Thursday, March 13, 2008
Just to make things clear, the package says, “Tangy Fruit Flavors” ... just in case people thought they were some other assortment of flavors associated with Smarties. They never actually say which fruits they are, though.
Actually, I think Smarties are an ideal Easter candy, with their pastel colors and light flavors. I like Smarties. I like their lack of flavor, the way they dissolve so quickly and smoothly. I like their tiny tablet size, their light colors and complete indistinguishableness from one another.
These jelly beans were about the same price as others are these days, retail of $1.99.
The shell is a dry and a little crumbly and cool on the tongue (as dextrose usually is). The shells have a tangy and flavorful layer. The flavors aren’t very strong or complex. Grape is the most vivid, in that grape soda way. Green apple is pretty mild. Blue tastes like ball point pen ink smells (I think it’s raspberry). Cherry is very tart and then very sweet but less bitter than most pink/red cherry candies. Lemon was probably the sweetest of the bunch.
What was missing was the white Smarties, you know, that one that we all think is pineapple and is by far the best. (What? You don’t think so, too?)
The colors are bright and opaque, rather like highlighter pens. The funny part is that Smarties actually makes their lack of color in their compressed dextrose tablets a selling point. From their website:
In the case of these little jelly beans, I think they’re using just as much dye as everyone else. Most of all I noticed the similarities between the Smarties Jelly Bean and the SweeTarts Jelly Beans.
So I gathered up an assortment of both and put them side by side. The SweeTarts Jelly Beans are on the left and the Smarties Jelly Beans are on the right. They are extremely close in colors, although the Smarties are missing the orange one completely.
The beans were essentially identical with the Smarties being slightly more flavorful, mostly in the tangy layer. The colors very little but the purple and the green are the easiest to tell apart by looking at them and the blue in the SweeTarts version is punch flavor, not raspberry.
I really don’t have a preference of one over the other. If you have a choice, I say go with whichever is cheaper or whichever brand you feel you prefer to support.
They’re both made in Canada and come in 14 ounce bags, though their ingredients label differs slightly ... so it’s entirely possible that this factory churns both out under contract with Nestle or CeDe Candy.
While all of the Smarties compressed dextrose products are gluten, nut and milk free, the Smarties Jelly Beans are made in Canada and are made in a facility that processes all the hit-list allergens: peanuts, nuts, milk products, soy products, wheat, eggs and sesame seeds.
Monday, March 10, 2008
Nerds just don’t appeal to me much, part of it might be that they’re kind of hard to eat (maybe they should be sold in straws like Pixy Stix?), but I love the idea of them. Enter the Nerds Bumpy Jelly Beans.
Where regular jelly beans lack texture, each Nerds Bumpy Jelly Bean has oodles of nooks & lumps on a crunchy candy shell.
Where regular jelly beans lack a flavorful punch, each Nerd has a tasty tart layer just below the candy shell.
Yes, they look like freakish confectionery mistakes or maybe wads of leftover acrylic paint. They’re hard and have uneven textured shells. But they’re also vividly colored, so there’s no confusing any muted colors (is this pink or magenta?).
The biggest contribution these beans have to the jelly bean pantheon is crunch. They’re really crunchy.
Orange: a nice mellow orange flavor, with a rather tart flavor layer under the shell.
Lemon: the tartest of the bunch, it does kind of lose its zazz when I got to the end of chewing it up when it was just a big wad of sweet.
Strawberry: I was afraid this was going to be cherry, it’s not quite the vivid red I photographed, just slightly on the pinker side of red. A nice sort of cotton candy delicate floral strawberry with a dose of sour power.
Green Apple: my mix seemed to have an inordinate amount of these, which is too bad, because they were my least favorite. They are sour and do taste just like artificial green apple.
Grape: fantastically artificial, like having a Grape Shasta (complete with a slight fizz mimicked by the crunchy shell).
It’s funny how excited I am about these. Let’s face it, there hasn’t been much innovation in the jelly bean world since Jelly Belly started adding more flavor by using both a flavored center and a flavored shell.
These are fun to eat because there are so many options. You can just pop them in your mouth and chew them up, or let them dissolve or nibble away at the crunchy coating.
The centers are clear and have only a light flavor and a vague tartness to them.
I think they’re a great change-up from the milder jelly beans out there and will definitely appeal to kids, but are still palatable for adults. I enjoyed all the flavors (though picked around the green ones after I finished my review). Still, I found that I couldn’t eat as many of them as I can eat jelly beans. The tartness gave me a tummy ache after about a quarter of the bag. (See the levels of testing at Candy Blog Labs that I go through?)
The interesting news though is that while I was shopping at Walgreen’s a few weeks ago, I also found this little bag of Giant Chewy Nerds. I bought them, at first thinking they were a clearance item, perhaps a test marketing. But the expiration is December 2008, so they were definitely fresh.
So, it looks like this is what they’re called in the “Non-Easter Season”. I can find no mention of either of these products on the Wonka site (does that surprise anyone?).
These have a variety of artificial colors in them as well as Carmine, making them unsuitable for vegetarians.
Wednesday, January 9, 2008
Sometimes I order stuff on the internet because I like the sound of the name. I saw Kasugai’s Fruits Lemonade (also known as Ramune Iro Iro) on JBox.com and since I was already ordering a gazillion rolls of Pineapple Mentos, so I figured I should get some other stuff too.
From the description it was clear that these were just compressed dextrose candies like Smarties or SweeTarts. But the intriguing part was it looked like they came in pineapple. As I was in a pineapple mood, it was quickly in my cart and on its way to me.
The little package is cute and has a variety of different sizes. Some are large sweets, about the size of four quarters stacked up. Others were little tablets in rolls - some were tiny, others were a little bigger (like the size of American Smarties).
Most of the rolls were of all one flavor: Lemon, Strawberry, Pineapple, Kiwi or Orange. They were color coded and had little images of the fruits, so I had no trouble figuring out what I was going to get. (Well, the green one was a bit of a puzzle, but I eventually figured out that it was Kiwi, either that or a honeydew.)
There were a couple of rolls that were combinations of flavors. It was extremely hard to tell as they weren’t really different colors. I kind of liked that it was all about the flavor and there were no colors in there.
The texture was softer than Smarties ... in fact, the large ones were downright powdery. There was one larger roll (shown above) that had truly dense ones, but the rest were about the same. While I like a softer style most of the time, because you get right to the flavor, these had an odd chalky taste to them. It was like there was something else in there along with the sugar, maybe some sort of calcium carbonate and I’m actually getting some nutrition or something.
Overall the flavors were more intense than Smarties, but not as flavorful as SweeTarts. They weren’t truly sour through, not like a lot of other ramune products I’ve had. However, the high proportion of Pineapple items in this was what made it truly tasty. Sure it’s called Lemonade Mix, but it was really all about the Pineapple.
As a small side note, I’ve been experimenting with my husband’s Nikon D70 DSLR. He shot the two photos above in a little session we had over the weekend. I’m debating a move away from my point & shoot Sony DSC-V3. While I love my little camera, the control I have on the focus is a little frustrating sometimes. For now I’ll just borrow his for a while. (I think his photos turned out fantastic. It’s very hard to get a crisply focused shot on cellophane items, and the control on the depth of field is also amazing.)
Friday, November 30, 2007
I had hoped to do a good history of Sprees and the newer Chewy Sprees for this review. What I found is that like many large families, the kids in the middle or towards the end get kind of lost in the shuffle. The novelty of their existence is lost and though they grow up admirably strong and fetch a good price when sold (oh, wait, we don’t sell kids any longer, do we?), it’s just not as interesting as the first.
So info is kind of scant. Sprees came along sometime after SweeTarts, which came after Pixy Stix and Lik-m-Aid and were made by Sunline (Sunmark) brands (a little history here). I remember eating them as a kid. I loved the bright colors and the sound they made in my pocket (or when I unwrapped them from their roll and put them in the Gold Mine Gum bag I had because they both had that sunshine sweet juicyfruit scent). Sunline later sold out to Nestle which kind of folded the candies under the Wonka brand. The product, however, was happily unchanged except for the swap of Green Apple for Lime a few years back.
Chewy Spree come in a few different formats. You can get them in the bags shown here that holds 1.7 ounces and I believe they may still make the 1.73 ounce rolls. They also have a little plastic container of Chewy Mini Sprees that I’ve tried before as well.
The original Sprees are a compressed dextrose tart with a bright candy shell. The Chewy Spree, however, is less tart. I don’t know why, but it is. They’re a mellow version of the Spree, which I’m guessing sets it apart from the much bolder SweeTarts Shockers, which have a sour flavored candy shell and tart chewy inside.
They come in Grape, Orange, Lemon, Green Apple and Strawberry, otherwise known as the “don’t rock the boat” flavors of middle/later children.
The package, however, gives little indication about what’s inside. Simply called Mix’d Berry, it occured to me that besides telling us that it’s a kick in the mouth, Spree packages offer no explanation of what they are. Most candies do! (And I often like to dissect those statements.) There’s no listing of flavors, and even the colors on the front of the package bear little resemblance to the real-life ones.
Then I realized I didn’t figure out which color was which flavor, so I had to stop at the 7-11 this morning and buy another package. And for the life of me, after actually paying attention, I can’t figure it out.
Pink tastes like watermelon to me. I don’t think that’s a berry, even a mix’d one. Blue is raspberry, not terribly tart or intense, it has a good fragrant quality to it. The other two, I just didn’t know what they were. And after two packages, you’d think I would have figured it out. Purple might be mixed berry or maybe blueberry. I’ve never been good at figuring out what “flavor” blueberry is in candies. Red has me completely flummoxed. I suppose it could be Cherry?
They’re pretty, but I think I’ll stick with the regular hard Sprees.
Chewy Sprees have egg albumen in them, so are not suitable for vegans.
Friday, November 16, 2007
Earlier this summer I reviewed one of the classic movie candies, Jujyfruits. While I’ve always been fond of the idea of them, and think that when they’re fresh they’re quite fun, they never had quite enough flavor for me.
Enter Heide’s newest addition to the Jujyfruit family (which as far as I know is an only child), the Sour Jujyfruits. (I’m not sure how long these have been on the market.)
The most significant difference between these and the regular Jujyfruit is the flavor set: Lime, Grape, Lemon, Raspberry and Orange. The licorice has been replaced with grape (and for obvious reasons, while some may enjoy a salty licorice, I don’t know of any sour licorice candies).
The shapes are the same though, with each color coming in all the vegetable and fruits.
And like Jujyfruits which sport a rather out-of-step package design (what’s with that font?) this package also has some cartoon kids sporting sour pusses. I’m not sure who they’re trying to appeal to.
Out of the package, they’re not quite as pretty as their original mellow counterparts. They have a sanding of sour & sugar. It’s not unattractive, by any means, but not quite the same as the soft translucence of the originals.
They’re also a lot moister. Granted, these come in a plastic pack instead of a box which I imagine allows for some drying. These are quite soft, though not as soft as Sour Patch Kids (and also just a denser shape).
The flavors are good.
The raspberry is strong and tart with a good floral counterpart.
The lemon has a great zesty essence along with the sour burst.
The grape is okay, it reminds me a lot of concord grape juice, which is a really nice change from the SweeTart grape that usually tastes like blue pen ink.
Orange is sassy with similar zest components as the lemon.
The lime is probably the weakest of the set of flavors, but still holds its own.
Overall, I like them. I like the variety of the shapes, I like the colors and the flavors and would really enjoy these as a movie snack. The production on them wasn’t quite as top notch as Jujyfruits. There were a few that were not quite the right shape or conjoined. But of course Jujyfruits are pretty inexpensive, so I can forgive that for a bag that I’m paying about a buck fifty for.
Has anyone seen them in stores?
Thursday, November 8, 2007
I don’t think I’ve ever thought that Sour Patch Kids needed to be sourer. Perhaps some sour enthusiasts did, but there are lots of super-sour, tongue-burning candies out there.
What I think is interesting about the new Sour Patch Extreme candies is that they didn’t just make them more sour. They mixed the flavors up a bit.
Each candy is a mix of two flavors. The head is one flavor and the shock of hair is a second flavor. I don’t think they looked too much like faces, more like feet with different colored toes to me.
Watermelon Grape (purple hair and pink head) - I was surprised, these went together pretty well. The fake grape has a little concord snap to it and the watermelon, though pretty much a straight high pitched sour also has that slight note of the rind in there.
Orange Blue Raspberry (blue hair and orange head) - I would have preferred my citrus together - maybe a little lemon and orange, but this was okay. The orange seemed to overpower the raspberry in the sour department, but after chewing to the point where it gets sweet, that’s when the raspberry kicked in.
Sour Apple Strawberry (red hair and green head) - This combo was quite as abundant in the mix and that was fine by me. The flavors were so distinct they didn’t seem to go together.
I rather prefer my flavors separate. The good thing is that you can just bite off the half that you feel like eating, but of course you can’t throw the other half back into the bag for later (well, maybe you could, but I wouldn’t).
While they are more sour, they’re also a smidge less flavorful. I think I’ll stick with the regular ones.
I got these as a sample at All Candy Expo, but I spotted them at Target and 7-11.
Unlike gummis, Sour Patch products contain no gelatin (they’re technically a “jelly” product). For that reason they are suitable for vegetarians.
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
I like Sugar Babies, in fact, I love them. They’re just fine the way they are. They don’t need to be improved ... but I suppose if they want to expand the line, that’s fine with me.
Okay, I’ll open my mind a little and at least try them.
The candies are regular Sugar Babies covered in a green, sour apple coating. As you can see from the photo, they’re kind of freaky. The green coating is really green, but it’s also kind of matte, not shiny like Sugar Babies.
They reminded me of Shrek. Like Shrek’s skin ... probably not an appealing association.
The flavor coating is tart and a little crumbly, kind of like the SweeTart Jelly Beans. The green apple flavor isn’t really intense, but a good counterpoint to the sweet, creamy and grainy caramel.
I don’t think they’re an improvement on Sugar Babies, just something different. It’s an interesting take on the caramel application on apples, but doesn’t really capture that experience at all (for one, it’s inside out!). So even though I wasn’t that keen on them, I did end up eating the whole box, so they must be pretty tasty!
Tuesday, October 9, 2007
I have a deep attraction to pretty candy. I’ve always enjoyed arrays of colorful candies spilled out on my desk. I like to arrange them in patterns, rainbows, color combos. I put them in glass jars, layered by color or shape. Mix them up, repeat and eat.
Most candies are pretty limited in what they can do with shapes and variety. Compressed Dextrose - the plain old chalky sweet and tart candies however, are extremely flexible when it comes to design (I call them chalk candies). With the loss of Tart ‘n Tinys, the time has come to find a replacement.
Oak Leaf (part of SweetWorks) is one of the few sugar-candy companies that really pays attention to the possibilities of pretty candy. At the All Candy Expo I got to see in person the huge variety that they make. I also got to bring home a good selection of those that attracted me most.
Holy moly, the green Baby Tears is actually lime! Who knew anyone made anything lime any longer? It’s all green apple these days. I think blue is Blue Raspberry, which was okay but certainly not sour.
There are a few versions of baby tears out there, (ZOMG has a review here).
Most of the candy is the same, the only differences are the colors and shapes. Some have different flavors depending on the mix. I was tickled by this Bonz variety. They sell it a couple of different ways, with just the skulls, just the bones and a mix of the two. (The plain bones are fun for a dog theme, the mix is great for Halloween or pirate themes.)
The bones themselves were super tart and kind of chalky on the inside instead of being dense. Pink (cherry), Red (also cherry), Yellow (lemon), Blue (sweet raspberry), Green (lime) and White (pineapple?). The candy shell was thin and easy to chomp through or dissolve off.
The skulls didn’t have an identical color line, there was a Purple (grape) and Orange (orange) and the Green was darker (watermelon).
These were dreadful. As cute as they are, they’re just as tasteless. The scale, for one, is just horrible. The Watermelon is the same size as the Strawberry and that’s bigger than the Lime! The Orange has a cute bumbly coating, but it’s so thick and flavorless I was worried it was actually a piece of plastic display. The grape had a similarly hard shell filled with a flavorless sweet powder. The Banana was the only standout, though I’m still not sure how I feel about it. Some days when I chomp on them I find the fake banana flavor comforting. Other days it feels rather cool on my tongue and slightly bitter I’m wondering if I’m eating fingernail polish remover. I had another small assortment of little fish in my mix and found the banana-yellow one in there even more alarmingly chemical-tasting. (I’m wondering if there’ll come a day when someone diagnoses Banana Candy Workers Lung.)
All of the candies are fun and at most places where I see them in bulk (at those pick-a-mix places at the mall) they’re way overpriced. You can buy them for about $2.50 a pound on Amazon (different brand) ... if you’re willing to buy 24 pounds of Bonz at a time. I wouldn’t pay more than $4 a pound for these unless I was depressed and nothing but bright food coloring and sugar could shake the doldrums.
They make Super Sours (different sizes, coated and uncoated), Smiles, Snaps, Lil’ Jewels (perhaps like the old Tart ‘n Tinys?) and Fishes along with all sorts yellow Bananas and multicolored Crazy Bananas.
The best way to buy these, as far as I can tell, is from those candy machines in kiosks at malls and arcades. At only a quarter for a little handful, it’s a pretty good pick-me-up.
If I wanted a fun and casual candy buffet (especially one that could stand the heat in summer), these could definitely be at the top of my list. Though some flavors are hit & miss, I still give them an 8 out 10 ... because they’re still pretty to look at if I don’t eat them.
EDITED 11/28/2007: I updated this to correct an earlier error. I attributed this candy to Concord Confections in error. These candies were made by Oak Leaf.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.