Monday, September 10, 2007
I’m getting so excited. In a little over a week the All Candy Expo starts, I’ve got my travel plans locked in and my lists of candy companies to visit.
I’ll be posting every day starting next Monday with notes and news.
In the mean time, there are other things to look forward to if you’re in Indiana ... you’re getting a See’s! Okay, it’s just at the Indianapolis Airport, so if you live in Indianapolis, you’ll have to buy a plane ticket, go through security in order to enjoy the deliciousness.
Bunrab has an awesome posting on the new Charles Chocolates cafe & store at their factory in Emeryville, CA.
There’s a lot of talk in the news lately about the new study out of the United Kingdom that links artificial colors and preservatives to hyperactivity. Many parents have noticed this connection and have found that an all natural diet makes a huge difference.
To that end, I’m going to try to list those things more often, or at least post when a product is all natural. In the mean time, it looks like Europe is doing a pretty good job of eliminating artificial colors (Nestle Smarties are the most notable).
In case you didn’t notice, Candy Blog got a little update on the layout over the weekend. I’m still tweaking things a bit (which is why there are two blogrolls at the moment). Hopefully it will end some of the endless scrolling and organize things a little better.
Here’s last week’s candy reviews in review:
Monday: Milk Maid Caramel Candy Corn (3 out of 10)
Tuesday: Caramilk Maple (6 out of 10)
Wednesday: Niederegger Marzipan Orange (8 out of 10)
Thursday: Zip Bomb (4 out of 10)
Friday: Shockers Squeez Lemon & Berry (5 out of 10)
5.2 weekly average ... 40% chocolate content.
Sunday, September 2, 2007
It’s simply too hot in Los Angeles right now, and it’s a depressing situation for me here at the home offices of Candy Blog. When I say hot, I mean that it’s actually 90 degrees inside my home right now at 9 PM on Sunday. When I say hot, I mean the prospect of turning on the lights and trying to take photos of chocolate is maddeningly impossible. (We have a single window air conditioner in the house in the bedroom, it’s usually not a problem, but this heat is unrelenting.)
The saddest part of this whole confluence of heat is that I planned a wonderful party for Saturday night to feature some 75 pounds of various Koppers candies (mostly Milkies) in a great Candy Buffet. As if the heat wasn’t bad enough, on Friday afternoon a transformer blew on the power pole in my neighbors yard silencing all the fans in my house. What was 99 degrees with fanning was up to 99 during the blazing stillness of the day on Saturday.
No party. Had to cancel. It just wouldn’t be fair to bring my friends in to bake and swelter in my house even if they were going to end up being sent away with sticky piles of melted chocolate.
The power has returned after 18 hours ... but the worst part is I have no idea if the chocolate has survived. I’ve had it all sealed up inside a large cooler with some ice packs (well, cool packs) and am hoping that the ambient heat hasn’t penetrated the insulation too much. I’m afraid to open anything. (I actually considered taking it to my office ... except that we got a memo on Thursday saying the building would be closed on Saturday because they were replacing the air conditioning unit on the roof and the power would be out. See, it’s a conspiracy.)
Hopefully the heat will break and I’ll be able to set up my candy buffet and show you all the fancy photos and help you with ideas for your next party. I’ve taken this opportunity to escape my sweltering house to explore lots more variations on the candy buffet and candy favors.
But on to other good news in candy!
The Passionate Cook hosted this edition of Sugar High Friday with the theme of Going Local! Browse through the roundup of posts from bloggers around the world on their favorite local sweeties. Most of it is baked but there’s a nice selection of puddings, mousses and of course candies.
I’ve been remiss on posting about international KitKats lately, but don’t worry, Megchan is picking up the slack with Banana, Lemon, Raspberry and Orange and possibly one of the best assortments of HiCHEW, the Citrus Mix!
Business Week actually did an article about how successful brand spinoffs and limited edition marketing has been in Japan (and perhaps what we can learn from that). The article is interesting, but so are the comments that follow.
If that’s not enough candy for you, how about bidding on this lot at eBay of hundreds of pounds of candy, including full cases of M&Ms, Lollipops, Fudge, Reese’s, Tootsie Rolls, Milk Duds, TicTacs ... well, the list goes on and on. The current bidding is a lowball $181.50 but there’s a reserve on it (and a buy-it-now price of $2,150). Free shipping.
British researchers have spent a lot of time and money trying to figure out chocoholism. Why can’t they just let us be!
In a rather different OpEd piece on the FDA and Chocolate dojigger, the Salt Lake Tribune thinks that people should have paid more attention to the other foods listed in the Citizen’s Petition put forth by the Grocery Manufacturers Association. (Ya think?) However, I did a quick search on SLTrib.com and found they’d never covered it either ... so how did they think people were going to find out ... from Candy Blog?
This week’s candy reviews in review:
Monday: Katjes Tropical Gummis & Yogurt Gums (5 out of 10)
Tuesday: Ritter Schokowurfel (8 out of 10)
Wednesday: VerMints (7 out of 10)
Thursday: Candy Source: Chocolates a la Carte (8 out of 10)
Friday: Head to Head: M&Ms vs Koppers Milkies (8 out of 10 & 9 out of 10)
8.33 weekly average ... 50% chocolate content!
Friday, August 24, 2007
On my vacation to the central coast of California I stopped in a lot of candy stores. If there was a candy store nearby, you can be sure I went in. There was something sad about most of them. I don’t know if it was that tourism is down in that part of the state or what, but the shops were just not that appealing to me. (You know I love candy stores.)
Part of it was the merchandising. The stores just didn’t feel fresh, the inventory wasn’t “fluffed” to look inviting and tasty. I also noticed a few new “taffy” stores. These are stores that pretty much only sell taffy and often for $6 to $9 a pound. What a great business that is!
Seriously, taffy is one of the cheapest candies you can buy wholesale. At about $2 a pound, that’s a 400% margin. (Of course if you’re running a small chain you can get even better deals.) There’s very little maintenance involved ... you just get some big containers like barrels or whatever and mound the stuff up. Give people a basket or a bucket and tell them to go to town. Taffy is fluffed with air, so it looks like a lot of candy and of course taffy has a strong association with vacations.
I didn’t buy any. I’ll have to post about taffy someday, I guess, I’m a candy blogger.
I did pick up a couple of pieces of fudge (well, one was fudge and the other was penuche). I ate it, so no review or photos. Hey, I was on vacation!
In other candy news, more Mexican candies have an alert out on them about high lead content. This time it’s the brands Miguelito and Barrilito. California inspectors have stepped up their testing of Mexican candies because they are so frequently found to fail the standards, so here’s to hoping that these get pulled from shelves soon. (Original notice from the California Department of Health - PDF.)
In items that have not been recalled but contains bug parts, here’s a curiosity called Edible Ant Farm Candy. Yes, it’s a slab of transparent hard candy that looks like real ants in their native ant farm habitat. Such a strange experience. I’m fine with eating chicken eggs, but I don’t like to pretend they’re still in the nest or anything. (Image swiped from CandyWarehouse)
Brits will be happy to hear that Cadbury is bringing back the Wispa. The bar was discontinued in 2003 and like our good old American Mars bar, when they brought out the replacement, the Dairy Milk Bubbly ... well, it wasn’t the same. I guess it’s a great sign that we should never give up hope. (Check out the current poll ... vote for what you’d bring back from extinction.)
This week’s reviews in review:
Monday: Chunky (6 out of 10)
Tuesday: 3 Musketeers Mini Mix (7 out of 10)
Thursday: UK Smarties (no artificial colors) (6 out of 10)
Friday: Jones Soda Grape Carbonated Candy (6 out of 10)
Weekly average: 6.25 ... 75% chocolate content.
Thursday, August 23, 2007
I’ve noted over on Junk Food Blog the growing, and stupid, market for 100 Calorie Packs of food. While it make some sense when it comes to thinks like crackers, chips or cookies that usually come in large packages that make portion control difficult, it’s just plain ludicrous to reinvent the wheel when it comes to candy.
I was at the Ralph’s in Los Osos, California on vacation earlier this week when I spotted this display in the middle of the candy aisle. It’s advertising Mars’ new 100 Calorie Packs for 3 Musketeers, Twix and Milk Chocolate M&Ms.
For $2.50 (on sale, mind you) you get seven (7) servings and about 5 ounces of candy (depending on which one you pick).
While the box is nice and dare I say, elegant, for something like Twix Bars and M&Ms, it’s an awful lot of packaging and space.
But turning around and looking at the shelf below are some crazy candies that have been around and marketed for “lunch dessert” for at least 20 years. They include eight (8) “fun size” bars, which are junior versions of the full sized candy bars, usually around 3/4 of an ounce and 80-100 calories. This Ralph’s had them on sale for $1.25 a package ($1.79 regularly) but I see them often for 88 cents a pack at the drug store.
So while some folks sit around and lament that it’s too hard to control their own portions and the extra packaging and expense is worth it in the fight against obesity, Mars is introducing a solution to a problem that doesn’t even exist in the candy world. Sure the “fun size bars” aren’t all exactly 100 calories, the Twix I looked at were actually 80 calories each, but isn’t the point that people want a treat and not too much temptation?
Yes, there might be math involved if you get the minis in order to create a 100 calorie portion, but hey, math burns calories too!
Saturday, August 18, 2007
The FDA and the new chocolate labeling standards may be years away, but there is a bigger threat to candy right now. Actually, there are several threads. First, energy prices have gone through the roof and industrious people are looking for alternatives, especially biofuels. But biofuels use some of the very same crops that we actually eat. So enter the huge competition going on right now for corn products (corn syrup). Add to that that the United States has a little thing called The Farm Bill and subsidies that make sugar strangely expensive in this country.
Look for the competition for corn to heat up amongst meat producers, food producers and energy makers. You’ll feel the pinch at the checkout stand in higher prices. You may also notice that some of our American candy will be made in other countries.
This isn’t just limited to to the United States. Haribo recently gave notice that their prices will be going up as a direct result of the fight over food and energy. Sure, candy is a low priority use, but it’s not going to end there. Gummi bears are the canary in the coal mine of food.
Chow took on the topic of Licorice, that other black gold.
The story mentions the resurgence of interest in the traditional candy and goes on to mention that Economy Candy has added 10-12 new varieties in just that past two months. Looks like I’ll need to make another trip. (Here are my licorice reviews.)
In other stories around the blogs:
This week’s candy review recap:
Monday: Amano Single Origin Bars (8 out of 10)
Tuesday: Bit-O-Honey (6 out of 10)
Wednesday: Craves Chocolate Sticks (8 out of 10)
Thursday: Goodbye Tart n Tiny (9 out of 10)
Friday: Crown Jewel Orange Chocolate Truffles (5 out of 10)
Weekly average: 7.20 (60% chocolate content)
Friday, August 10, 2007
This Week in Candy keeps growing, doesn’t it? This week I have lots of fun little niblets to pass along.
First of all, NancyLand travels to the land of giant Marshmallows to give a peek into their cultivation. You have to see it to believe it. (I’m not sure how I feel about the cultivated version over the machine made.)
I saw this article earlier this week and I’m glad someone’s saying it. Kids should not be eating diet food. Childhood is a time for kids to acclimate themselves. There’s a natural process where they learn about what to eat, cravings and satisfaction. Giving kids low calorie, fat free and no calorie snacks just messes with that. Keep the sugar free stuff for people who really need it ... not perfectly healthy children.
I’ve mentioned a few times that Hershey’s is having some trouble (closing plants, higher prices for raw materials and fuel, poor financial performance), Brandweek had an interesting article that may explain part of consumers sudden disenchantment with the company: Consumers To Hershey: Candy Isn’t Health Food by Mike Beirne.
Basically, Hershey’s should go back to doing what they did best: inexpensive, quality candy for the masses and leave the high-end stuff to their Artisan Confectionery division.
Speaking of artisans and confections, how about original oil paintings of your favorite candy bars? Tom Brown has paintings of landscapes, too, but really, it’s all about the classics ... like Hostess Cupcakes, right? Sadly none of these choice treats are for sale in his eBay auctions right now. (Maybe I’ll have to go see his show.)
My brother came for a visit a while back and mentioned that he couldn’t find his favorite candy bar any longer: the Snickers Cruncher. So I emailed Mars to get the full scoop and this is what I found out:
So is it gone? Or just put on hiatus. If you want to make sure they know you love it, be sure to write to them so your comments can be shared with their marketing staff.
Consumer Reports came out with another one of their strange ratings list. This time it’s about Dark Chocolate. They taste-tested 14 commonly available dark chocolate bars: Chocolove, CocoaVia, Dagoba, Dove, Endangered Species, Ghirardelli, Green & Black’s, Hershey’s Cacao Reserve, Lindt, Newman’s Own and Valrhona.
The number one bar? Hershey’s Cacao Reserve Extra Dark with Cacao Nibs. (I thought it was a nice bar, but certainly not the best I’ve ever had.)
For all time best dark chocolate, I think I’d have to go with the Chocovic Ocumare at the moment (taking into account the price and taste).
In other less serious candy reviews, check out the candy everyone’s been talking about this summer: McPhee’s Lollipops in the shape of historical figures like Sigmund Freud and Abraham Lincoln.
Recap of this week’s candy reviews:
Monday: Milka Alpenmilch (6 out of 10)
Tuesday: Atomic Fireballs (7 out of 10)
Wednesday: Mentos Plus Citrus Mix (9 out of 10)
Thursday: Werther’s Original Caramel Coffee Hard Candies (7 out of 10)
Friday: Romanego Dragees, Cordials and Fondants from Italy (7 out of 10)
Average rating: 7.17 ... 12.5% chocolate content (if you count Milka as chocolate)
Wednesday, August 8, 2007
There was a cool article out of the AP that got featured on Yahoo News and CNN yesterday about the FDA Petition from the Grocery Manufacturers Association.
Bridges did a great follow up on the story, which is refreshing when so many of these issues seem to drop off the face of the map.
It mentions that there were 1,500 responses to the FDA on the Citizens Petition ... way to go chocolate fans!
It mentions that this may have an adverse effect on the economy of cacao growers and middlemen in the tropics. There are 50,000,000 people around the globe that make their living from chocolate, of course this has huge economic ramifications, even if it ends up being a 5% fat swap in chocolate.
It makes mention (towards the end) of the positions that Mars, Nestle and Hershey put on the record back in 2000. (A story, I might add, that I covered here back in this post.)
Big Chocolate doesn’t want to comment any longer ... Hershey’s, Nestle, Mars, the CMA ... they didn’t have anything to say for the article.
You can read the FDA statement that they put out around the time when the public comment period ended.
Here’s the interview I did for NPR last month about it where I think I took an admirable stand against some of the GMA’s positions.
Friday, August 3, 2007
I forgot to mention the huge supply of Asian Mentos that Santos brought me (but you probably have some clue when you saw the Fuji Apple). So be on the lookout for reviews of the coveted Mentos Plus Citrus Mix, Mentos Xtrm (Spearmint & Peppermint), Summer Cherry, super-cute mini Mentos Lime Mint Cool Chews and even a different Sour Mix that has Pineapple in it. (Photos here to keep you as excited as I am.)
In other chew news, I found a blog post from a Canadian that mentions their version of the Carnival Flavors Skittles that have been all the buzz this summer. Theirs is called Skittles Unlimited and comes in a black package. See Amby’s post with photos. It looks like the same flavors as ours. They have them in Australia too, but the flavors are different: *popcorn, *jam donut, *toffee apple, fairy floss & bubble gum.
In other fun foreign candy news, I also saw this post on TalkLotaChocolate about something called Clickos “Happy Peanuts” from Germany. Sure, they sound like Goobers or Peanut M&Ms ... only made from happy peanuts.
Freakgirl posted this photo of a cupcake and then this post about the pictured cupcake. Yes, the two Elvis Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups (miniatures) in the cupcake sound good (one inside and one on top), but so does the insane fresh banana buttercream frosting mounded on top.
USA Today published one of the strangest lists of the 10 Great Places to Milk Chocolate for all it’s Worth. Of the 10 I’ve actually had three (considering they’re all over the world, I consider that pretty good.) The choices are odd though. Naked Chocolate in Philadelphia and not someplace like Jacques Torres in NYC? Or Max Brenner in any one of their locations? Nothing from Australia. And Scharffen Berger represents the West Coast?
Here’s the Weekly Recap of Reviews:
Monday: Payday Fresh from the Factory (8 out of 10)
Tuesday: Mentos Fuji Apple (8 out of 10)
Wednesday: Ferrero Raffaello & Rondnoir (6 out of 10 & 8 out of 10)
Thursday: Confetti & Agrumetti Lemon, White Chocolate & Almonds (8 out of 10)
Friday: Candy Dump: The International House of Chocolate Bars Mallorca Bars from Spain, Cacao et Chocolate from France and Dark Angel from South Korea (6 out of 10 & 8 out of 10)
Weekly Average: 6.83 (for 12 items) ... 58% chocolate content.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.