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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)

Friday, June 1, 2012

M&Ms Sweet & Salty Snack Mix

M&Ms Snack Mix - Salty & Sweet Milk ChocolateLate last year Mars introduced a new line of snack mixes incorporating M&Ms with nuts, dried fruits, cookies and pretzels. There are currently three varieties available, I picked up one of each.

All share the use of M&Ms chocolate candies and pretzels, but then have slightly different elements from there. The basic mix, based on the Milk Chocolate M&Ms is Milk Chocolate M&Ms Snack Mix Salty & Sweet.

The bags are eight ounces and I got mine on sale for $3 each at Walgreen’s, but I have to believe that they’re going to be priced less than that on a regular basis for them to catch on.

First I have to say that the packaging is well done. The stand up bag does stand up and the zip lock closes easily and securely enough to both keep contents from spilling and protect from moisture. The bag also will sit “open” well enough to serve from.

M&Ms Snack Mix - Salty & Sweet

The items within the Milk Chocolate mix are: Roasted Peanuts and Crunchy Pretzels from the salty side and mini Chocolate Chip Cookies and Milk Chocolate M&Ms from the sweet side.

In the case of my bag, things appeared to be packaged in tiers, so all my peanuts were at the bottom and all my pretzels were at the top. So when I first dumped it out for photographing, I missed the peanuts entirely. (See below.)

The pretzels are barely an inch across and just lightly salted, which I thought was perfect. They’re not so big that they took up a whole bite, allowing me to combine elements for a customized flavor/texture profile.

The little chocolate chip cookies are like Chips Ahoy!. A bland vanilla cookie with teensy little chocolate chips. They’re about .8 inches around and reminded me of Cookie Crisp Cereal in shape, but actual chocolate chip cookies in flavor. They’re a little salty, very sweet and nicely crunchy.

M&Ms Snack Mix - Salty & Sweet

The M&Ms are, well, Milk Chocolate M&Ms. They’re a bit dusty with crumbs or salt, but otherwise fresh and crunchy, the sweetest thing in the bag.

The peanuts, well, this is where things took a bad turn. I didn’t like the peanuts at all. I thought they were roasted too dark, they were bitter and sometimes chalky. Since everything else in the bag was perfectly fresh, it made very little sense to me why they were consistently so unappealing. (One or two bad peanuts are understandable, but they were all the same color, uniformly small in size and rather lifeless.) I have to wonder if they were a bit on the over-roasted side as a way to stabilize them, especially the fats in peanuts that can make everything greasy.

As long as I ate the peanuts in the same bite as something else, I didn’t mind the. But on the whole, I prefer a snack mix with a strong protein component (usually from nuts).

M&Ms Snack Mix - Salty & Sweet PeanutPeanut M&Ms Snack Mix Salty & Sweet is in a bright yellow bag featuring the yellow Peanut M&M as its mascot.

This bag features a mix of salted roasted almonds and pretzels along with mini shortbread cookies and Peanut M&Ms.

The little shortbread cookies are similar to the chocolate chip ones in size, but actually more successful in this application. The flavor is quite good, I got a great sense of the toasted shortbread cookie with its vanilla flavor. But what was really interesting was that the salt from the almonds had rubbed off on the, so there was an excellent contrast going on. They’re dense and crunchy and not too sweet.

M&Ms Snack Mix - Salty & Sweet

The pretzels were again nicely layered in, a good crunch with a mild flavor.

The almonds were tiny, but roasted perfectly thought slightly over-salted for my tastes. (The overall sodium level for the snack mix is 125mg for a 1/3 of a cup portion which is about 190 calories.

The Peanut M&Ms were, well, exactly like Peanut M&Ms. They were big and had a lot of crackle going on and added a buttery element to the whole mix.

All of the items went with each other. An almond with a Peanut M&M was great. A cookie with a pretzel was also really satisfying. I was surprised at how much I liked this mix, though it does combine some of my favorite items. It was the cookies I was hesitant about, but they really did add to the satisfaction level.

M&Ms Snack Mix - Salty & Sweet Dark ChocolateDark Chocolate M&Ms Snack Mix Salty & Sweet is the only mix in the set that doesn’t have little cookies.

The mix contains salted, roasted almonds and pretzels along with raisins and Dark Chocolate M&Ms.

This is the “healthiest” of the mixes, if you go by calorie load. There are 132 calories per ounce, slightly less than the milk chocolate mix with a half a gram less saturated fat but still 16 grams of sugars. But it does have a bit of iron at 6% of your daily recommended allowance and two grams of fiber.

Of course all of that relies on eating the exact proportions of each element in the mix. If you pick out the M&Ms and almonds, well, all bets are off.

M&Ms Snack Mix - Salty & Sweet

The mix is attractive and has a good salty note to it from the pretzels and the almonds. The raisins were pretty big, soft and juicy without being sticky. The Dark Chocolate M&Ms pair well with any of the elements. Part of me would like to see a more interesting dried fruit in the mix, like dried cherries or cranberries (which do suffer from being sweetened) but this version does fit the bill by adding in a little tangy chew.

These are not candy. There’s very little candy in there, by most accounts, about 25% of it is actually M&Ms, the rest of snack foods. Mars has made a nice mix and chosen each element pretty well and balanced them expertly.

It’s a good mix for a lot of different purposes. Easy to share you can take it on an airplane, a car trip or a movie theater (of course you’d pay concession prices ... probably about $8 a bag). I prefer to make my own mixes, but if I have to grab something already made a store, this is a fair value.

Related Candies

  1. Glico Pocky Cookie Crush
  2. Snyder’s Peanut Butter Pretzel Sandwich Dips
  3. Pretzel M&Ms
  4. Candy on the Trail
  5. Limited Edition M&Ms Coconut
  6. Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Covered Pretzel Bites


Name: M&Ms Snack Mix Salty & Sweet: Milk Chocolate
    RATING:
  • SUPERB
  • YUMMY
  • TASTY
  • WORTH IT
  • TEMPTING
  • PLEASANT
  • BENIGN
  • UNAPPEALING
  • APPALLING
  • INEDIBLE
Brand: Mars
Place Purchased: Walgreen's (Echo Park)
Price: $3.00 (on sale)
Size: 8 ounces
Calories per ounce: 138
Categories: Candy, Mars, Chocolate, Cookie, Kosher, M&Ms, Peanuts, 5-Pleasant, United States, Walgreen's


Name: M&Ms Snack Mix Salty & Sweet: Peanut
    RATING:
  • SUPERB
  • YUMMY
  • TASTY
  • WORTH IT
  • TEMPTING
  • PLEASANT
  • BENIGN
  • UNAPPEALING
  • APPALLING
  • INEDIBLE
Brand: Mars
Place Purchased: Walgreen's (Echo Park)
Price: $3.00 (on sale)
Size: 8 ounces
Calories per ounce: 142
Categories: Candy, Mars, Chocolate, Cookie, Kosher, M&Ms, Nuts, Peanuts, 7-Worth It, United States, Walgreen's


Name: M&Ms Snack Mix Salty & Sweet: Dark Chocolate
    RATING:
  • SUPERB
  • YUMMY
  • TASTY
  • WORTH IT
  • TEMPTING
  • PLEASANT
  • BENIGN
  • UNAPPEALING
  • APPALLING
  • INEDIBLE
Brand: Mars
Place Purchased: Walgreen's (Echo Park)
Price: $3.00 (on sale)
Size: 8 ounces
Calories per ounce: 132
Categories: Candy, Mars, Chocolate, Cookie, Kosher, M&Ms, Nuts, 7-Worth It, United States, Walgreen's

POSTED BY Cybele AT 2:24 pm     CandyReviewMarsChocolateCookieKosherM&MsNutsPeanuts5-Pleasant7-Worth ItUnited StatesWalgreen's

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Nestle Crunch Girl Scout Cookie Candy Bars: Peanut Butter & Caramel and Coconut

Nestle Crunch Girl Scout Cookie Candy BarsYesterday I reviewed the new, limited edition Nestle bars made in conjunction with the Girls Scouts. They’re based on popular flavors of the seasonal Girl Scout Cookies.

The trio of bars represent some pretty popular cookies and great candy bar combinations. The bars are pretty small, they consist of two small wafer based bars that clock in at a mere 1.3 ounces for the whole package. At regular price they were $1.19 each at CVS, though you may be able to find them on sale at some point. Nestle and the Girl Scouts have been trying to whip up a fervor over these bars, so be prepared that they’ll never come on sale or be hard to find. (Or not. They were just sitting on the candy shelf at CVS, probably a week before they were supposed to be out for regular folks to buy them, I’d heard that they were internet pre-order only plus a week of exclusive purchase at Dylan’s Candy Bar in New York City.)

Nestle Crunch Girl Scount Cookie Candy Bars

The bars are attractive and though the packaging is spare and kind of generic looking, it does a good job of protecting the bars themselves without out a lot of extras. The wrappers looked a bit like nutrition bars to me from a distance, and I almost didn’t notice them, but the line at the drug store was long, so I had plenty of time to stare at everything.

Nestle Crunch Girl Scout Cookie Caramel and CoconutThe Limited Edition Girl Scout Cookie Flavors: Crunch Caramel & Coconut is supposed to be, I believe, like the Samoas.

Samoas are a vanilla cookie base with coconut and caramel then a little series of mockolate stripes. I’ve had them a few times and found them to be a little too sweet and sticky for me, but definitely more on the side of candy than cookie.

DSC_9331rb

The description of the candy bar on the wrapper was: cookie wafers, coconut caramel creme and chewy caramel topped with toasted coconut. Notice in that description there’s no mention of chocolate, because there isn’t any here, just a mockolate coating, and then some other orange striped stuff on top of that.

The smell is disappointingly artificial. There’s a note of fake butter that overpowers the coconut scent almost entirely. The wafers are definitely crisp, but the creme filling is grainy and has more of the fake butter notes to it. I couldn’t finish the second bar. I had to sequester it in the trash in another room because the smell was driving me crazy.

I know that some folks are going to be obsessed with these, but I found them completely disappointing. The fake flavor, the lack of real chocolate, the use of useless artificial colors and simply missing an opportunity to satisfy.

Nestle Crunch Girl Scout Cookie Peanut Butter CremeThe Limited Edition Girl Scout Cookie Flavors: Peanut Butter Creme is based on the Tagalongs cookies. (For years I called them Tagalogs, some sort of a misreading where I thought they were inspired by a traditional Filipino peanut cookie, you know, because there were Samoas, I thought there was a series that was all themed for Pacific Islands.)

The package describes the candy bar as Cookie wafers and peanut butter creme topped with airy cripsies. Again, no mention of chocolate, that greasy coating on it because it’s not actually chocolate.

DSC_9324rb

This bar was particularly messy, unlike the others. It was simply soft and sticky, even though the ambient temperature was 70 degrees or so. The bar is very peanutty smelling, roasted and really appetizing. The wafers are thick and airy with a good crunch. The peanut butter creme is salty and the mockolate coating is thin enough and just barely sweet enough to make this a candy. Though the coating made this a little on the greasy side, they’re good. Much better than the Butterfinger Crunch Crisp bars, which also have that fake butter flavor.

Again, Q.Bel makes a much better quality Peanut Butter Wafer Bar, though it actually doesn’t have quite the same proportions or salty peanut butter oomph that this does. Trader Joe’s also has a peanut butter wafer crisp bar that’s a fraction of the cost of this (only $1.99 for 7 ounces instead of $1.19 for 1.3 ounces) and has none of the crazy additives and lackluster ingredients.

On the whole, I’m underwhelmed. I’m sure Nestle and the Girl Scouts are going to make out well with their social outreach programs and strong brand identities. Maybe I’m just too old for this, jaded or suspicious of these sorts of stunts.

Related Candies

  1. Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Covered Peanut Butter Wafer Cookies
  2. Oreo Bitter Bar (Japan)
  3. Christopher’s Good News
  4. Baby Ruth Crisp & Nestle Crisp Bars
  5. Q.Bel Crispy Wafer Bars
  6. ReeseSticks (Revisit)
  7. Take 5 Peanut Butter


Name: Crunch Caramel & Coconut
    RATING:
  • SUPERB
  • YUMMY
  • TASTY
  • WORTH IT
  • TEMPTING
  • PLEASANT
  • BENIGN
  • UNAPPEALING
  • APPALLING
  • INEDIBLE
Brand: Nestle
Place Purchased: CVS (Silver Lake)
Price: $1.19
Size: 1.3 ounces
Calories per ounce: 146
Categories: Candy, Nestle, Caramel, Coconut, Kosher, Limited Edition, Mockolate, 4-Benign, United States, Sav-On/CVS


Name: Crunch Peanut Butter Creme
    RATING:
  • SUPERB
  • YUMMY
  • TASTY
  • WORTH IT
  • TEMPTING
  • PLEASANT
  • BENIGN
  • UNAPPEALING
  • APPALLING
  • INEDIBLE
Brand: Nestle
Place Purchased: CVS (Silver Lake)
Price: $1.19
Size: 1.3 ounces
Calories per ounce: 146
Categories: Candy, Nestle, Cookie, Kosher, Limited Edition, Mockolate, Peanuts, 7-Worth It, United States, Sav-On/CVS

POSTED BY Cybele AT 4:22 pm     CandyReviewNestleCaramelCoconutCookieKosherLimited EditionMockolatePeanuts4-Benign7-Worth ItUnited StatesSav-On/CVSComments (2)

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Baron Milk Chocolate PB&Js

Baron PB&J'sLike many confectionery origin stories, this Baron Milk Chocolate PB&J’s bars started long ago in war time.

Commercial peanut butter began in the United States, where about 6-7% of the world’s peanuts are grown in any year. Peanut butter was used heavily during war years as a cheap and relatively stable protein source for soldiers. The story goes that soldiers during World War II would eat sandwiches on stale bread with peanut butter for weeks on end, and to moisten the bread they would add jelly or jam. It didn’t hurt that it also made it taste better as well. When the soldiers returned home, they introduced their families to this cheap and easy food.

It seems kind of strange that for the most part candies are either jelly and chocolate or peanut butter and chocolate. There really aren’t any successful mass-manufactured chocolate, peanut butter and jelly candies. Maybe this new bar, all the way from Poland, will change that.

Baron PB&J's

The bars are tiny, the box holds more than a half a dozen of them (8 to be exact), a little expensive for $1.99 but at least a unique item.

Each little bar is individually wrapped in a paper foil. The recommended serving size is three sticks, each is about 60 calories.

Baron PB&J's

The bars are a little on the soft side, they smell like roasted peanuts and chocolate milk. The peanut butter filling is sweet and a little sticky. On top of the peanut butter is a thin layer of jelly. In this case it’s grape and though it doesn’t have much of intensity, it’s a little pop of tangy, juicy flavor. The peanut butter isn’t so much a paste, it’s far sweeter and has less of a roasted, salty and savory punch. Think of it like peanut butter cookie dough, sweet and thick.

The proportions are a little off for me. I’d like more jam, more peanut butter, but I think that’d mean a larger bar in general. The petite size makes them ideal for a small treat and I think the mild flavor set would be good for smaller kids. The two integral parts here, the peanut butter and jelly just aren’t good enough. It should be really intense peanut butter and great, all natural grape jelly, not some high fructose corn sweetener flavored like grape.

These are made in Poland and have all sorts of allergen notices on the package: made with soy, dairy, peanuts plus traces of wheat, tree nuts and eggs.

Related Candies

  1. Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups
  2. Zingerman’s Zzang! Wowza Raspberry Bar
  3. Krowki: Polish Cream Fudge
  4. Madelaine Duets
  5. Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Powerberries
  6. Trader Joe’s PB & J Bar
  7. Sno-Caps, Goobers & Raisinets


Name: Milk Chocolate PB&J’s (Grape)
    RATING:
  • SUPERB
  • YUMMY
  • TASTY
  • WORTH IT
  • TEMPTING
  • PLEASANT
  • BENIGN
  • UNAPPEALING
  • APPALLING
  • INEDIBLE
Brand: European Chocolate Millano
Place Purchased: Walgreen's (Echo Park)
Price: $1.99
Size: 3.5 ounces
Calories per ounce: 127
Categories: Candy, Chocolate, Jelly Candy, Peanuts, 7-Worth It, Poland, Walgreen's

POSTED BY Cybele AT 8:47 am     CandyReviewChocolateJelly CandyPeanuts7-Worth ItPolandWalgreen'sComments (4)

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Route 1 Racer Bar

Aldi Route 1 RacerOne of the most popular candy bars in the country is the Snickers bar. This is not review of that.

Instead I’m testing a knock off version, presented by Aldi, the German grocery chain under their house brand Route 1.

The Route 1 Racer Bar comes in a well priced bag of nearly 10 ounces (9.8) fun sized bars for only $1.79.

Aldi Route 1 Racer

The little bars smell good, like milky chocolate and roasted peanuts. They’re small bars, smaller than the Romeo and clock in at about .70 ounces and about 110 calories. The size is still a nice portion, and two make a good treat.

Aldi Route 1 Racer

The construction of the bar is just as you’d anticipate for a Snickers knock off. There’s a nougat base, which has a light peanut butter flavor to it then a caramel over that studded with peanuts. The whole thing is covered with a very thin coating of chocolate.

Aldi Route 1 Racer & Snickers 3X Chocolate
(Racer Bar compared to Snickers 3X Chocolate for ratios)

The textures were great, though the ratio of chocolate was a bit lacking. I didn’t miss it though, because it really wasn’t that good. It was more a toffee milk flavor than chocolate. The flavors though, well, sometimes they were what I’d call good. But there were bad peanuts. The photo of the first bar with a bite up there, that was a bad peanut, like spit it out bad. And I accept that when using a natural ingredient that there will be bad peanuts, but then I got another. I’ve eaten seven of these little bars and two had bad peanuts. The flavor of the peanuts is a little more grassy than I’m accustomed to, which leads me to believe they may not be American peanuts.

This is the first product I’ve bought at Aldi that I’ve been truly disappointed about. I doubt I’ll finish the bag, and I doubt that folks who come grazing for candy in my office will be interested in them. I’ll stick to Snickers, even if it is twice the price.



Name: Racer Bar
    RATING:
  • SUPERB
  • YUMMY
  • TASTY
  • WORTH IT
  • TEMPTING
  • PLEASANT
  • BENIGN
  • UNAPPEALING
  • APPALLING
  • INEDIBLE
Brand: Aldi
Place Purchased: Aldi (Camp Hill, PA)
Price: $1.79
Size: 9.8 ounces
Calories per ounce: 149
Categories: Candy, Aldi, Caramel, Chocolate, Nougat, Peanuts, 5-Pleasant, Germany

POSTED BY Cybele AT 3:46 pm     CandyReviewAldiCaramelChocolateNougatPeanuts5-PleasantGermanyComments (3)

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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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ON DECK

These candies will be reviewed shortly:

• Eat with your Eyes: Nougat

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