Wednesday, April 28, 2010
As with many sour iterations of popular products the package went for yellow and green, the seemingly universal colors of tartness.
The package design is cute. In this case the blue Dots logo dominates to give cohesion with the other boxes on the shelf (currently I’ve been seeing classic Dots, Yogurt Dots and Tropical). The little Dots themselves are depicted in each of the five colors with puckery faces. They’re called The Dot that bites back!
The flavor assortment is middle of the road, though not just a sour dusted version of the regular fruit Dots (which come in Strawberry, Cherry, Lemon, Lime & Orange), these are Grape, Orange, Lemon, Green Apple and Cherry
The Dots are a traditional smooth jelly center with a sour coating that includes citric acid and malic acid. Dots boxes are wrapped in cellophane so they’re soft and fresh.
The sour coating is definitely tart, the kind of sour that makes the back of my jaw tingle.
Grape - very sour and quite artificial but ultimately a chewy gum drop version of Pixy Stix.
Orange - so sour it’s almost salty at first, but the zesty notes of the gum drop give this a flavor depth that few other sour citrus candies have.
Lemon - really more like lemon peel than lemon juice, it’s fresh, bitter and tangy all at once. It really gave the feeling of those shaken lemonades from the fair.
Green Apple - not quite a Jolly Rancher, it’s far too tart. It’s more than just the chemical green apple, there is a hint of apple juice in there.
Cherry - this one was simply caustic. The cherry flavors were artificial and buried beneath the sourness, it was like fruity/woodsy toilet cleaner. I do admit that the cherry notes, once the sour is gone are rather deep, but still not my thing.
The smooth gum drop centers set these apart from other sour dusted jelly candies like Sour Patch Kids. They’re chewy, but kind of a slick smoothness that the others don’t have, there’s no graininess after the sour sanding dissipates. They don’t even stick to the teeth in the quite the same way as regular Dots. They’re a great value for only a dollar and some nice deep flavors. I found myself avoiding the cherry and green apple, but I’m sure that I could find friends (or husbands) to share those with.
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Yesterday I reviewed the new Necco Clark Bar with real milk chocolate and the Necco Clark Dark Bar with real dark chocolate. At the time I also purchased and compared the two other nationally available chocolatey peanut butter crunch bars: Nestle Butterfinger and Hershey’s 5th Avenue.
The bars are all roughly the same size and barring any sales, the same price. All are nationally available, and though Clark used to be hard to find, all of the bars here were purchased at RiteAid, a national drug store chain. Honestly, there are probably two main reasons to chose one over the other: flavor preference and ingredients.
The ingredients and concepts are very similar. A crunchy layered peanut butter crunch log is enrobed with chocolate or mockolate.
Necco Clark Bar (introduced by D.L. Clark in 1916-1917)
Noticeable molasses flavor, fresh roasted nuts but not overly salty. The texture varies from bar to bar, some are more hard-candy-like and others have a more crumbly layering with stronger peanut butter notes.
Nestle Butterfinger (introduced by Curtiss in 1923)
The center, when compared to the others, is obviously artificially colored. The scent of the bar is overtly “buttery” but without any real source. The coating is chalky looking and matte, without any ripples or variations. The crunch of the center is dense, though there are layers it’s a tightly wrapped bar. This gives it a density and satisfying weight. The mockolate coating is dreadful and the worst part of the bar. Salty and butter-flavored center has a good peanut butter flavor that at least covers the watery cocoa flavors of the outside.
Hershey’s 5th Avenue (introduced by Luden’s in 1936)
In earlier versions of the bar it was real milk chocolate and there were several almonds on top of the peanut butter center under the chocolate coating. The change over to a high-quality mockolate was about 4 years ago. The center of the 5th Avenue is by far the one I prefer. It’s like a bundle of spiky peanut butter crunch needles. They melt in your mouth with a burst of molasses, peanut butter and salty flavors. The mockolate is actually pretty good, though often very soft and pasty. The chocolate flavor of it is well rounded and the texture, though fudgy, is smooth.
If it were still in its original formulation, the 5th Avenue might still be the #1 bar for me. But given Clark’s new all natural and real ingredients, I have to go with the Clark Bar Dark and then the Clark Bar. Butterfinger comes in a distant #3 (or #4 if we’re using both Clark bars).
Monday, April 19, 2010
Necco is re-evaluating much of their classic candy line. It started with the Necco Wafers, which went to all natural ingredients last year. Then early this year Sweetheart fans were in for a shock when they went for more intense flavors and colors. The newest development is for a product that isn’t what Necco is known for, candy bars. The Clark Bar is now all natural and uses real chocolate.
The new Clark bar now has no preservatives, no artificial flavors or colors and most importantly, they use real chocolate to coat the crunchy molasses and peanut butter center. They’ve also created a dark chocolate version.
The Clark Bar was introduced around 1916-1917 by D.L. Clark of Pittsburgh who already had a thriving candy business, but needed something in bar form, especially for soldiers that had lots of portable energy. Like many candies created during wartime, this one stuck around after when the veterans sought out the familiar and satisfying flavors. The candy company made many different kinds of bars over the years but the only other to survive to the present is Zagnut (now made by Hershey’s).
In 1955 the Clark family sold the business to Beatrice Foods. In 1983 Beatrice foods spun off their confectionery division to Leaf. However, Leaf ran afoul of the locals when they wanted to move the candy factory so they sold it the local Pittsburgh Food and Beverage Company in 1991 (along with Slo Pokes & Black Cows which were part of the Holloway company before being bought up by Beatrice along with a separate deal for Iron City Beer). I lived in Pittsburgh at the time, this was huge news. What happened after that was more than mismanagement or miscalculation, it was a fraud worthy of a feature film. Finally Necco swooped in 1999 to rescue the closed factory and abandoned bar.
Throughout the years and many owners the Clark bar has changed. While I can’t say that new formula is a return to the original, it’s certainly on paper an improvement over the others from my lifetime.
For those of you not as obsessed about these sorts of things, skip on down to the present day Clark Bar photo area for the current review.
Ingredients in the 1950s (source) - made by D.L. Clark
Ingredients in the 1970s (source) - made by D.L. Clark a division of Beatrice Foods Co.
Ingredients in the 1980s (source) - made by Switzer Clark, division of Leaf, Inc.
Ingredients in the 1990s (source) - made by D.L. Clark and Clark Bar America
Ingredients in the 2000s (source) - Made by Necco
Ingredients in 2010 (from the wrapper) - Made by Necco
It certainly sounds like Necco has reverted to a more wholesome recipe. But all the marketing in the world is no good if the product is inferior.
The first change is the wrapper, it’s bold and masculine; it reminds me more of Matchbox cars than candy. The second is the size. The previous version of the bar was 1.75 ounces, and now it’s 2.1 ounces. This not only puts it on par with other candy bars of its type (Butterfinger is also 2.1 ounces) but also edges out bars like Snickers.
The bar his handsome with a beautifully rippled chocolate coating. The plank is substantial at 5.5 inches long and 1.5 inches wide. It smells sweet and peanutty, just what I like in my crunchy molasses peanut butter bars. The crunch is great, mostly flaky and easy to chew without sticking to my teeth or descending into taffy. It’s buttery without being greasy. It’s a little salty without being savory.
There were hints of smoke sometimes in the bars that I didn’t care for, I wasn’t sure what that was. But they were definitely fresh, no hint of rancid or off peanut oil flavors. The milk chocolate did an excellent job here of pulling it together with a creamy texture. The cocoa flavors weren’t intense, but felt kind of like “I’m having chocolate milk with my peanut butter sandwich.”
The Clark Dark Bar has similar ingredients, in this case the dark chocolate is called Sweet Chocolate. It lists sugar, chocolate liquor, cocoa butter, butter oil, soy lecithin and vanilla extract. It’s really too bad about that butter oil in there, otherwise this would be an excellent vegan bar - maybe if enough folks write in they would change. The one thing I noticed though that was refreshing was that the weight of the dark bar is the same as the milk chocolate one. In most other milk/dark duets the dark is lighter (Snickers Dark, Special Dark, M&Ms Dark).
The dark chocolate is sweet, and without the milk to mellow it out, it’s noticeable. The good thing is that there’s a light bitterness to it that hooks into the molasses and earthy roasted peanut flavors. I preferred the Dark version ultimately.
The texture of the bars varies as I’ve found with most candies of this type. Sometimes the center was flaky and nicely layered, but at least one (the milk one in the close up) was a little less layered and more hard-candy solid. The flavor profile remains the same. The molasses and peanut butter flavors go well together. It’s a deeply flavored bar with sweet and salt, smoke and toasted sugar all backed up by the rib-sticking satisfaction of peanuts.
Read more about the history of the Zagnut from the Bewildered Brit.
Friday, April 2, 2010
They’re also crazy cheap, most of the time a theater box like this that holds 7 ounces is just a buck. When I looked at the flavors on this box I was a little confused about what made these an Easter version besides the box (Mike and Ike come in holiday boxes that are the exact same candy). The flavors are Blueberry, Lemon, Lime, Cherry and Orange. The flavors of the classic Dots box are Strawberry, Lemon, Lime, Cherry and Orange. So in this version the Strawberry has been swapped for Blueberry.
These were very fresh. Tootsie does a good job of sealing up the boxes well and Dots have a clear cellophane overwrap.
Once I opened the box I found out the big difference, it’s the color. Easter Dots are bright and opaque little nubbins.
Well, maybe there was another difference. These seem to be just as smooth but have a “shorter” chew to them, so they didn’t stick to my teeth like Dots usually do. I liked the freshness of the flavors, though it’s a little bland it’s also soothing. The blueberry was pretty convincing though I wish that one replaced the cherry instead of the strawberry.
Rating: 6 out of 10
Divine Milk Chocolate Speckled Eggs are all natural and fair trade milk chocolate eggs with a candy shell.
They’re freakishly expensive at $4.99 for 3.5 ounces, far more than I’d be willing to pay on a regular basis. I really only bought them because I’d been searching so hard for them it seemed weird to find them and then get decide they were too expensive. The chocolate is made from beans from the Kuapa Kokoo cocoa cooperative in Ghana. Seems like Easter is one of those holidays where folks may want to pay more attention to the social responsibility behind the treats.
The stand up box is charming. Inside is a little clear cellophane bag with a little more than a handful of eggs.
They’re very similar to Cadbury Mini Eggs. The shape is more football than pear. They beautiful muted colors and a matte finish.
The shell is smooth and softly decorated. The shell is quite thick and crunchy. The chocolate inside has a silky melt, a little sticky with a good caramelized dairy note. I liked them a lot and will probably buy them again next year. Hopefully they can be found in larger packages for better value. (Also, Whole Foods could do a better job of putting them where people can find them. I went to three different stores and it wasn’t until the fourth circuit of the one at 3rd & Fairfax that I found them - even after asking a stockperson.)
Rating: 7 out of 10
I liked the box a lot, it was easy to tell apart from the regular Sour Patch offerings. The only quibble is really the packaging. Like many theater box candies, inside the box the candy is inside a plain cellophane bag. As I mentioned above, the Dots are just tumbling around in the box and there’s a cellophane seal on the outside. For this version I have to open the box top completely to get the bag out, dump the candy into the box and then I’m faced with an opening that is really too large for dispensing.
They’re a little lighter in color compared to the Sour Patch Kids. Honestly, I prefer this. They’re colored enough that I can tell them apart and guess the flavor and that’s really all I need. Other than that, the shape was so vague, unless you told me these were bunnies I wouldn’t have known. Pink is the classic Swedish Fish flavor with a tangy coating. Green is lime, yellow is lemon and orange is orange. A biting sour coating, a chewy sweet jelly candy in the center ... they’re great.
Rating: 7 out of 10
The rabbit is similar to the white chocolate one I tried last year (and didn’t like that much, so I wonder why I was curious about this one). It’s a peanut butter coating (like peanut butter baking chips) with a peanut butter filling.
The three ounce flat rabbit is nicely molded. The butterscotch color is also really appealing. It smells like vanilla pudding and peanut butter. The coating though is a bit waxy and stiff, it melts but not in a dreamy way that good white chocolate does. But it’s not too sweet, which is a relief as well. The filling is a crumbly peanut butter with a salty note and a dry grainy crunch. I kind of got into it. I’d prefer it in a smaller format though, maybe one of the smaller eggs they do.
Rating: 6 out of 10.
They’re only 99 cents for a generous 9 ounce bag. Even at that bargain price, they’re not much of a deal. They’re pretty enough to look at and probably decorate with, but they’re inconsistent in flavor and execution. I also resent not knowing what’s inside. It’s not like the bag is tiny and has no room for information like the flavor array.
White is pineapple. It’s sweet and floral but bland. Green is lime and rather strong but lacking zest. Purple is grape and is utterly stupid ... seriously, it tastes like sweet stupidity. Black is licorice. All of the black ones seemed to be smaller than the other jelly beans. Still, they were tasty and well done. Pink is bitter and just dreadful. Perhaps it’s strawberry. Red is not as bitter but still dreadful. Orange is sweet and empty. Finally there’s yellow, which is actually pretty good, it’s like a sugared lemon peel.
Rating: 4 out of 10
I was hoping for rich flavors, but of course I know Brach’s well enough that I really won’t be getting much more than a decent looking product. The bag doesn’t promise much more than a good value, so I should probably adjust my expectations.
Red is a mild cinnamon, not as good as Hot Tamales and kind of tinged with some of the mint notes, but still pleasant like a cup of spiced chai. White is peppermint. I have to say that a peppermint jelly bean is a little odd especially since it’s so grainy but still fresh tasting. Pink is wintergreen which I really love except when there’s too much food dye like this one that has a weird bitter clove & plastic aftertaste - but at moments it’s kind of like root beer. Purple is clove and is actually mild enough for me to enjoy though true clove lovers will probably be disappointed. Orange is sweet and again lacking in any pizazz. Black is again licorice and pretty good (though it makes my tongue dark green).
I think the problem is that I’ve already had some pretty good spice jelly beans from Hot Tamales (Just Born) and there’s really no need to switch brands, the price is comparable, availability is the only issue.
Rating: 5 out of 10
POSTED BY Cybele AT 1:17 pm All Natural • Candy • Review • Easter • Brach's • Cadbury • Divine Chocolate • Farley's & Sathers • Russell Stover • Tootsie • Chocolate • Ethically Sourced • Jelly Candy • Licorice Candy • Peanuts • Sour • 4-Benign • 5-Pleasant • 6-Tempting • 7-Worth It • Canada • United Kingdom • United States • Rite Aid • Target • Walgreen's • Comments (8)
Thursday, April 1, 2010
Ferrara Pan has been expanding their candy line significantly in the past five years. Their new chocolate line is supposed to give Toblerone a run for its money and their new Easter candies may challenge Farley’s & Sathers.
I picked up this rather classic mix called Chicks & Bunnies Jelly Candy. They’re sugar sanded jelly candies in the shape of baby chickens or rabbits in fruit flavors. They’re made in the United States and unlike gummi candies, these jellies are made with sugar and starch so they’re probably okay for vegans. They’re also dirt cheap. I got this 9.5 ounce bag for 88 cents at Rite Aid.
The pieces are big and nicely shaped. The mass is similar to to an Orange Slice jelly candy. The chunky bunnies and chicks were rather ordinary but easy to handle. I ate them in two bites, but I suppose one would make a large portion.
Red = Cherry: The First thing to know about these jelly candies is that they’re similar to Orange Slices. They’re sweet and firm but very smooth. They’re also not tangy, it’s all about the sweet and aromatics of the flavor. Cherry is more like a cherry bubble gum than a wild cherry. It reminded me of Cherry Chapstick.
Orange = Orange: Yup, this is an Orange Slice, only in the shape of a little chick. I like the ones that have really strong zest flavors and this one isn’t the best I’ve ever had but would certainly sooth an aching craving.
Yellow = Lemon: Was I complaining about the lack of zest in the Orange? Lemon has oodles of it, so much I think it burned a hole in my tongue. They’re zippy, I tell you.
Purple = Grape: This was weird. It didn’t taste like grapes smell, like the rest of these flavors. Instead it was like some scented stationery I bought a garage sale when I was a teenager. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but after being in an enclosed space with it for too long, I couldn’t even stomach being in the same room.
Uncolored = Pineapple: These smelled so nice, so pretty. A combination of lilies, strawberries and cotton candy. It didn’t taste like much, more like a weak pina colada, but still it was a fresh change of pace.
Green = Lime: This was a surprise. It wasn’t the typical lime, that flavor ruined by floor cleaners and cheap men’s aftershave. This was more like a soft whisper of key lime zest.
These are not exciting, they’re not revolutionary. They’re just some nicely made and inoffensive jelly candies. The kind of candy that just about everyone will eat, few will love and fewer will hate. Perfect if you need to decorate on a budget. (Seriously, instead of getting some little ocean fowling Chinese-made plastic doo dads, just grab a bag of these and put them on cupcakes or put on long bamboo skewers and add to a bouquet of daffodils.)
They also had another new product called Gummy Bunnies on the shelves that I didn’t buy. Maybe one of the other candy bloggers will pick them up. (Photo here.)
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
Lately The Man and I have been searching for a new dog. As we’ve visited quite a few pounds and rescue organizations it’s startling to see how many rabbits there are. Rabbits are great pets, but too many of them are taken home by families that don’t know what’s involved with their care. Easter is a prime impulse season for pet rabbits (and chicks & ducks) so there’s an organization called Make Mine Chocolate that urges people to reconsider live animal gifts and instead keep the pet decisions out of the Easter basket. So make your Easter basket pet a chocolate one.
I am always drawn to RM Palmer’s package and product design. Their products go downhill after that, but how could I resist this cute little chocolate bunny in a little hutch? It plays on a kid’s desire to nurture without resorting to anthropomorphism.
The My Little Bunny is actually a fun little teaching toy. It’s a bit more realistic that the regular seated bunny or cartoon style one carrying a basket. This one is about the size of a little baby bunny or a dwarf. It comes in a small box shaped and designed like a carrying hutch with simulated chicken wire on the plastic window. I picked the blue wood-grained box version, but there’s a pink one as well. Also, I think the rabbits come in different colors, I only saw tan ones at the store.
The foil design makes the bunny look a little bit stylized with its vague smile, but for the most part it’s very bunny-like in the crouched position on all fours. The box is far larger than the candy, which is a good thing for a pet, though kind of wasteful as far as packaging. (The bunny is 5 inches long and 3 inches high, the box is 6.5 inches long and four inches high.)
I liked the little box and thought a clever or motivated child might enjoy making use of it to keep a small stuffed animal or other light toys. Unfortunately it’s poorly designed. The little tab in the top that tucks in comes undone when the little carrying handle is used, even when the box is empty. A little tape will fix that (that’s the way it comes in the store), but a bit more thought would have made this far more useful with probably no extra work or weight in the packaging.
There’s a web page just for the My Little Bunny where kids can download an adoption certificate or play games.
The candy itself is subpar. I’ve had the chocolate flavored rabbit before which looked completely fake, like some sort of vinyl dog toy. This one looks like chocolate and is called chocolatey n’ smooth crisp n’ crunchy candy which I figure is a Nestle Crunch simulation.
Since there are no easily accessible ears, I just smashed the hollow bunny instead.
It smells like caramel and chocolate cake, not actual chocolate. The ingredients are sugar, partially hydrogenated vegetable oil (Palm Kernel and/or Palm Oil), whey, lactose, crisp rice, cocoa, skim milk, soy lecithin and vanillin. My goodness, cocoa is really far down on that list. On top of that look at the second ingredient, palm oil. Nestle has being going through a huge issue recently for not moving to sustainable palm oil - that campaign has targeted the KitKat bar, which uses a little dash of the stuff, for most RM Palmer products it’s a major component. It’s short sighted to encourage kids to “adopt” a chocolate bunny instead of a real one but then not use sustainable ingredients in the product itself. (Save a bunny, trash a rainforest?)
The flavor is sweet, the texture is grainy and there aren’t nearly enough crisped rice bits to make each bite crunchy. The cocoa notes are like cardboard and there’s a greasy film on the roof of my mouth by the time I finished three bites.
Blech. At least I can wrap what’s left back up in the foil and put it back in the little box and look at it instead.
Thursday, March 18, 2010
Wonka introduced a line of jelly beans back in 2006 (original review). They were matte, opaque pastel jelly beans with a strange grainy shell but familiar SweeTart flavors.
This year the product seems to have been reformulated, though there’s no mention of it on the package which is also redesigned. Readers alerted me that they were different this year.
The 2010 version of SweeTart Jelly Beans are more vibrant and come in the current SweeTart flavors of Cherry, Lemon, Grape, Blue Punch, Green Apple and Orange.
I noticed the color difference before I even took the bag home. They’re more opaque and shinier with consistent colors. They’re at once familiar and a little different.
The version I’ve had before had a grainy and cool-to-the-tongue shell. When I saw these and remembered the comments, I was wondering if Wonka was just using the Spree Jelly Beans which have a harder shell.
The shell is more crisp than the previous version and the flavors seem a little more distinct and intense. They also seem to be more faithful to the flavors of the chalky original SweeTarts disks. But what’s missing is probably the tangy hit that the real SweeTarts have.
As you’ll notice, I found quite a few abnormal ones in my bag. These were a few that had distinctive shapes, quite a few were just larger than what I’d call normal or smaller than what I would have thought should be the target. They all tasted fine - the narrow ones obviously had more shell to them proportionally.
They’re still nice - the grape is much better as it is tangier now. I enjoyed the citrus flavors even though they weren’t particularly sour. Green apple is okay, though bland and I usually pick out the cherry and blue punch ones but if I ate them it’s not the end of the world.
In the end, the update is definitely different but I wouldn’t call it an improvement. I think it brings them more in line with what I’d expect from a product extension but still not as good as actual SweeTarts. Now if they could only do the SweeTarts Chicks, Ducks & Bunnies with all the flavors of SweeTarts we’d have something to talk about.
The versions I’ve tried before (2007 & 2008) were made in Canada. This bag was made in Mexico. There are no allergen statements on the bag, so they may be nut free/gluten free and contain no animal-derived products.
Thursday, February 25, 2010
Whitman’s is now owned by Russell Stover’s, so it isn’t surprising that they might move into the single serving items and it makes more sense that if they did, it wouldn’t be with an item identical to a Russell Stover product. The new line seems to be all “Easter Pastelle” covered marshmallows.
The eggs were priced as I expected, regular price was 59 cents but on sale at two for a dollar at Walgreen’s where I found them (also spotted at RiteAid).
I found them in three colors: Green, Yellow and Magenta.
I also found that they were not flavored, which might have been fun. A raspberry flavored Easter Pastelle coating with a plain marshmallow would be an innovative piece of candy. A white confection on a marshmallow is, well, ordinary.
Each egg is one ounce. They’re approximately 2.5” long and 1” high. The Easter Pastelle is thin and not quite crisp. It smells like, well, an Easter basket. A fake vanilla and sugar scent.
The Pastelle coating is made of sugar, hydrogenated palm kernel oil and milk products plus some food coloring.
The marshmallow is very soft and foamy, moist and sticky, not chewy and latexy like some. It’s all very, very sweet. In the case of the pink one shown above, I got a bitter metallic aftertaste from the pink Pastelle. The green was tastier in that it had fewer aftertastes to mess with the tastes.
The large orange carrot shaped marshmallow is covered in two different colors of Easter Pastelle, the orange body and a green carrot top. The whole thing weighs 1.75 ounces.It’s a little over 4” long, so it’s a hefty piece of fluffed sugar. This package has a little waxed card in it, I’m guessing this candy needed a little more support than the eggs. (It also helped to show off the product well in the package.
The flavor profile is similar to the Egg, except that the carrot is a little flatter, so there’s not quite as much marshmallow to Pastelle.
The marshmallow didn’t seem quite as moist either. But still, this is some intense sugar. I couldn’t eat more than two bites before I had to slip it back into its package.
These aren’t stellar, but they are different enough from what you can get in the drug store aisle from Russell Stover, RM Palmer, Hershey’s or Dove, so they have that going for them. Folks who like really high glycemic load (28 g total weight: 21g of carbs, 3g of fat) fluffed confectionery will probably go crazy for these. The carrot would make an amazing decoration on top of a carrot cake or a plate of Easter desserts.
I still think a bit of flavor thrown in would be interesting. Orange-flavored, Mint-flavored, Lemon-flavored coatings would really set this apart from the ordinary.
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