have to answer).

Related Candies

  1. Hershey’s Website Inaccuracies
  2. Today Show: Kissed Off!
  3. ReeseSticks (Revisit)
  4. Hershey’s Miniatures
  5. Nestle Crunch Crisp
  6. What Made Hershey’s Want to Change Chocolate?

POSTED BY Cybele AT 8:32 am     CandyFeatured NewsNewsComments (16)

Friday, September 19, 2008

Hershey’s Website Inaccuracies

This is a tedious post and I don’t really expect folks to read it in earnest. It’s here for my reference and yours.

Since the whole change in Kissables, I’ve been keeping a close eye on the Hershey’s website and even did a screen grab on August 27th, 2008 before they started changing it in the past couple weeks after the ABCNews.com story. (I don’t know that was definitely the motivator.)

While Hershey’s has a clear disclaimer on the product pages with the nutrition information that reads: Hershey’s goal is to keep each product’s nutrition information up-to-date and accurate but please consult the label on the product’s packaging before using. If you notice that something is different on a product’s label than appears on our website, please call us for more information at (800) 468-1714. I can tell you from personal experience that getting information about Hershey’s about what’s actually in their products isn’t as easy as calling or emailing.

I understand that often in times of product formulation transition that the website needs to reflect what a consumer is most likely to find, some of the items on the Hershey’s website are far from just out of date, they’re inaccurate to the point of misleading. Here’s the last saved version of products page from March 2008 via Archive.org. (Images are not archived, so they may be linking to current images, not those that appeared during the time the archive was made.)

Plainly put, the descriptions on the Hershey’s Chocolate Products page don’t match what’s currently available in stores, further, what they say is in the products is inaccurate.

imageThe first was the 5th Avenue, which shifted from a milk chocolate coated bar to a rich chocolatey coating bar back in 2006. The image on the site and the text both said that it was milk chocolate. The image has since been changed out, Google’s cache from September 4th still showed it as a milk chocolate bar image & text), but the text still reads:

First introduced in 1936, this chocolate peanut butter bar contributed to the war effort—and is still enjoyed today.

While it’s accurate to say that it was a chocolate bar in 1936, they’re not exactly saying that it’s not any longer - you have to look at the picture and the caption just says “chocolate.”

The next is the Kissables description:

HERSHEY’S KISSABLES Brand Chocolate Candies are miniature HERSHEY’S KISSES Brand chocolates coated with a colorful candy shell for eat-able, treat-able, here-able, there-able, unpredict-able fun!

While the classic Kisses are still considered milk chocolate, the Kissables are not, so saying that they’re just mini Kisses covered with candy is misleading because, well, it’s simply not true.

imageHershey’s Miniatures were a recent disappointment to me. I don’t know if they can get away with calling the product Hershey’s Miniature chocolate bars when I found that 41% of my package were not chocolate bars at all.

Milk Duds haven’t been chocolate for years, but the description is still there:

Bite-size chocolate-covered caramels, MILK DUDS candy is a perfect snack for a night at the movies or anytime!

imageThe Mr. Goodbar section is full of inaccuracies. The name of it is Mr. Goodbar chocolate bar and the image on the directory page says peanuts in chocolate and the description says:

Will your P.M. snack be salty or sweet? With MR. GOODBAR’s combination of crunchy peanuts in chocolate, you don’t have to decide.

On the actual product page the header image shows made with chocolate and peanuts but the image below it and the caption still say peanuts in milk chocolate. The description there goes further into the history which confuses matters because it once was a real chocolate bar:

MR. GOODBAR chocolate bar was one of Hershey’s original candy bars. Consumers have loved the delicious combination of creamy chocolate and crunchy peanuts since 1925. That’s a good bar, Mister.

imageThe final one in the Hershey’s repertoire is the Take 5. The description is shown there in the screengrab and it says that it’s covered in milk chocolate. (Which I’m guessing is a selling point, it was for me.)

The Hershey’s product page for the Take 5 has been heavily edited now. There were four versions of the bars (White, Peanut Butter and Chocolate Cookie and for a while a Marshmallow) listed there earlier this year. The current product page is now completely accurate with its images and description. I can only be disappointed by my memories.

Hershey’s has several mini-sites. One of the major ones is for their Reese’s line of products. It was relaunched just last week with an intricate flash-based page (which means no way to link to individual product pages). I would expect that this would mean that the info would be especially accurate. Sadly it’s not so.

image

The Reese’s subsite lists 11 Reese’s products. Four are characterized erroneously as real chocolate products in the copy that accompanies them.

  • ReeseSticks (which I revisted in today’s review) is described as milk chocolate though the image is correct

  • Nutrageous is described as a “chocolatey candy” on the wrapper (and in the image) but the accompanying text says that it’s, “loaded with crunchy roasted peanuts, smooth rich caramel, chocolate and the distinctive taste of Reese’s Peanut Butter.”

  • Reese’s Whipps is a new product and has never had a smooth milk chocolate on it. So while this whole “transition” thing with new products might be forgiveable, this is not.

  • Reese’s Crispy Crunchy is a little older than the Whipps, but also never sported a “smooth chocolate coating.”

  • So there you have it. Hershey’s says that their changes are transparent to the consumers and that everything is clearly marked on the packages. While going straight from the package, with no previous experience with the product might mean that consumers understand fully what they’re eating, the rest of this noise - the fact that the wrappers are designed to look so incredibly similar and that the supporting materials like the Hershey’s website don’t reflect what’s truly in the bar - provides evidence the Hershey’s wants us to be confused.

    I fully expect that many of these inaccuracies will be rectified soon. I know that Hershey’s staff members and their PR companies read this site.

    The above web images were taken on September 18, 2008 for the Reese’s Whipps page and September 17, 2008 for the Hershey’s items.

    Related Candies

    1. ReeseSticks (Revisit)
    2. Revisit: Take 5, Sunkist Fruit Gems & Snickers Almond
    3. Kissables (Reformulated)
    4. Reese’s Select Clusters
    5. Reese’s Whipps
    6. FDA & Mockolate - It’s not over
    7. FDA Chocolate Definition Change

    POSTED BY Cybele AT 1:20 pm     CandyFeatured NewsNewsComments (23)

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