Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Go big or go home is kind of a mantra in the snack world. Bigger, bolder, stronger, faster, louder, saltier, fattier, sweeter, higher, longer, brassier, sourer and crunchier all grab market share. They draw our attention because we seek novelty and claiming to be the mostest of something is, well, at least some kind of claim. Things like taste, satisfaction or quality are irrelevant.
So that brings me to the World’s Largest Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. It looks like an amped up version of the regular package. Same proportions, just bigger.
Hershey’s has been making variations on the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup for over 50 years. Big Cups, Miniatures ... shapes for different holidays like the Eggs, Trees and Pumpkins. (And of course all the other flavors, chocolate coatings & inclusions.) But this, is obviously different.
The package is 10.5 inches long and 5 inches wide. Inside are two peanut butter cups, each is 8 ounces. So for $9.99 at CVS I was able to buy a pound of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. (Actually, a careful shopper would just buy the 40 ounce “Club Size” bag of miniatures for about $8.99.)
Inside the wrapper is a white paperboard tray that holds the two cups. The cups themselves differ from their un-endowed originals in that they are not contained by a brown fluted paper cup. These are structurally coherent enough to need no containers. (Though they still have the classic fluted sides.)
They’re 4” around on the top and 3” around at the base. As you can already imagine there are some strange proportions at work here when dealing with gigantism. In order to structurally contain the peanut butter I found that they’d fortified the chocolate. I tried biting one but found that the sides and corners were quite thick milk chocolate. Almost a half an inch thick in some places.
It’s really not a product for nibbling on. (Mostly because I simply don’t just munch on pieces of candy that weigh a half a pound. Like giant chocolate Easter rabbits, there’s a sanitary issue.)
This violates one of my primary rules of candy, which is that it requires some sort of tool. In this case it’s a knife to portion it. Most large chocolate bars are scored and can be broken into pieces. There is no other way to eat this other than huge bites ... which pretty much means you’re not sharing or you’re intimate enough with the other folks or so wasted you don’t care.
When sliced though, I have to say it’s rather charming. The triangles are like little slices of pie. Since each cup is 8 ounces, it’s easy to score it into 1 ounce slices ... or just quarter it for hefty 2 ounce pieces. Technically the nutritional panel suggests that a single serving is 1/6th of a cup, but I’ve always found cutting things into sixths harder than quarters/eighths.
The chocolate tastes much sweeter and slightly cool on the tongue than I get from a regular Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. The center peanut butter filling is dry and crumbly with a good salty note and only slightly sweet component.
My issue ultimately that there’s a lot of chocolate surrounding a large bulk of peanut butter. In the end I ate the top & bottom of the slice as well as the dense and grainy peanut butter filling but couldn’t bring myself to eat the super-sweet edge crust of chocolate.
I admit it’s a fun novelty and kind of a no-brainer inexpensive gift for a Reese’s Peanut Butter lover. I see it as a great option for social events, but hard to present as a “real” Reese’s peanut butter cup, since there’s no branding on it. (Maybe a disk to serve it on.)
In the end though it’s no replacement for the tried and true classic. So all it really does in the end is prove that the regular cups are ideal.
From the reports from the dear readers who alerted me to this monstrosity, they seem to be exclusive to CVS ... anyone else see them? (I’m hoping they’ll stick around for Christmas, as I think they’re a fun gag gift that’s actually functional.)
UPDATE December 2010: These are now in much wider distribution. I’ve seen them at 7-11 (for $12.99, I think) plus Target has them along with one pound Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bars.
Wednesday, October 07, 2009
Every once in a while a limited edition comes back. This one, the Reese’s Peanut Butter Lovers Cups, came out in 2005 along with its companion, the Reese’s Chocolate Lovers Cups. I spotted them again in stores a few weeks ago and picked them up on sale at Walgreen’s over the weekend.
The package is more peanutty looking than the traditional bright orange wrappers. It was easy to spot on the shelves as a different variety. Unlike some limited edition varieties that other candy companies make, this is a full sized version of the original - the same 1.5 ounces (.75 ounces per cup). Yes, it’s true that Reese’s Cups have gotten smaller over the years. Brad Kent has the 1.6 ounce wrapper from 1997 and the change made sometime circa 2003 based on Mike’s Candy Wrappers.
I don’t think I tried these the first time they came around, as I think that the regular ratios of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups are ideal. When I opened the package I was wondering if there was any chocolate at all ... even though it said Milk Chocolate right at the top.
Once I pulled the brown fluted paper off the cup I understood the construction. There is a milk chocolate container which is filled with the Reese’s peanut butter center and that’s capped with a peanut butter candy coating.
The cup has a soft bite, slightly crumbly. It’s definitely all about the peanut butter. The chocolate base provides a little cool & creamy sweetness but very little in the way of cocoa notes. The dry and salty peanut butter center has that inimitable texture and roasted peanut flavor. I found it to be much saltier, so I looked around for sodium content for the original and found that has 130 mg per package and this limited edition version has 170 mg. (Just a note, I think everything is salty these days ... my otherwise healthy diet is rather low in sodium.) However, it does have 6 grams of protein versus 4 grams in the classic. More peanut butter means more protein and actual less fat & fewer calories ... a whole 10 fewer calories.
I enjoyed these, and certainly had no trouble finishing the package. But given the choice I’m either going to go for the regular cups or the minis (I don’t think I’m going to touch the once perfect eggs now that they’ve gone mockolate).
Wednesday, May 06, 2009
The Reese’s Select line has finally expanded beyond the initial offering of the Reese’s Select Cluster which launched in early 2008.
I spotted these new Reese’s Select Peanut Butter Cremes at Target over the weekend. They sport no banner that says “new” but they certainly weren’t there last month.
The 8 ounce bag is long and sturdy and kind of oddly puffed up. I assumed this was to protect the candy inside from getting smashed. (And air is pretty cost effective.) Inside are approximately 18 little individually wrapped pieces.
The pieces are about 1.5” inches square, slightly domed (a full 1 inch high). They have a little R medallion molded on the top for Reese’s.
I had a little trouble with the integrity of a few pieces. I thought I chose my bag well and was careful bringing it home, yet two of the pieces that I ate (I consumed about half the package) were smashed completely.
Aside from that, the little individual wrappers are sturdy and feature full ingredients info (many individually wrapped Hershey’s items do not).
The little pieces smell of sweet peanut butter.
The bite is interesting, the chocolate shell, though soft, is thick enough to give a big burst of chocolate texture and slight dairy taste immediately. The melt is smooth and rather silky. The center is not at all like a meltaway - this is a full on gooey cream. (Spreadable like room temperature butter.)
At first I was taken aback because I found it extremely salty. But it did balance the sweet milk chocolate well. The texture combination and the rounded flavors gives these pieces well earned decadence points.
In case you were curious, the ingredients are:
The sodium content isn’t as extreme as it tastes. It’s 95 mg for 36 gram serving, which is actually less proportionally than regular Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.
These are not made in Mexico, like the Clusters, and these are also Kosher.
Overall, an interesting addition to the Reese’s line, a smoother melt and much higher quality than I expected. I enjoyed them quite a bit, and found that everyone else in the office did. Perhaps an 8 ounce bag isn’t big enough?
Monday, May 04, 2009
The Dark Chocolate Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups have finally returned as a regular product (teased here in CandyForums.net).
Dark chocolate Reese’s come and go from Hershey’s. Last summer they were a limited edition product as a tie in with the Batman: The Dark Knight movie.
The new package design is different enough that I was able to spot them from the next checkout aisle at Target (though I definitely have candy-vision) on Saturday.
I have to say that the wrapper is rather spare, though bold. As someone who has to look at design pretty often in her day job, I wasn’t really pleased with the mix of fonts. (The script logo, the italic san serif “dark chocolate” and then the regular san serif of the “2 peanut butter cups” and weight info ... but then the use of black outline on white in a serif font for “dark” feels like an afterthought.)
But enough of this judging a book by its cover. It’s what’s inside that matters, right?
So what does the package say is inside?
Okay, so it’s not really dark chocolate, it’s dark chocolate with some milk fats ... not that big of a deal. It’s pretty common in mass-marketed semi sweet chocolate candies.
The encouraging part is that these cups are full sized. When Mars makes a limited edition or dark chocolate version of a milk chocolate product, they have a tendency to make it smaller. This package is 1.5 ounces, the standard these days for Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup two packs.
Each 3/4 of an ounce cup is lovely to behold. Satiny smooth with lightly fluted sides. It may be that these were fresh (as it’s a new product) but there was no little oily pool on the top of the chocolate.
They smell very dark - like deeply roasted nuts and woodsy charcoal.
Like most other Reese’s products, the chocolate is a very soft bite. The dark chocolate, though it lists sugar as the first ingredient, is not at all sweet. The first impression I get is bitterness - a nutty toasted bitterness that goes well with the deep peanut flavors.
The salty hit from the crumbly & grainy peanut butter went well against the creamy chocolate. It has a nice melt without the fudgy grain that the classic milk chocolate has.
Overall, this is a winner. I can see craving these in the evening (I usually don’t want super-sweet after dinner) and keeping the Reese’s Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups for daylight hours (afternoon pick-me-up).
They also come in the little foil-wrapped miniatures, but Target didn’t seem to have those in stock yet. If you’ve tried though (they were also available about three years ago), let me know how they are.
Thursday, March 26, 2009
It’s not often that I’ll stop my fast forward through commercials to watch something. I definitely did when I saw the Reese’s: Perfectly Easter advertisement.
I’m not only a huge critic of candy (because I love it so), I’m also rather fond of breaking down advertising, but I’ll save that for another time.
The important takeaway I got on that advert was that Spring is in the Air and Reese’s Eggs are a chocolate covered peanut butter product.
Candy Blog reader, Peloria, has been wonderfully helpful in helping me track down these two versions by leaving comments on my original review of the perfect Reese’s Peanut Butter Eggs (2006 version). I got a hold of eggs for 2009 from three stores with two different wrappers. For the most part single Reese’s Eggs are sold with the package that doesn’t say that they’re milk chocolate. But I also found the six pack that says Milk Chocolate above the Reese’s logo.
The classic Reese’s Peanut Butter Egg ingredients were (2005 source):
The current 2009 ingredients:
For reference, the standard Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup ingredients are (in 2009):
There are a few changes there, but nothing that definitively says that these aren’t a real chocolate product any longer. But they’re different enough to change the nutritional profile. There’s more salt (they’ve gone from 140mg to 150mg), and 11 grams of fat now instead of 10.
So I tasted them (after all, at this point I had 9 of them). The chocolate coating looked a bit chalky, not glossy (and some looked a little swirly and uneven in color). They’re soft and the peanut butter overwhelms any chocolate flavor anyway. The peanut butter center is crumbly and nutty, not completely smooth but not crunchy, just a little more rustic than the stuff in a jar. Salty, sweet and satisfying. The chocolate coating feels cool on the tongue and seems to melt pretty well, but it also melts in my fingers pretty quickly too. It’s a good time these come along in the spring because they’d never make it in a Los Angeles summer.
I’m not sure why Hershey’s has removed the Milk Chocolate part from some wrappers, I fear it’s because they’re planning something for next year ... kind of easing us into crappy candy instead of a sharp shift that causes an uproar like the true & mockolate Kissables being on the shelves at the same time. I still consider them a winner. The prices appear to have gone up. I got the six pack for $2 on sale, but buying the individual ones, the best sale I could find was 75 cents each.
Hershey’s has a bunch of other candies for Easter in the Reese’s line, too. There are Fudge Covered Reese’s Peanut Butter Eggs and Reester Bunnies, which are just a molded version of the RPBC in various sizes. They’re more chocolate than peanut butter. Then there are the Foil Eggs, the Reese’s Pieces Eggs (in beautiful pastels),
Then there’s this strange monstrosity which is also called Milk Chocolate Reese’s Peanut Butter Egg but unlike the 1.2 ounce version, this one is molded. It’s also 6 ounces (so five times as big but twice the price per ounce).
The box is ridiculously oversized for the product - it’s 6.5 inches long. The egg itself is 4.5 inches long, 1.5 inches high and 3 inches wide at the broadest part. That means one inch of space on all sides ... feels like more than just protection, feels like a bit of fakery. (Though it’s easy to see the entirety of the product through the cellophane window.)
The ingredients are pretty much the same as the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup - erring on the chocolate as the first ingredient, not peanuts.
I get the sense that these are supposed to be like those deluxe slicing candy eggs that have always puzzled me. Candy, in my opinion, doesn’t need any serving implements. It’s meant to be eaten with the fingers and needs no preparation or tools. Either I bite into this one and eat it all by myself, of I slice it up. Which I did.
Looking at the slices there, I think you can tell that this is not the same center as the 1.2 ounce egg ... it looks and feels a bit oilier (which is not a bad thing, just a different thing).
The interesting experience with these slices is that the amount of chocolate shell varies so much depending on where the slice comes from. The ends, of course, are mostly chocolate. But even in a center slice, the chocolate shell is especially thick, much thicker than any cup I’ve ever had from Reese’s, as thick as a regular Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bar.
The chocolate flavor was completely lost on this product, it tasted like peanut butter fudge, though it was pretty smooth and sweet with a slight milky flavor to it. The peanut butter center was stellar. It was relatively solid, had the crumbly texture and didn’t taste as sweet as the regular eggs. I liked the clear distinction between the chocolate shell here and the peanut butter filling, instead of the unclear margins in the smaller egg. But sometimes the chocolate had a coconut flavor to it that I can’t quite explain nor say that I cared much for.
However, the silly over-packaging and price tag would certainly keep me from buying these ever again. But if you’re looking for something for a peanut butter obsessed person’s Easter basket instead of a pile of the small eggs or the standby bunny, it might be fun. Portion control was a lot easier than I thought, I sliced up rather logically into five pieces, though I can’t be sure that they were actually the same weight. The package says that it serves four (which means each serving is more than a single regular egg).
I feel like downgrading the 1.2 ounce Reese’s Eggs to a 9 out of 10, but maybe that’s an emotional response, a response out of fear, not one based on my actual tasting (though there was some throat burning from the sweetness I don’t remember from the past). As for the giganto one, it’s not something I appreciate, though I guess it’s okay. I give it a 7 out of 10.
UPDATE 3/30/2009: Thanks to Peloria’s continued documentation, I kept looking for these other non-milk chocolate labeled eggs. I finally found them at the 99 Cent Only Store near my house. The packages were 2 for a dollar.
Sure enough the ingredients indicated that they’re really not chocolate (I know, the photo looks like all the other photos, but trust me, this is what the reverse says):
Peanuts, sugar, dextrose, vegetable oil (cocoa butter, palm, shea, sunflower and/or safflower oil), chocolate, nonfat milk, contains 2% or less of milk fat, lactose, salt, whey, partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, corn syrup, soy lecithin, cornstarch, glycerin, TGHQ & PGPR, vanillin.
They look a little flatter than the milk chocolate eggs (labeled or not). As for the taste, well, this one seemed really salty to me, but maybe that’s what happens when I have peanut butter eggs for breakfast. (Hey, eggs are a breakfast food!)
The mockolate coating wasn’t bad, it wasn’t any worse looking than the current eggs. It has a similar melt and cool feeling on the tongue, it’s sweet but I didn’t taste any milky component to it.
I still don’t know what’s going on. I don’t know why they’ve have both on the market at the same time, why they’d make two versions and ruin something that was perfectly good and perfect. As for the ruining part, well, they’re not that bad but I’m not fond of eating palm oil when I could be eating cocoa butter.
Thursday, March 12, 2009
I faithfully photographed the first package, but then ate them.
The second one, well, that was a King Sized version that I didn’t photograph, but then ate and realized that the proportions were different.
Then yesterday I was browsing my local 99 Cent Stores (yes, two of them, as they are less than a block apart and carry different stuff), I saw boxes and boxes of these. Since the expiration says 9K (November 2009), I figured they were well worth the 39 cents just so I could get these off my chest.
Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups made with crunchy peanut butter are not new. I remember them from the 90s and found this wrapper on Brad Kent’s site. Apparently they were also available in Canada, according to this wrapper on Mike’s Candy Bar Wrappers. This version is not to be confused with the Limited Edition Reese’s Big Cup with Nuts, which had whole nuts, not crushed ones.
They look, pretty much, like regular Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. Fresh and nutty smelling, the tops were pristine on my most recent purchase (no oily puddles).
The chocolate is sweet and cool on the tongue, the peanut butter is immediately salty. The texture is the same as the regular cups except there are some big chunks of peanuts mixed in.
Most peanut butters are offered as either smooth or chunky, so it’s a natural evolution that Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups would come that way as well.
I liked these, I think they should be a regular item, but at the moment, if you have a 99 Cent Only Store the price is pretty darn good for fresh product. When those are gone, we can just wait for yet another limited edition or seasonal introduction. (I am kind of curious to try this crunchy style with the Easter favorite, the Egg.)
Side note: I saw a oodles of the now hard-to-find Reese’s Bars at the Fairfax & 6th 99 Cent Store.
Tuesday, October 07, 2008
A few keen eyed readers and Candy Forums friends spotted the new Reese’s Bar. (I’m not sure what this is actually called. The wrapper says: Milk Chocolate Reese’s filled with Reese’s Peanut Butter. But that sounds infinitely silly and doesn’t even include that it’s a bar and not a cup.)
I’ve only seen it so far in a 4.5 ounce size and only at Walgreen’s. But it was on sale for $1.00 and has disappeared in the weeks since I purchased it.
It was easy to spot what with the Reese’s orange wrapper.
The ingredients list is incredibly long:
The bar is attractive and thick. Each lightly rounded section holds a portion of crumbly yet smooth Reese’s Peanut Butter filling.
What’s clearly evident about this bar is that it’s all about chocolate and less about the peanut butter than the traditional cups.
I usually prefer the high ratio of peanut butter such as the Reese’s Eggs around Easter, but for those looking for the opposite end of the spectrum, this is an interesting flip.
The difference in ratios aside, this bar is far harder to eat and share though certainly a good value.
What confused me most about this bar was that Hershey’s already has a peanut butter filled bar. I’ve even reviewed it.
It looks pretty much the same - 4.5 ounces and the same number of sections. Really the only difference in looking at them is that this bar says Hershey’s on top of each section instead of Reese’s.
But it is different. The center here is smoother and a bit stickier and perhaps even saltier.
The ingredients list is shorter by about a third:
I questioned the purpose of this bar the first time I tried it and why it was under the Hershey’s label and not Reese’s. I don’t know if both bars will continue to co-exist but if they have a limited number of slots I’d recommend dumping them both and concentrating on the quality of their core products. It’s not that it’s bad, but it’s just superfluous.
Some Reese’s products are gluten free, but this one lists wheat in the ingredients.
Friday, September 19, 2008
I went on a strange little odyssey. It all started with an interview I was prepping for with NBC’s Today show. Hershey’s was changing some of their products, swapping out real milk chocolate for coatings that used other oils instead of the native cocoa butter in chocolate.
I gathered up all the products I could find, including the ReeseSticks (previous review here). I found the single serve package at the drug store, but it was expired and I didn’t think that was fair, so I found this Reese’s Lovers Assortment (photo here) at CVS’s freshly stocked Halloween aisle. I found exactly what I wanted ... but I was a little surprised because the front of the package said that the ReeseSticks were crispy wafers | peanut butter | milk chocolate.
Well, that didn’t match what I had. This is happy news, right? The milk chocolate is back!
But when I opened up my Reese’s Lovers Assortment I was more than disappointed. The little single finger packages of ReeseSticks were quite clear, they said only crispy wafers | peanut butter. What are they pulling?
Well, I’ve already bought them, so I may as well try them and add them to my list of re-reviewed items.
Flipping over the bag, they do list all the ingredients for the products separately and though the front and both sides of the package mention milk chocolate, the ingredients tell the full story:
The old ingredients (courtesy of Mike’s Candy Wrappers) from 2003:
The little sticks in the assortment are a little smaller than the regular twin pack. These are .6 ounces each, but are still pretty substantial feeling.
The possibly-chocolate coating (well, the ingredients say that there may be cocoa butter in there and no other oils) looks pretty good, a little greasy but a nice medium color. It smells like peanuts and Easter grass. Sweet and artificial and, well, comforting.
Unless chilled the coating was pretty soft and sticky. The crunch of the foamy and flavorless wafers allowed the peanut butter to come through. Without much chocolate flavor, these reminded me of Peanut Butter Cap’n Crunch, without all the sharp mouth-wounding bits. It’s pretty salty though, saltier than I would like. (135 mgs in a current twin pack versus 110 mgs in the original one.)
Overall, I prefer the memory of the real chocolate one - less salty and I recall it having some chocolate flavor input. I don’t like ingredients lists that tell me what might be in there in there. I don’t want to eat palm oil, I want cocoa butter. But it’s still a pretty good candy product and not as noticeable a change as the Kissables.
Final note: Though the package deceptively promised me milk chocolate in my ReeseSticks, it also said that the Fast Break was not real chocolate on the outside ... but on the inside and the reverse of the package it was.
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