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.
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
The new Lemonhead & Friends Jelly Beans stand out on the shelves among all the other Easter candies. The bright primary colors - mostly yellow and red are definitely spring-ish but not the usual pastels.
The small bag is jam packed with candy. It’s 14 ounces of little jelly beans made with real fruit juice. Most other bags on the same shelf were about 9 ounces.
This new version of the popular Lemonhead candy is rather similar to the new Chewy Lemonheads. They’re a jelly center covered with the tart and grainy shell that Lemonhead fans have come to know and love. (My mouth just waters at the thought of it.)
The beans are small, not quite as small as Jelly Belly, but pretty close. If you can’t tell already, they’re also vivid - strikingly, saturatedly vivid. They’re probably the most deeply colored jelly beans I’ve seen. I’m not that fond of too much food coloring for two reasons. The first is that it often leaves an aftertaste. The second is that it often colors my tongue and I don’t like people to know how much candy I’ve been eating. Other folks are not fond of artificial colors as they’ve been linked to hyperactivity in children.
The ingredients list an array of acids that I’m accustomed to seeing in candies: fumaric acid (fermented apples & grains), malic acid (found in grapes and green apples) and citric acid (found in citrus) but another that I hadn’t noticed before called adipic which Wikipedia tells me is used mainly as a precursor for the production of nylon. (That sounds alarming but doesn’t mean that it also isn’t food.)
The five flavors are: Lemon, Orange, Grape, Green Apple and Cherry.
The bag definitely smells fruity, mostly citrusy.
Lemon is intense and sour. There are both tangy juice notes and a good dose of almost-bitter zest. It’s convincing. Kind of mind blowing.
The levels of acid in these is quite high, so I wouldn’t recommend eating more than a small handful at a time. I found after more than a dozen of them it gave me a literal sour stomach. But for a little pick me up while driving or mixed with some other candies they’re definitely not your grandmother’s jelly beans.
I found them a little pricey for sugar candy compared to the cheap jelly beans usually around this time of year, but then again, they’re quite concentrated so it only takes a little. I liked that the bag was actually full. So many candies these days come in half empty bags, these feel sumptuous and indulgent.
There are no statements about the gluten free status on the package, they’re not vegan (confectioners glaze). Made in a facility where peanuts, tree nuts, milk, and soy is used. There was also a choking hazard warning (on all the Ferrara Pan products as far as I can tell). This was an extremely fresh package - the expiration date is 12/22/2011.
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
One of their new candies is Puckerooms Sour Gummy Candy. They’re sour gummies (unlike the Sluggles, which are sweet gummies) in mushroom shapes and three different flavors.
The new Wonka’s Edible Garden are made with natural ingredients, including fruit juice and no artificial colorings or flavorings. (But of course they’re gummis and are not vegetarian since they use gelatin ... and in this case cochineal color, too.)
There are three flavors and three different shapes (though the shapes are applied to all the flavors):
Cherry - as you can see from the photo, I found a grape & cherry combo, but for the most part the cherry ones were single flavored. It’s a tart cherry with a black cherry darkness beneath but a lingering sour. It got my glands a’tinglin’.
Grape - it’s just so fun for me to have grape gummis, I have a hard time focusing on these for the review. The grape flavor is much like concord grape jam with Pixy Stix poured over it. (Come on, if you’d thought of it as a kid, you would have loved it!)
Lemon/Orange - I loved the look of these, the orange was always on the top, making the stem lemon. The flavors were a good blend of citrus zest and of course a sour punch that lasted beyond the grainy coating and permeated the soft gummi. The lemon and orange were distinct but blended well.
The sourness isn’t blisteringly strong, in fact, I found them barely more tart than the Sluggles, just more consistently tangy from start to finish.
I like the option of really potent gummis made without artificial flavors & colors, so these are real winners. I saw them at Target over the weekend for $1.59 for a 6.5 ounce bag, so it’s not like parents need to compromise here - the kids get a mainstream treat without going to a special store. (Of course that doesn’t mean adults can’t enjoy them.)
The package is mostly green instead of purple. The Wonka name is minimized and the name of the candy is more focused on Sour Puckerooms Gummies where it was originally just called Puckerooms with a descriptive logline of sour gummy candy below that. I do like the typography on the word Puckerooms better on the new version.
The new shapes are such a compromise from the earlier, well defined mushrooms that they’re mere shadows of the shapes they once were. There are really only two shapes, the pointier one is now gone. There are two slightly different rounded ones with wide round caps and wide bases and then the narrower stemmed one with a wide cap. On the package they look distinctive. In real life they’re
So, there you go. Wonka is receptive to your ideas.
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
There’s this berry called the Miracle Fruit because it makes sour things taste sweet. A few years ago a candy finally took advantage of this little chemical reaction and Sour Extinguisher was born. (Though I don’t think it actually has any “Miracle Fruit” in it.)
I tried the original version and found it fun, though not really a candy I’d eat on a regular basis ... and the sourest of the sour wasn’t quite as powerful as I’d hoped (I really wanted to need the extinguisher).
Since then Big BOING, the candy company that invented this little candy kit, sold it to American Licorice Company (Red Vines). They’ve relaunched the product now with two flavor sets: Sour Fruit (with Berry Sweet Relief) and Sour Citrus (with Berry Sweet Relief).
Instead of being mixed into a bag, the flavors are now divided up. There’s a tray inside a cardboard sleeve that holds to sections, the largest 2/3 holds the mixed sour flavors and the little 1/3 side cubby holds the blue sour extinguisher.
Chewy Extinguisher Sour Fruit comes in a vibrant acidic green box with purple & blue accents. The flavors are: tangy watermelon (light red), sour strawberry (deep red) and super sour green apple (green).
The original candy was a little pillow shaped piece, the new version is a bit more like the old fashioned Good n’ Fruity. It’s a little wheat-based chew (like a red licorice) covered with a thick panned candy coating with a sour & flavor layer.
The shell isn’t crunchy, it’s shiny and hard at first, the pieces look like the present day Gobstoppers only a little more rustic in their shape. The candy coating is a bit grainy & easy to bite ... rather like the outside of a jelly bean.
Watermelon was very mild, it tastes more like bubble gum than melon, but still it was pleasant. Certainly it didn’t necessitate a berry sweet relief.
Strawberry was more vivid, extremely artificial tasting but still quite tart. I liked that the center, though not strongly flavored wasn’t just a bland wad, it did have a little tangy kick to it.
Green apple had an intense fake apple taste to it, and though it was sour, it wasn’t even enough to get my glands all a-tingly.
Still, I followed a couple of the green apples up with a blue berry piece. It does negate the tartness pretty quickly. On its own the flavor is a fake raspberry with a kind of bitter note to it that I can only think is the food coloring.
Chewy Extinguisher Sour Citrus has three sour flavors: tangy tangerine, sour lemon and super sour lime plus the berry sweet relief. What I liked about this assortment was that it followed the natural qualities of these fruits. They really do progress in that fashion as far as tartness goes.
The quality control on these candies wasn’t quite as nice as the Sour Fruit variety. The green ones were pock marked and had little pink marks on them.
Tangerine was really tasty. It has the pleasant juicy flavors mixed with a little zest. It was tangy, but not much more than a glass of OJ would be.
Lemon was also similarly accurate. It reminded me of Lemonheads, but chewy on the inside (but no quite like the newer Chewy Lemonheads, which have a jelly center instead of a thicker center).
Lime is quite sour, probably the most sour of of all six flavors I tried.
The extinguisher never quite really eliminated the sourness (which, granted, wasn’t all that sour) which would have been the really cool part.
The candy was conceived as a fun interactive candy for kids to “play with” so in that sense, I think it succeeds. Naturally I love the fact that there’s an actual citrus mix and found those flavors really good ... they might warrant a package of just those and dump the whole extinguisher part.
The packaging change, though it seems like a bit much, does aid in the actual picking of the pieces and of course makes sharing a little more sanitary (no dumping the bag into your hand, picking what you want and putting the rest back for later).
Not Kosher and possibly not vegan (depending on how the glycerol monostearate is sourced).
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Way back in 2006 I first tried Wonka SweeTarts Rope. It was a cherry licorice rope filled with a tangy, grainy paste dotted with Nerds. It was definitely unique.
And then they seemed to disappear from shelves.
Then earlier this year I found Twizzlers Sweet & Sour Filled Twists, which seemed like a pretty good replacement, except perhaps a better deal since there were four ropes in each pack (and I preferred them because they had a pure lemon version).
Well it wasn’t really that SweeTarts Rope were discontinued, they were just retooled and are being relaunched as a new line called Kazoozles. They’ve dropped the Nerds and come in two different varieties now.
Cherry Punch Kazoozles are heralded as Delickoricious on the package. (Which makes me glad I only have to write this, instead of my reviews being delivered as a podcast - I’m not sure I can pronounce that.)
The ropes look a heck of a lot like their prequel, perhaps slightly less red.
They smell like a vat of black cherry flavoring.
The bite of the licorice tube is quite soft, less “wheat” flavored and more like a chew. The filling in the center is just slightly grainy, like a frosting made out of Pixy Stix. The punch flavor comes out loud and clear. It’s all rather artificial tasting and leaves an odd taste in my mouth later on.
The packages are color coded, so it’s pretty easy to tell them apart. The wrappers are thin, metallic mylar.
Each rope is nicely sized and weigh a little less than an ounce each (.9 ounces to be exact).
Here the lemon rope tube is textured with the ribbing that we usually see in licorice twists. But it’s also covered in a grainy sour powder. It’s sparkly! On top of that, it’s bigger around (but slightly shorter) than the Cherry Punch variety.
While the Cherry version smelled quite strongly, I barely got anything from this, just slight sweet fruity whiff.
The chew of the Lemon licorice rope is soft, softer than the Cherry, the sour grains give it a bit flavor punch right off the bat, instead of waiting to release after a few chews. The flavor is sour and stays that way for most of the experience. The lemony citrus really isn’t much of a contributor but later on when I got into the filling I caught some cherry notes.
Since I just had some of the Twizzlers version recently, I can say that I preferred the, but that’s mostly because I love lemon and the lemon was much more pronounced. As far as a reinvigoration of the SweeTarts Rope line, it’s nice to see a new flavor variation, even if it does have cherry in it just like the other flavor.
Like most licorice products, they’re made with wheat so are not gluten-free. They also contain a confectioners glaze and are not suitable for vegetarians.
Friday, May 15, 2009
Seems like sticking goo inside classic candy categories is the confectionery trend for the late aughts.
Mars introduced the Starburst Gummibursts in early 2008, which were pretty much just a Starburst branded version of Fruit Gushers (which isn’t called a candy because it’s not sold in the candy aisle, it’s a “fruit snack” but has virtually identical ingredients).
Starburst has now expanded the new product line to include Starburst Sour Gummibursts.
The original tart but not sour came in strawberry, lemon, orange and cherry. This new assortment comes in Strawberry, Watermelon, Green Apple and Orange Tangerine.
Unlike the originals these are covered in a granulated sour powder. They also seem a bit softer. Unlike packs of Starburst chews which have a regular proportion of each flavor, Gummiburst are random. And by random I mean that the luck of the universe means that whatever flavor is your favorite will be shorted in your packages. I’ve opened four packages and only one had Orange Tangerine in them. The one for this review broke down like this: 4 Strawberry, 5 Green Apple and 1 Watermelon.
Pink = Watermelon: I don’t like eating unripe melon and usually shy away from the stuff that’s really close to the rind. So sour watermelon isn’t exactly one of my top sour flavors. This had a wonderful sweet aroma, like summer picnics & lip balm. The chew on it was nice but it was absolutely sour which overpowered most of the watermelon-ness at that point. (Though this depended on how much goo was in the centers - the center goo is flavored but all sweetness.)
Red = Strawberry : this also had a nice floral scent, so I had no trouble telling it from the rather similar looking watermelon. The flavor is stronger than the watermelon but still just as tangy. Very sweet center.
Green = Green Apple: this is definitely a winner on the sour apple front. The flavor is artificial but with a nice dash of real apple juice notes. The juicy center provides a bit of relief from the tartness.
Orange = Orange Tangerine: I didn’t get to eat many of these, but they smelled divine, had a great mix of tartness, super-sour and zest. Juicy & lip smacking good. The center was especially deep in its variety of flavor notes.
Some liquid filled candy can go wrong inside the package. There are plenty that I’ve had recently that have at least one leaky or exploded candy, which gets the rest of them moist & sticky. These all seemed in great condition.
Unlike the regular Starburst Chews, these have no additional Vitamin C. They are pretty low in calories though (as are all gummi products). The little 1.5 ounce package only has 130 calories. Since they’re packed with so much flavor and the pieces are pretty meaty, they might be a good candy option for someone watching calories. (They’re also gluten free but not vegetarian because of the presence of gelatin.)
Thursday, May 7, 2009
It feels like I’m reviewing a lot of Hershey’s products lately: Thingamajig, Good n Fiery, Hershey’s Milk Chocolate with Peanuts, Dark Chocolate Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and Reese’s Select Cremes. But they’re putting them out and I’ve gotta try everything at least once.
I passed this by more than once (Candy For Dinner always seems to find new products first) mostly because I wasn’t in the mood: Twizzlers Sweet & Sour Filled Twists. But when the weather gets warmer, I seem to crave tangy.
I bought them in a long “bar” format that has four twists, two of each flavor: Cherry Kick! and Citrus Punch!
The twists are clean & shiny, like they’re made of vinyl. They’re similar to the Twizzlers Rainbow Twists, but I think these are just a little larger in diameter or at least not dried and stiff.
Of course, I gravitated towards the Citrus Punch! first. The yellow and red twists reminded me more of mustard and ketchup than lemon and cherry, but I still admit that they were glossy and appealing.
The bite is much softer than the regular Twizzlers, less like biting into some sort of extruded & dried acrylic paint. The gooey filling is soft and has a texture of buttercream frosting. It has an immediate tangy pop and a good mix of flavors, both citrus zest and the tartness. It reminded me of a fresh lemon tart.
Next up was the Cherry Kick! which I resisted. It’s lighter in color from the deep red & berry flavored Twizzlers. The texture is identical to the citrus package mate. The licorice twist is soft and chewy and has a mild sweet flavor. Then the soft center popped in with a very strong note of woodsy black cherry, cough syrup and artificial flavorings. As far as I was concerned, there are a lot of folks who are going to like the play of the mild chewy outside and the intense flavor of the inside.
I really just want to buy the Citrus by itself, perhaps I can pick them out if they package them in individual ropes for Halloween or something.
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Hard candy has a bad reputation as being cheap and a candy of last resort. Oh sure, a little starlight mint after a garlicky meal is usually gratefully accepted when offered. But really good hard candy is out there.
As a kid I often got them around holidays, just a small handful included in my stocking candy. As I grew up I learned to find them on my own ... and was pretty shocked at the sticker price, especially compared to the more affordable Zotz.
I don’t know when or where I got this tin. I think it was sometime in the late eighties, I’m pretty sure I bought it in Philadelphia or New York and I was probably mortified to pay something like three dollars for a little tin of lemon drops.
They’re made in Belgium and the packaging features the image of Napoleon Bonaparte. I have no idea when the candies originated or their history. The tin simply says: Le Bon Bonbon Napoleon Sour Lemon. The more recent bag that I acquired through a photo shoot for Candy Warehouse says Made by Napoleon-Breskens-Holland.
So even though I can’t tell you much about their background, I can review what I’ve got:
Though I most often see the Lemon, they also come in Cherry, Tangerine, Lime and Pineapple.
The candies are devilishly simple. Hard candy outside, and then a strip of super sour powder in the center. The powder center is often mistaken for a liquid, it’s rather cool on the tongue and so fine that it melts away instantly. It’s only before putting then in the mouth that I could really tell. (Yes, as a kid I sometimes broke them apart to create a big pile of super sour powder.)
These are insanely expensive. The ones in the top photo I bought at Miette in San Francisco last year for 25 cents each. They’re spherical and a little less yellow, but still the same flavor profile as the disk shaped lemon. The bags that Candy Warehouse sells are $7.10 a pound, and come in 7 pound bags. (Yes, at one time I had 14 pounds of Napoleon Bonbons - one of just lemon and one of the mix. I’ve eaten about three pounds so far.)
I’ve really vacillated between giving these a nine or a ten. The price is a formidable obstacle to perfection, but then again, I know I bought that tin when I was in college and had staggeringly little money so they must be worth it. So there you are, another 10 out of 10.
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