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Monday, August 20, 2012

Squirrel Nut Zippers

Squirrel Nut ZippersSquirrel Nut Zippers were introduced by the Squirrel Brand Company in 1926 as a vanilla caramel with peanuts, part of a line of caramel candies. The name, which sounds more like a collection of nouns than an enticing candy, came from a local alcohol drink called Nut Zipper (this was prohibition).

The Squirrel Brand Company or Massachusetts was sold off to Southern Style Nuts in 1999 and moved to Texas. A mere 5 years later, Necco bought the rights to Squirrel Nut Zippers, and the lesser known Squirrel Caramel Chews, and moved production back to the Boston area. In case you’re wondering, the Squirrel Nut Zippers swing band named themselves after the candy (with permission from Squirrel Brand Company).

The candies are a simple format, a little bite sized chew wrapped in wax paper. They’re sold in bulk bins or pre-packaged bags. I found mine at Rocket Fizz, a small chain of candy & soda pop shops that started in Southern California.

Squirrel Nut Zippers

Like Mary Janes (also made by Necco now), a good Squirrel Nut Zipper will be slight soft. Don’t be dismayed if you pick some up and they’re hard. The trick is to put it in your pocket or hold them in your palm for a few minutes or someplace slightly warm just before eating. That way the oils rise slightly to the surface to help the wrapper release from the candy and it’s soft enough to chew easily.

A SNZ is an easy to like candy, it’s quite simple. It’s a vanilla caramel with bits of peanuts in it. The flavor of the caramel is mild and sweet, not as earthy as a Mary Jane, which has molasses in it, and not as toffee like as a Sugar Daddy.

I’m sure I’ve had them before when I was a kid, but they didn’t make much of an impression on me. As an adult, well, there are other candies I’d prefer to have, such as a Mary Jane or some Sugar Babies.

I have no clue about possible allergens, but the ingredients show dairy, soy and peanuts.

Related Candies

  1. Mary Jane & Mary Jane Wicked Mix
  2. Necco Slap Stix Caramel
  3. Nips: Butter Rum & Peanut Butter Parfait
  4. Walkers Nonsuch Toffee
  5. Sugar Babies
  6. Necco Mint Julep
  7. Goldenberg’s Peanut Chews


Name: Squirrel Nut Zippers
    RATING:
  • SUPERB
  • YUMMY
  • TASTY
  • WORTH IT
  • TEMPTING
  • PLEASANT
  • BENIGN
  • UNAPPEALING
  • APPALLING
  • INEDIBLE
Brand: Necco
Place Purchased: Rocket Fizz (Glendale)
Price: 1.00 (approximately)
Size: 1.41 ounces
Calories per ounce: 106
Categories: Candy, Necco, Caramel, Kosher, Peanuts, 6-Tempting, United States

POSTED BY Cybele AT 11:49 am     CandyReviewNeccoCaramelKosherPeanuts6-TemptingUnited StatesComments (2)

Monday, August 13, 2012

Wild Ophelia Milk Chocolate Bar Peanut Butter & Banana

Wild Ophelia Milk Chocolate Bar Peanut Butter & BananaEarly this year Katrina Markoff of Vosges Haut-Chocolate spun off a new mass-market brand called Wild Ophelia.

The idea was to be able to reach more consumers with Markoff’s taste creations without sacrificing the artisan scale of the original Vosges but still reach more consumers. (Source) I have trouble believing that Vosges is truly artisan any longer since they’re a $30 million company. The Wild Ophelia website feature a hokey story about this mascot for the brand that dipped beef jerky in milk chocolate instead of the traditional lemonade stand as a kid. The story reads like a non-traditional innovator’s checklist:

I was nicknamed “Wild Ophelia” following a few smart plans I hatched during my childhood years, while running the sweet stand at our summer garage sales. Instead of the typical, boring lemonade, I decided to serve beef jerky dipped in molten milk chocolate that I melted in the hot sun. From there, my little side-street menu swiftly transitioned to other chocolate experimentations… fresh peaches and hibiscus, sweet cherries and pecans, BBQ potato chips.

Though I’m most at peace watching the sun set from my front porch swing, I also have an itch for the open road. I’ve crossed this great country a number of times, usually without an agenda and primarily on 2-lane roads. Through my adventures, I’ve befriended a number of like-minded American farmers and food artisans who have inspired my creations.

Welcome to my world of chocolate with a flair for the unexpected. (source)

But again, it’s all just made up. The real story of someone wanting to extend their brand isn’t good enough, yet with this pure fiction they want us to also come on board with the real stories of the artisans that provide some of the key ingredients in the bar flavors.

The Wild Ophelia line features bars that cost one third less than the Vosges bars, but of course are about one third smaller in size. That’s fine with me in principal at least, since I often find the 3 ounce bars a bit too much for me and my short attention span. The new line of bars feature flavors like Beef Jerky, Southern Hibiscus Peach, Salted Chowchilla Almond, New Orleans Chili, Sweet Cherry Pecan, Mount Sequoia Granola, Smokehouse BBQ Potato Chips and the final one, Peanut Butter & Banana is what I picked up.

Wild Ophelia Milk Chocolate Bar Peanut Butter & Banana

The Milk Chocolate Bar Peanut Butter & Banana is made with a dark milk chocolate of 41% cacao. Then it’s mixed with pieces of dried Williams Banana, which is grown on the island of Kauai in Hawaii. Peanut butter is mixed into the chocolate.

It sounds great, though I wish I knew as much about the chocolate and the origin of the peanuts as I now do about the bananas.

The bar is soft and has a smooth break. It looks like the pieces are quite small and well mixed in. It has a strong scent of roasted peanuts and a little note of maple or sweet hot cocoa.

Wild Ophelia Milk Chocolate Bar Peanut Butter & Banana

Though the bar has a peanutty aroma, the chocolate, it tastes of both chocolate and peanut butter, like someone melted and mixed together a peanut butter cup. It’s a little grittier and fudgier than a standard milk chocolate bar. The heartiness is then highlighted with bits of dried bananas. They’re soft and chewy, but still kind of tough. They’re sweet and have a strong banana flavor with a fair bit of tanginess.

I found the leathery and sticky banana bits a little off-putting, they’d get stuck in my teeth. But the overall ratios and the fact that it’s not a sweet bar but still has that satisfaction of a sweet snack is really quite good. There are little bits of salt in it as well, and though it tastes like a lot because they’re little granules, it’s actually only 30mg for a serving.

Now for the transparency part. The company says “Wild Ophelia is a uniquely American chocolate brand that features all-natural and often organic ingredients sourced from small farms and artisans to tell an American story. All Wild Ophelia products are made with 100% renewable energy and packaged in 100% recycled board. Proudly, the Wild Ophelia line is developed by a certified women’s business enterprise.” Nowhere could I find a statement about the sourcing of the chocolate (none was listed as organic, the only organic ingredient in this bar was the peanut butter). So I can’t say anything about the ethics of the sourcing of the cacao and at $5 for a 2 ounce bar of chocolate, I’d prefer that the dairy products in it also be organic.

Wild Ophelia is gluten free, but their facility uses dairy, soy, peanuts, tree nuts and sesame. I love many of Vosges products, but have had to stop eating them because of walnut contamination issues (which is fully disclosed on the packages). I did not have any problems with this bar and none of the Wild Opheila products have walnuts in them (my only allergy).

For a more complete rundown of the line of bars, check out Jess at Foodette Reviews.

Related Candies

  1. Vosges Bombalinas - Black Pearl Cashews
  2. Dove Desserts Bananas Foster
  3. Christopher Elbow: No. 6 - Dark Rocks
  4. Elvis Reese’s Peanut Butter and Banana Cup
  5. Chuao ChocoPod Collection
  6. Limited Edition Marshmallows
  7. Chuao Chocolatier
  8. Trader Joe’s Chocolate Covered Banana Chips


Name: Milk Chocolate Bar Peanut Butter & Banana
    RATING:
  • SUPERB
  • YUMMY
  • TASTY
  • WORTH IT
  • TEMPTING
  • PLEASANT
  • BENIGN
  • UNAPPEALING
  • APPALLING
  • INEDIBLE
Brand: Vosges Haut-Chocolat
Place Purchased: Cost Plus World Market (Farmers Market)
Price: $4.99
Size: 2 ounces
Calories per ounce: 150
Categories: All Natural, Candy, Vosges, Chocolate, Peanuts, 7-Worth It, United States, Cost Plus

POSTED BY Cybele AT 11:26 am     All NaturalCandyReviewVosgesChocolatePeanuts7-Worth ItUnited StatesCost PlusComments (1)

Friday, August 3, 2012

Nestle Butterfinger Bites

Butterfinger BitesButterfinger Bites made by Nestle come in a few sizes, but I picked up their theater box. It was a helpful box with a little image of the candy with the words “actual bite size” pointing to one of them that is actually far smaller than anything inside the box.

The box also says that they’re new, though I’m pretty sure Nestle has made these before, or something amazingly similar. Then the box also says that they’re Easy To Eat! which is a huge relief, because Butterfingers are menacingly difficult what with all that wrapper and ... largeness.

The box actually had 3.5 ounces of candy bites in it, which is a pretty decent deal for a buck. Of course it’s also filled with Butterfinger Bites, so maybe I’d be happier with less than 3.5 ounces considering what dismal tasting candy it actually is.

Butterfinger Bites

There are so many things wrong with this, like the fact that there’s more hydrogenated palm kernel oil in it than cocoa (and no chocolate), artificial colors, artificial flavors and preservatives.

The pieces are about an inch long and are, in fact, easy to eat. If you don’t have a sense of smell. I found the odor simply offputting. It’s overly sweet, artificial and reminds me of a combination of birthday cake and fake butter topping. They are not even vaguely peanutty or chocolatey.

The pieces are lighter and crunchier than a regular Butterfinger. The mockolate coating is chalky looking, very light in color and not the slightest bit chocolatey. The crispy layers of the center are wonderfully crispy and do have a lovely proportion of salt. But that’s about it, the level of peanut butter is so far below what I love in candies like Chick-O-Stick or Clark Bars that it’s more like a butter flavored center.

The mockolate coating really ruins it, it tastes about as good as sucking on the cardboard box. These can’t be stale (they were plenty crispy and they expiry is more than 6 months away), they’re just poor excuses for candy. What’s sad is that I would absolutely love to buy little nuggets of real chocolate covered peanut butter crisp, even at twice the price.

I have a little poll running over there on the sidebar about what companies should do when they need to cut costs. Maybe we should let them know that making bad candy really isn’t a way to increase sales.

Related Candies

  1. Treat Trip: Bevan’s Own Make Candy - Peanut Butter Sticks & Molasses Chips
  2. Trader Joe’s Soft Peanut Brittle
  3. Nestle Butterfinger Pumpkin
  4. Nestle Butterfinger Snackerz
  5. Head to Head: Clark, Butterfinger & 5th Avenue
  6. Butterfinger Buzz (Caffeinated)
  7. Chick-o-Stick


Name: Butterfinger Bites
    RATING:
  • SUPERB
  • YUMMY
  • TASTY
  • WORTH IT
  • TEMPTING
  • PLEASANT
  • BENIGN
  • UNAPPEALING
  • APPALLING
  • INEDIBLE
Brand: Nestle
Place Purchased: 99 Cent Only Store (Miracle Mile)
Price: $1.00
Size: 3.5 ounces
Calories per ounce: 128
Categories: Candy, Nestle, Mockolate, Peanuts, 3-Unappealing, United States, 99 Cent Only Store

POSTED BY Cybele AT 1:43 pm     CandyMorselizationReviewNestleMockolatePeanuts3-UnappealingUnited States99 Cent Only StoreComments (7)

Monday, July 30, 2012

Flix Candy Flix Mix

Flix Candy Flix MixIn the theater box section at the Big Lots I spotted this package of Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter Flix Mix. At only a buck, I figured I should try it, though I was a little taken aback at the lightness of it, only 2.2 ounces, when many other theater boxes can be 6 ounces.

Flix makes a big deal on the back of the box that these are Made in USA. But a large part of the back of the box is also devoted to the extremely long ingredients list. This is explained by the fact that one of the macroingredients is a rice pillow which includes a large number of fortifications such as niaciniamide and thiamin mononitrate.

Flix Candy Flix Mix

One I opened the box I understood why it was so light, there is a cellophane pouch inside that is the appropriate size for the box, these things are just darn airy, so constitute more volume than say, Mike and Ike.

The candy itself is very simple. It’s chocolate covered Rice Chex cereal (or a generic equivalent). The milk chocolate coating seems to have some peanut butter mixed in, though if you gave these to me without saying anything about the peanut butter, I might have missed that nuance. The whole thing is then dusted, unnecessarily, in powdered sugar.

Flix Candy Flix Mix

The rice pillow at the center is crispy and has a large airy center. There’s a hint of malt and a little salt to it, so it give a savory base to the mix that’s sorely needed. The milk chocolate and peanut butter coating is sweet. There’s a mild milky flavor to it, but nothing that can stand up to the flavor of the rice cereal ... yup, the bland Rice Chex are more vibrant than this chocolate. Still, the combination works. It’s a bit on the sweet side but the crispy texture and mild contributions from the peanut butter and chocolate manage to combine well.

I don’t think I’d buy this brand again, but I have to wonder if there are better ones out there. I also have to wonder if someone could do a verified gluten free version of this, because I bet there are a lot of gluten free folks out there longing for a crispy candy mix.

The allergen list is pretty complete and includes soy, dairy, milk, peanuts and may contain wheat, tree nuts and eggs. There’s no indication of the ethical sourcing of Flix Candy’s chocolate. There is also palm oil in there, though very low down on the list.

UPDATED to ADD: Yes, there is a homemade version of this called Puppy Chow. Probably the best option if you want better ingredients.

Related Candies

  1. Ice Cream Flavored Dippin’ Candy - Banana Split
  2. Flix Sour Gummy Pop Corn
  3. Grave Grabber Gummy Candy
  4. Hershey’s Whatchamacallit & Thingamajig
  5. Wonka Tinglerz & Nestle Buncha Crunch
  6. Crispy Cat
  7. Gummy Fishies


Name: Flix Mix
    RATING:
  • SUPERB
  • YUMMY
  • TASTY
  • WORTH IT
  • TEMPTING
  • PLEASANT
  • BENIGN
  • UNAPPEALING
  • APPALLING
  • INEDIBLE
Brand: Flix Candy
Place Purchased: Big Lots (La Canada Flintridge)
Price: $1.00
Size: 2.2 ounces
Calories per ounce: 142
Categories: Candy, Flix, Chocolate, Cookie, Peanuts, 6-Tempting, United States

POSTED BY Cybele AT 12:09 pm     CandyReviewFlixChocolateCookiePeanuts6-TemptingUnited StatesComments (5)

Friday, June 29, 2012

UNREAL #8 Chocolate Caramel Peanut Nougat Bar

Unreal 6 Chocolate Caramel Peanut Nougat Bar UnjunkedThe final candy I have in the initial launch of the UNREAL candy line is the UNREAL #8 Chocolate Caramel Peanut Nougat Bar. If the description doesn’t spark any recognition for you, it’s a Snickers-type bar.

Like my other profiles of the UNREAL candies, there’s a lot to explore and expose in this new line. There are inconsistencies and it’s a little hard to find things out, but if you’re just interested in the review, skip to the third picture and read on from there. If you’re interested to know more about what’s inside and what they say is inside, well, then read the whole review.

DSC_9569rb

I was really surprised with the #5 Nougat Caramel Bar being so low in calories, but figured it was all the protein. It clocks in at 106 calories per ounce, which usually pure sugar candy, like Starburst or gummi bears. York Peppermint Patties are about that level of caloric density, but they have so little chocolate and a

So I went through and added up all the elements to get to the listed 200 calories listed for the #8 Chocolate Caramel Peanut Nougat Bar.
12 grams of fat (9 calories per gram) = 108 calories
25 grams of carbs (4 calories per gram) = 100 calories
5 grams of protein (4 calories per gram) = 20 calories

Well, that adds up to 228 calories (and accounts for 42 of the 49 grams, fiber which has no calories makes up an additional 5 grams)

The only way it adds up to 200 is if you only added the sugar, not the full carbs. The package lists 17 grams of sugar (4 calories per gram) which would be 68 calories, making the whole bar 196 calories (rounded up to 200 calories). That would make the calories per ounce a more believable 134 calories for a chocolate and nut candy bar. (For the record, a Snickers bar is 135 calories per ounce.) When I redid the calculations for the #5 Chocolate Nougat Caramel Bar I got 191 calories instead of the stated 170 calories on the package. They’re off by 10-12% of what I believe to be the true calorie count. (The other candies in the UNREAL line seem to add up properly.)

DSC_9574rb

The bar is the same size as the #5 Nougat Caramel, about 3.5 inches long and a little more than one inch wide. It smells like toffee and roasted nuts. The bite is soft, the nougat on the bottom of the layers gives easily. The caramel has a wonderful stringy pull and chewy texture. The chocolate is creamy, has a light bitter chocolate note to it, but a good dairy profile to emulate the milky caramel experience that was missing in the #5 bar for me. In this case the peanuts are what changed it. They’re crunchy, not roasted too dark and all fresh and perfect. If there was an extra level of protein enhancement to the nougat on this bar, I didn’t catch it at all.

The textures meld well, the bar isn’t too large and is completely satisfying. It’s great that it doesn’t have partially hydrogenated oils in it, though I’d prefer a bar without palm oil. The darkness of the milk chocolate also keeps it from being too sweet with the really sugary filling of caramel and nougat.

This bar is a winner on so many levels. I have to hope that the company gets through it’s labeling and transparency issues (still haven’t heard back from them) and can expand to make snack size version for easier portion control and Halloween.

The bar is made in Canada and is Kosher. It contains dairy, eggs, peanuts and soy. Made in a facility with tree nuts and wheat. The website says the ingredients are GMO free, but not the package.

UPDATE 9/17/2012: After many months and more than a half a dozen attempts to get answers from UNREAL, I did get a reply. Here is what I can tell you:
UNREAL works closely with a broker to secure cacao from co-ops in Ecuador and Ghana. They said, “Our Brokers on the ground work with them daily to ensure the best quality of product and that people and planet are not being damaged in the process.” There is no third party certification for any of this, so it is not certified fair trade or sustainable but they did say that there is an auditing process by the buyers.
UNREAL sources their milk from California (using no hormones or antibiotics) and the dried milk products from New Zealand.
UNREAL’s chocolate is made in the United States by “a family owned and operated chocolate company.” They declined to give an actual source.
UNREAL defended its use of inulin (which can cause digestive upset in some people and is considered a filler and may actually disqualify their chocolate coating from being called chocolate by FDA standards) saying that it lowers the glycemic load of the product.

Related Candies

  1. UNREAL #5 Chocolate Caramel Nougat Bar
  2. UNREAL #41 & #54 Candy Coated Chocolates
  3. UNREAL #77 Peanut Butter Cups
  4. Route 1 Racer Bar
  5. Justin’s Peanut and Almond Candy Bars
  6. Snickers Slice n’ Share (1 Pound)
  7. Dark Angell Organic Candy Bar
  8. Go Max Go Jokerz Candy Bar
  9. Snickers Dark


Name: #8 Chocolate Caramel Peanut Nougat Bar
    RATING:
  • SUPERB
  • YUMMY
  • TASTY
  • WORTH IT
  • TEMPTING
  • PLEASANT
  • BENIGN
  • UNAPPEALING
  • APPALLING
  • INEDIBLE
Brand: UNREAL
Place Purchased: CVS (Silver Lake & Park LaBrea)
Price: $1.19
Size: 1.7 ounces
Calories per ounce: 134
Categories: All Natural, Candy, UNREAL, Caramel, Chocolate, Kosher, Nougat, Peanuts, 9-Yummy, Canada, Sav-On/CVS

POSTED BY Cybele AT 11:30 am     All NaturalCandyReviewUNREALCaramelChocolateKosherNougatPeanuts9-YummyCanadaSav-On/CVSComments (13)

Monday, June 25, 2012

UNREAL #41 & #54 Candy Coated Chocolates

Unreal 41 Candy Coated Chocolates UnjunkedCandy coated chocolates are so simple, yet so many folks find many of the commercial ingredients objectionable. It seems like it would be easy to make a good chocolate lentil with all natural, wholesome ingredient. Yet, here we are in 2012, and I can’t say that I like any of the alternatives to M&Ms very much.

You can imagine that I greeted the new UNREAL candy line with a bit of trepidation and suspicion. After all, if it could be done, why isn’t it done? (Try Sundrops.)

The UNREAL line uses all natural ingredients, specifically no artificial colors, no preservatives, no GMOs and no hydrogenated oils. The two elements that are interest in the instance of M&Ms would be artificial colors (which can make some colors taste bad to some consumers and have been linked with hyperactivity and other sensitivities with some kids) and genetically modified organism.

M&Ms Milk Chocolate Ingredients: Milk Chocolate (sugar, chocolate, skim milk, cocoa butter, lactose, milkfat, soy lecithin, salt, artificial flavors), sugar, cornstarch, less than 1% corn syrup, gum acacia, coloring (includes Red 40 Lake, Yellow 5 Lake, Yellow 6, Red 40, Blue 2 Lake, Yellow 5, Yellow 6 Lake, Blue 1, Blue 1 Lake, Blue 2), Dextrin.

Unreal 41 Candy Coated Chocolates

Part of what irritates me is their positioning of this candy on their website. They compare the candy to M&Ms and to a fresh peach. The listing of qualities below the specs for #41 Candy Coated Chocolates is:
No Corn Syrup
No Partially Hydrogenated Oil
No Artificial Ingredients
No GMOs
No Preservatives

Okay, that’s great. But to be fair, M&Ms do not have any partially hydrogenated oils and no preservatives. And a peach also has none of those (though I’d say that somewhere out there, there are GMO peaches, I don’t think they’re commercial at this time.) The comparisons are also a little skewed by the portion sizes. M&Ms are sold in bags of 1.69 ounces (47.9 grams) and UNREAL #41 are 1.5 ounces (42 grams). So the grid is not converted to a one to one comparison.

The little candies are pretty, and I appreciate that they don’t look as unnatural as I ofter regard M&Ms to be (the blue and red ones, especially). However, the colors are a little on the dark and morose side. Honestly, I don’t know why they have to be so dark, why couldn’t it just be a touch of color, instead of some sort of thick slathering of turmeric extract?

The lentils are slightly smaller than M&Ms but consistent for the most part and well made. The package protects them, they weren’t crushed or cracked.

Unreal 41 Candy Coated Chocolates

The flavor is interesting and far different from the wide appeal of M&Ms. They’re creamy and smooth, the melt is great and only slightly sticky. The crunchy shell is crisp and has a great dissolve, depending on your eating style. But the chocolate is where these little lentils are completely different from M&Ms or any other chocolate candy lentils.

The chocolate is smoky, rather dark and has a toffee and charcoal note from both the cocoa and milk. I get a lot of bitterness from it, something I noticed in the peanut butter cups, but it was well moderated by the peanut butter center. Here, it’s just the chocolate and the candy shell. I didn’t care for the intensity, however, I recognize that not all people detect bitterness in the same way. So some folks may find these delightful, I found they required a little more effort on my part to appreciate.

Rating: 7 out of 10

Unreal 54 Candy Coated Chocolates with Peanuts UnjunkedThe UNREAL #54 Candy Coated Chocolates with Peanuts have a consistent package with the rest of the UNREAL line, this one with a neon or highlighter green and yellow logo and little candies scattered across the front of the package.

This packet also holds 1.5 ounces with the same sticker price as the non-natural M&Ms which are 1.74 ounces.

Unreal 54 Candy Coated Chocolates with Peanuts

I’ve often found that Peanut M&Ms, though good, are not my favorite when given a choice. In this case, I preferred the UNREAL #54 to the UNREAL #41. The nuts were fresh, big and not roasted too dark. The bitterness of the chocolate was still there, but moderated by the savory characteristics of the peanuts.

Unreal 54 Candy Coated Chocolates with Peanuts

A curious item on the nutrition panel says that the Peanut variety has 45% of your daily value of Calcium and the Milk Chocolate one has 50% of your daily value. The full ingredients list shows that it’s not the milk that’s contributing that (M&Ms have about 4% of your DV), it’s Calcium Carbonate. (No source is given for that, is it oyster shell? Egg shells? Bone meal?) Full ingredients:

Ingredients: Milk Chocolate (chocolate, skim milk, cane sugar, cocoa butter, milk powder, organic blue agave inulin, soy lecithin, vanilla extract), Peanuts, Cane Sugar, Calcium Carbonate, Peanut Oil, Colored with (beetroot juice, turmeric root extract, purple cabbage juice), Gum Arabic, Vanilla Extract, Carnauba Wax & Beeswax

So, it still has that inulin stuff in it that I remarked about in the #77 Peanut Butter Cup review. It’s basically a nice, clean candy that has some nutritional fortification. Personally, I’d prefer just clean candy and let me get my nutrition elsewhere.

Rating: 8 out of 10

I like the line. I’m annoyed at the marketing and lack of true information (but they’re new and I’m still waiting for a response to my email on Saturday). But the candy is good, they’re on the right track and I’m excited about it. It would be fun to see where they go with it, if they create a few candies that are vegan as well, or at least dairy free.

UPDATE 9/17/2012: After many months and more than a half a dozen attempts to get answers from UNREAL, I did get a reply. Here is what I can tell you:
UNREAL works closely with a broker to secure cacao from co-ops in Ecuador and Ghana. They said, “Our Brokers on the ground work with them daily to ensure the best quality of product and that people and planet are not being damaged in the process.” There is no third party certification for any of this, so it is not certified fair trade or sustainable but they did say that there is an auditing process by the buyers.
UNREAL sources their milk from California (using no hormones or antibiotics) and the dried milk products from New Zealand.
UNREAL’s chocolate is made in the United States by “a family owned and operated chocolate company.” They declined to give an actual source.
UNREAL defended its use of inulin (which can cause digestive upset in some people and is considered a filler and may actually disqualify their chocolate coating from being called chocolate by FDA standards) saying that it lowers the glycemic load of the product.

Related Candies

  1. UNREAL #77 Peanut Butter Cups
  2. Nestle Skinny Cow Heavenly Crisp
  3. NewTree Dark Milk
  4. Hershey’s Drops: Milk Chocolate & Cookies n Creme
  5. Hershey-ets
  6. Sunspire Coconut Bars
  7. UK Smarties (no artificial colors)
  8. Best Intentions: Sun Drops
  9. Chocolate Sunflower Seed Drops


Name: #41 Candy Coated Chocolates
    RATING:
  • SUPERB
  • YUMMY
  • TASTY
  • WORTH IT
  • TEMPTING
  • PLEASANT
  • BENIGN
  • UNAPPEALING
  • APPALLING
  • INEDIBLE
Brand: UNREAL
Place Purchased: CVS (Silver Lake)
Price: $1.19
Size: 1.5 ounces
Calories per ounce: 133
Categories: All Natural, UNREAL, Chocolate, Kosher, 7-Worth It, United States, Sav-On/CVS


Name: #54 Candy Coated Chocolates with Peanuts
    RATING:
  • SUPERB
  • YUMMY
  • TASTY
  • WORTH IT
  • TEMPTING
  • PLEASANT
  • BENIGN
  • UNAPPEALING
  • APPALLING
  • INEDIBLE
Brand: UNREAL
Place Purchased: CVS (Silver Lake)
Price: $1.19
Size: 1.5 ounces
Calories per ounce: 127
Categories: All Natural, Candy, UNREAL, Chocolate, Kosher, Peanuts, 8-Tasty, United States, Sav-On/CVS

POSTED BY Cybele AT 1:42 pm     All NaturalCandyReviewUNREALChocolateKosherPeanuts7-Worth It8-TastyUnited StatesSav-On/CVSComments (11)

Thursday, June 21, 2012

UNREAL #77 Peanut Butter Cups

Unreal Unjunked CandyUNREAL is a new line of candy that may finally be the solution for people looking for sweets with fewer dubious ingredients. It just launched and I picked up one of each of the new candies at CVS last week. They’re not reinventing candy, each of the products is just a standard tried-and-true candy format, just with “unjunked(tm)” ingredients.

To start with, I thought I’d examine one of my favorite candies of all time: the peanut butter cup.

UNREAL has given their candies some odd code names. Their PB cups are called UNREAL #77 Peanut Butter Cups. Their other candies also have what seem like arbitrary numbers assigned to them. Their caramel nougat bar is #5 and the candy coated chocolates are #55. I don’t know if there are plans for 77 different candies in the line, or if they’ve gone through 77 different formulas. You can read more about the candy line’s origin story on their website and in this Wall Street Journal article.

Unreal 77 Peanut Butter Cups Unjunked

The packaging for UNREAL is unlike other candies, that’s for sure. It did not entice me. In fact, I didn’t recognize it as something I’d be looking for. The packaging is black (a heat absorbing color, for the record, which is bad when it comes to chocolate candy) with neon colors and a difficult to read logo. It looks more appropriate for a caffeinated product than a candy touting the purity of its ingredients.

That said, it is different and as an isolated design, it’s interesting. I like the logo as a use of lines and typography. The color choices do not say “delicious” to me, they do not say “natural” or “wholesome.”

The website says:

They also decided key ingredients needed to be responsibly sourced, supporting farming communities and preventing destruction of the rain forests. All ingredients needed to be non GMO. Dairy needed to come from grass fed (versus grain fed) cows with no antibiotics or added hormones.

However, there is no actual statement on the ingredient panel or the candy packages that say that any of the ingredients are actually “grass fed milk” or “non-GMO soy” or “Rainforest Alliance chocolate.” The closest is the web page for each candy does say NO GMOS (but never specifies which ingredients were verified that way).

Reese's Peanut Butter CupsSo the big evil wolf in this story is the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, made by Hershey’s in Pennsylvania. The portion is modest, two cups are an ounce an a half and total 210 calories. I did not eat these side by side with the UNREAL #77 for comparison. But I have a great recollection of them, having eaten one about three weeks ago, and hundreds before that. (Including a full bag of the miniatures in May.)

The milk chocolate is cool on the tongue, very sweet and lacking a noticeable cocoa note but a strong taste of dairy. The center is crumbly, salty and with an overwhelming taste of fresh roasted peanuts. It’s grainy, almost crunchy and rustic. The combination is great, the portion size is ideal for me. After eating one I want another but after two I’m completely satisfied.

The ingredients, while not pure nor verified as ethically sourced are also not completely horrible:

Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups Ingredients: Milk chocolate (sugar, cocoa butter, chocolate, nonfat milk, milk fat, corn syrup solids, soy lecithin, PGPR) peanuts, sugar, dextrose, salt, TBHQ

The items of contention might be the corn syrup solids (basically dextrose) which are almost assuredly from genetically modified corn, the soy lecithin is also likely to be GMO. The PGPR is also an emulsifier, made from castor beans, last time I checked with Hershey’s. The TBHQ is the biggest item that people complain about in Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. TBHQ (also known as E319) stands for Tertiary Butylhydroquinone, which is an antioxidant which keeps the peanut butter from becoming rancid. While high doses of TBHQ are dangerous, rancid oils are also very bad for you.

Unreal 77 Peanut Butter Cups Unjunked

So, what about this UNREAL #77 Peanut Butter Cup?

Unreal 77 Ingredients: Milk Chocolate (cane sugar, chocolate, cocoa butter, milk powder, organic blue agave inulin, skim milk powder, soy lecithin, vanilla extract), Peanut Butter (dry roasted peanuts, icing sugar, palm fruit oil, salt), Cane Sugar, Organic Palm Fruit Oil, Peanut Flour, Organic Blue Agave Inulin, Whey Protein Isolate, Salt, Soy Lecithin

While all those ingredients sound nice and wholesome, I do have a bone to pick with Unreal for putting inulin into the chocolate. First of all, I don’t think the standards of identity for chocolate allow the addition of inulin, as it’s not an accepted sugar. Inulin is a soluble fiber, it’s slightly sweet (only slightly, about 10% of the sweetness of sucrose but generally has no other flavor to it) and has a good, smooth texture that makes it appropriate in both solid foods and liquids (many folks add it to smoothies). In larger quantities, however, it can cause digestive upset in some people. Agave is one of the hot sources for inulin these days, but it’s also found in chicory and Jerusalem artichokes. While it has some lovely qualities, it’s basically an inert filler. (Not a cheap one, by any means, certainly more expensive than sugar, but when you see what it does to the nutritional panel, you see why it may be considered worth it.)

The UNREAL website has a comparison chart (I pulled a screengrab because I think they changed it since I looked at it last week) but it compares them based on the portion size, not ounce for ounce, like I prefer to do things.

UNREAL & Reese's Comparison

Basically, the Reese’s has more sugar and less fiber. If you want sugar in your candy, then you know where to go. If you want more fiber and fat, then get the UNREAL. Oh, wait, I still haven’t reviewed the actual UNREAL #77 cups for you.

Unreal 77 Peanut Butter Cups Unjunked

The cups look great, and what really impressed me was the attention to detail. The logo on the bottom of the cup? Gorgeous. The cups are not in a little fluted paper cup, but are still protected bu a little white paperboard sleeve inside. This makes it easy to get the candy in and out of the package.

They smell great, like cocoa and peanuts. The chocolate is interesting, and for the record I tried these without reading the ingredients first, so I noticed that the chocolate was a little different without knowing why. It’s a dark milk chocolate, with a lot more discernible chocolate notes than a Reese’s Cup. Not as dark the actual Dark Chocolate Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, but notable. The melt is silky, quite different from Reese’s. The peanut butter center is where things got radically different. The UNREAL peanut butter is like actual peanut butter. It’s not dry, it’s thick and pasty. There’s a little bit of a cookie dough quality to it, but overall the flavor is fantastic. Like true, fresh peanut butter. It’s sweet, it’s a little salty, but mostly it’s smooth without being sticky.

They were great. I loved them. I want to try them again. What I loved about them as well was the fact that they cost the exact same amount at CVS as the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. Of course the regular price for a candy bar at CVS is $1.19, but perhaps with volume will come better pricing or at least sales.

So I have oodles of misgivings about the packaging style, the marketing spin and the lack of transparency of their claims ... but when I got down to the actual experience of eating it, all of that can be forgotten.

The candy is made in Canada and is Kosher. It contains soy, peanuts and milk and may contain traces of tree nuts. There is no gluten statement on the package (along with no statement regarding the sourcing of the ingredients). The shelf life appears to be approximately 6-9 months (these were good until 1/24/2013).

UPDATE 9/17/2012: After many months and more than a half a dozen attempts to get answers from UNREAL, I did get a reply. Here is what I can tell you:
UNREAL works closely with a broker to secure cacao from co-ops in Ecuador and Ghana. They said, “Our Brokers on the ground work with them daily to ensure the best quality of product and that people and planet are not being damaged in the process.” There is no third party certification for any of this, so it is not certified fair trade or sustainable but they did say that there is an auditing process by the buyers.
UNREAL sources their milk from California (using no hormones or antibiotics) and the dried milk products from New Zealand.
UNREAL’s chocolate is made in the United States by “a family owned and operated chocolate company.” They declined to give an actual source.
UNREAL defended its use of inulin (which can cause digestive upset in some people and is considered a filler and may actually disqualify their chocolate coating from being called chocolate by FDA standards) saying that it lowers the glycemic load of the product.

Related Candies

  1. Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups
  2. Justin’s Organic Peanut Butter Cups
  3. Sun Cups
  4. Green & Black’s Peanut Milk Chocolate
  5. Q.Bel Crispy Wafer Bars
  6. Reese’s Pieces
  7. Factory Fresh Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups
  8. Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Line


Name: #77 Peanut Butter Cups
    RATING:
  • SUPERB
  • YUMMY
  • TASTY
  • WORTH IT
  • TEMPTING
  • PLEASANT
  • BENIGN
  • UNAPPEALING
  • APPALLING
  • INEDIBLE
Brand: UNREAL
Place Purchased: CVS (Silver Lake)
Price: $1.19
Size: 1.3 ounces (technically 1.27 when converted from grams)
Calories per ounce: 150
Categories: All Natural, Candy, UNREAL, Chocolate, Kosher, Peanuts, 9-Yummy, Canada, Sav-On/CVS

POSTED BY Cybele AT 12:03 pm     All NaturalCandyReviewUNREALChocolateKosherPeanuts9-YummyCanadaSav-On/CVSComments (7)

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Treat Trip: Bevan’s Own Make Candy - Peanut Butter Sticks & Molasses Chips

Bevan's Own Make Candy - Media, PennsylvaniaWhile in Pennsylvania at the end of April, I visited family and they, of course, steered me towards some local candy.

After my niece’s lacrosse game but before my nephew’s baseball game we headed over to Bevan’s Own Make Candy in Media, Pennsylvania, not far from Philadelphia. It’s a cute little shop where nearly everything they sell is made right there in the store. The Bevan’s shop has been there for over 50 years, churning out local favorites and holiday treats. I was interested in the items that they were particularly well known for.

The store looks barely touched by the years. The interior is a simple set of shelves, a quaint window display and a large glass candy case. The gal behind the counter was happy to answer questions and even ended up checking in back for a dark chocolate mix for me.

Bevan's Chocolates: Molasses Chips & Peanut Butter Sticks

We picked up three boxes of candy, one to eat with the family and two which I shared and then took the rest home with me. We picked out Milk Chocolate Covered Pretzels (which were gone within 24 hours), Peanut Butter Sticks and Molasses Chips. Each box was between $6.00 and $6.50 and I think had about a half a pound in it.

Bevan's Peanut Butter Sticks

I love the idea of a Butterfinger, but have been disappointed over the years with the quality of the Nestle product. But stores like Bevan’s almost always have a house made version, Peanut Butter Sticks and they’re far superior. This version is a straw-style peanut butter crunch that’s then covered in a large helping of milk chocolate.

Bevan's Peanut Butter Sticks

The peanut butter crisp is flaky and melts in the mouth quickly. The peanut butter flavors are strong and it’s not too sweet with just the right, light touch of salt. The milk chocolate is smooth, a little too sweet for me, but the right ratio for this version of the candy. It was hard to keep at least half a box for photographing when I got home.

Bevan's Molasses Chips

The other item I love getting, especially from Pennsylvania candy makers, is Molasses Chips. Like the Peanut Butter Sticks, it’s a candy that takes a bit of work and skill to make, even though the recipe is quite simple. The center is just a boiled sugar and molasses mixture that’s pulled and folded to create the unique layered texture. Then it’s cut up and covered in dark chocolate. The bitterness of the mild dark chocolate goes well with the dark, toffee sweetness of the molasses. Crispy, melt in your mouth, definitely a keeper.

If you’re in the area and crave a little home-cooked flavor, it’s a good shop to experience. Around the corner on Edgemont Street is the actual candy kitchen, you can look in through the window and see their equipment and candy making tables.

Bevan’s Own Make Candy
143 E. Baltimore Avenue
Media, PA
Phone 610-566-0581
website

Read more about Bevan’s at the local Media, PA website, Fig Media.

POSTED BY Cybele AT 2:50 pm     CandyChocolateHard Candy & LollipopsPeanutsUnited StatesHighlightShoppingComments (0)

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Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.

 

 

 

 

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