Thursday, May 31, 2007
Just when I think I’m done, I get pulled back in again! I thought I’d reviewed all the Starburst on the market today when I saw that the Starburst Sour have new flavors.
It’s not like I was that thrilled with the original set of flavors in the Starburst Sour array, so the new ones might be better.
As luck would have it I picked up the new flavors, then saw the original flavors at the 99 Cent Only Store. Before you go thinking that this will be a redux of the LifeSavers, both of these products are fresh.
Original Starburst Sour were manufactured in June of 2006 with an expiration of 8/2007. New Starburst Sour were manufactured in December 2006. (Curious how I know this, check out What Does that Mars Code Mean?)
Here’s the flavor breakout:
Sour Tangerine (was Orange) - I really had to work hard on this one. The wrappers were the exact same shade of orange and the candies were the exact same shade of orange. I had to admit that the new Sour Tangerine was different from the orange. It had a “high note” of orange and tartness that just wasn’t in the original. I can’t say I prefer one over the other, but I’m glad there’s something citrus in there.
Sour Green Apple (was Cherry) - I was pretty surprised that this wasn’t in the original mix. It’s definitely a synthetic sour apple taste, but it’s quite intense and of course sour. It has some nice real apple juice notes to balance it out, especially as the chew goes on.
Sour Strawberry (was Grape) - While I enjoy a sassy tart and crispy apple and even a juicy tangerine, I have a hard time with sour strawberries, as they’re so much better when they’re sweet and ripe. It smelled like strawberry - a cross between summer flowers and cotton candy. The chew though, was a little less pleasant. It was sour but it didn’t match up with the flavor, it was like a blind date that was going horribly, uncomfortably wrong. It made me break out in a sweat twice, not because it was too sour, perhaps because of the red food coloring. I didn’t eat the third one in the mix.
Sour Blue Raspberry (same) - still an insane blue, still an unnatural flavor for food. Tart and a little on the lime side, a little bitter/dry aftertaste that I kind of liked it this time around.
Overall, I prefer the much more rounded flavors of the classic Starburst. I can see these being a nice change of pace and if I were doing more bike riding or running where I wanted a little something to get rid of dry mouth, this might be the stuff because they’re so portable and of course a good variety in every pack.
Some of our wheat sensitive friends will be happy to hear that the new packaging now says that New Flavors Starburst Sour are Gluten Free (please make sure that your package says that if you’re gluten intolerant since the old flavor set does not say that!).
Thursday, May 10, 2007
I’m not sure how it is that there’s an actual novelty candy category for Bug Jars, but perhaps I underestimate the fascination people have with insects. Okay, I like insects too and spent many an hour catching fireflies and watching ants. I like the idea of a candy container having a life after the candy is gone and the candy being themed to the package is a nice touch.
The Buggin’ Glow Pop by Impact Confections doesn’t really provide much candy. It’s a hard candy pop mounted to the underside of a plastic jar lid. The 21st century bonus here is that there’s a little button on the top that turns on an LED.
I struggled with the little button for a while because I wanted to figure out a way to keep it turned on. Alas, the button is too sensitive and I never did find a way.
The pop itself is shaped like some sort of bug. I think it looks like a potato bug (not something I want to put in my mouth) or perhaps a chubby dragon fly. He’s holding his little hands together ala Mr. Burns saying, “Excellent.” This one is watermelon flavored. Which is a good summer flavor.
It’s tasty. Very sweet, not at all tangy. When you’re not eating it, it sits back on top of the jar easily or just set it upright. It’s little abdomen glows when you press the button. The whole jar is nice clear plastic, about the size of a large baby food jar. The plastic label comes off it quite easily so it’s a completely unbranded jar with a light on the top (and a few non-functioning air holes).
I was most interested in finishing the candy so I could see the inner works of the LED. It wasn’t easy once the candy was dissolved down to the base. This is not easy stuff to crunch when it’s so close to the batteries and light. The LED itself is encased in some tough plastic. The LED itself is white, not green like the candy (which makes sense because the pops are available in some other flavors that were of no interest to me when I picked this out and have since forgotten).
So now I have a jar that’s great for putting change in and I can actually tell what’s in there without turning on the lights. Maybe I’ll keep it in my purse.
The jar is slightly bigger than the Buggin’ Glow Pop one and has a little purple flip top. Inside the jar are oodles of little compressed dextrose candies. (Like SweeTarts.) They’re shaped like little bug characters, vaguely related to the pictures on the label.
It’s a little disconcerting that these look like Flintstone’s Chewable Vitamins. Luckily they don’t taste like them. The candies come in three colors and flavors:
The flip top has an inner thin foam liner that can be removed so that the air holes actually work and you can put bugs in the jar.
These were both cute and fun and I’d buy either again if I had a kid and back yard to share them with. They were a little pricey at the Dollar General (um, a dollar each) but perhaps you’ll find them cheaper. As summer is coming up, candies that support kid’s curiosity and non-programmed play should have a place in most homes. Either one might make fun favors for a themed birthday party or tiny take-along item for a camping trip.
Friday, May 4, 2007
This is a new level of portability for tape shaped gummi products. Capitalizing on the bubble gum tape dispenser (with the ultimate application being the Bubble Roll Message Maker) this little plastic disk holds six feet of candy.
Hubba Bubba introduced these in two flavors: Sour Blue Raspberry and Shocking Strawberry. Though the product calls itself gummi, it’s looks more like Red Vines from the ingredients: Sugar, Corn Syrup, Wheat Flour, Corn Starch, Partially Hydrogenated Palm Oil, Malic Acid, Apple Juice Concentrate, Citric Acid, Natural and Artificial Flavors, Mono & Di-Glycerides, Red 40.
There isn’t any gelatin in there, which is what I consider a defining ingredient of gummis. To continue that thought, jellies use pectin or corn starch, licorice or vines use wheat flour.
Naming aside, the dense roll unravels to reveal a long and flat tape with a coating of sugar and flavor on it (a little sour bite) which keeps it from sticking to itself. The chew is pretty dense and leathery, like a rather dry Red Vine.
I found the package frustrating, as the cutter didn’t really cut, it just held the tape in place while I stretched it until it split and broke. Of course it would also scatter bits of the sugary coating around as well. I guess they’re worried about giving sharp objects to kids. I guess they’re not worried about stuff getting in my keyboard. Or maybe they have a co-marketing deal with those compressed air can companies.
The candy is tasty but the novelty of the roll in a pack you can put in your back pocket isn’t well executed. These remind me of a bunch of different products, including the Sour Punch Straws and the unbranded stuff you can get in the bulk bins at the grocery store. Basically there are better values out there, however, if you’re looking for a light candy snack, especially for kids that involves some portion control, this might be fun.
Wednesday, May 2, 2007
Skittles are insanely tasty little morsels. Rather like little bits of Starburst covered in a candy shell. Skittles were first introduced in 1974 in the UK and parts of Europe. They spread to the States as an import for a while and then in 1981 Mars began making them in the States.
Obsessive folks (perhaps I’m one of them and speaking from experience) like to divide up the colors and eat them. I usually eat mine in pairs of same flavors, but when it comes down to the end of the pack, there are certain acceptable combos (all the citruses can be paired and grape and strawberry can go together ... strawberry and lemon are also acceptable but never ever put orange and grape together).
Original Fruit Skittles
While the Skittles website asserts that the flavor distribution is random, I’ve always felt that there were fewer green and purple ones in most bags. But as you can see from the photo, it’s just the green ones that seemed slighted in this mix (and I’m not going to complain). I took copious photos of all of the bags as well, so if you’re curious they’re here.
You might want to partake of some of my favorite Skittles commercials: Man with Beard, Skittles Leak, this one is from the previous campaign (one that I think captures a bit of the wonder of candy and magic better) and the original with great costumes ... oh, wait, those aren’t costumes, that’s what we used to wear back in the day.
Wild Berry Skittles
These have been around for a long time, but I never really noticed them. I never saw a reason to get anything other than the regular Skittles. All of the flavors were great. Sure I ate the grape ones last, if at all (always share!), but they were one of those candies you can eat in a dark movie theater without having to spit out mistakes.
Wild Berry Skittles come in a super purple pack, so there’s no mistaking them at the store (not like the M&M Pirate Pearls and M&M Almond). The colors look vaguely familiar, but without the vibrant orange and yellow. Instead they have a mousy pink in the mix which just makes them feel bland.
Not enough of these flavors are actually berries and berries as a mix aren’t that interesting to me.
Rating: 6 out of 10
As I was looking through a bunch of old commercials for Skittles online I realized that this was another flavor mix that I completely ignored. However, part of that may be that the flavors were different back then. The original mix of Tropical Skittles included two different flavors: Passion Punch (Blue), Mango Peach (Orange), Strawberry Watermelon (Pink), the new flavors are noted with an *.
I loved the look of these spread out on the table but again the proportion of “tasty” ones was too small to warrant buying the whole bag. (How long before Skittles goes the way of M&Ms and you can special order flavor mixes?)
Rating: 6 out of 10
Smoothie Mix Skittles
I’m not sure if a consumer wrote to Skittles and said, “I love your chewy little morsels, but could you make them with less flavor? I just can’t take it.” And of course being capitalists wishing to capitalize on all corners of the untapped Skittles market, they did.
Smoothies in real life are great. They’re like shakes only made with lots and lots of fruit. At least when I make them that’s how they taste. Some folks put yogurt or ice cream or sherbet in there, so I guess that’s where the watering-down of the flavor comes from.
These are just too bland. Maybe if I’d just come out of a coma these would be good for easing me back into the world ... or might put me back into a vegetative state.
Rating: 5 out of 10
UPDATE: Smoothies are discontinued.
While all the other bags were virtually identical in format (same size and weight and materials) this bag is different. It’s a little shorter than the others and made with a much thicker plastic (that’s annoyingly hard to open). I’m guessing it’s because these are rather different Skittles. Instead of all the sour being locked up under that candy shell, here it’s on the outside of the shell in a sparkly sanded coating.
The chew towards the end on all of these seemed grainier than usual. I don’t mind that as a feature though. I don’t like how messy these are. I like to line up my Skittles on my desk in little lines of each color as I dump small amounts out. These leave a dusting of sour on the desk. A word of caution as well, don’t ever get the sour powder in your eyes. It’s also very easy to just suck the sour off the outside, though it tastes the same on all of them, it also seems to lead to more tongue damage.
Rating: 7 out of 10
POSTED BY Cybele AT 8:04 am
Tuesday, May 1, 2007
This is another one of those products that I’ve only seen at the 99 Cent Only Store. These Sour Bloops are billed as “Intense Chewy Fruit Candies” and are made by Lance. Yes, Lance, that company that you makes those bright orange Cheese & Peanut Butter crackers that come in mini-bricks in vending machines.
As something you would find in a vending machine, these fill an important niche. They’re like mega-Skittles or fruity Mentos. The flavor assortment is definitely unique.
Each candy is a rustic looking Mentos, same size, same basic shape.
The name Sour Bloops may be a little pedestrian and unimaginative but the candy certainly lives up to it. Basically they were okay.
Green Apple - tangy, with a pretty good combination of apple juice notes and that fake green apple flavor of Jolly Ranchers. Pretty soft and pleasant. The flavor stays with the chew to the end.
Wild Cherry - tastes like a red cherry Lifesaver, but much more tart. Flavorful and a smidge medicinal, especially towards the end where I get a little burning feeling in my throat.
Peach Lemonade - I haven’t the foggiest what this tastes like, since there were none in my mix.
Stick with Mentos or Skittles unless you really need a peach lemonade fix ... which I can’t comment on, as they’re so rare as to not make an appearance in my bag. If you’re stuck with what your vending machine offers, well, this is a far better choice than Garfield’s Chocobites. These candies may also appear in rolls called Chewz.
Friday, April 6, 2007
Pure Fun sent me some Fair Trade and Organic Cotton Candy last year (who knew such a thing existed?). It’s really not that they created a more socially responsible treat that got me, it was that they made it in Root Beer and Maple flavors! This year I got to visit them at their booth at Expo West. Let me say that they’re the best kind of candy people - friendly, inviting and eager to share. I see the whole ample samples as a sign of confidence in their product.
And I’m not let down. Their candies don’t look like a compromise when it comes to all the best things about hard candies: they look tasty. Glossy, luminous, brightly colored and with a wide assortment to please most folks.
The Citrus Slices are drop dead gorgeous. And the taste does not disappoint. They’re tart, flavorful and just the right size (a little smaller than a regular starlight mint). Lime, Orange & Lemon. (Everyone knows I would also like to see a grapefruit in this mix.)
Barrels of Fun - root beer float with vanilla. I would have preferred a straight root beer barrel, but this was nice. More on the smooth and creamy side of things than the zesty tingle of a root beer.
Chocolate Meltdowns - tangerine, raspberry & pepsin with chocolatey centers. These were the ones I liked the least of all of them. The flavorful outsides were great, but the lack of chocolate punch on the inside made me wish they were just plain old solid candies.
Fruit Rocks - goji berry, pomegranate, honey lemon & sour green apple. Really sassy and flavorful. I can’t say that Goji Berry is really my favorite flavor in the world, but the honey lemon was great and a less artificial tasting green apple rocks.
I tried Yummy Earth last year at the All Candy Expo when they introduced their all natural Organic Lollipops. Not just the plain old flavors like lemon and orange but also pomegranate, raspberry and watermelon.
They have a line of hard candies to go with their lollies in both fruity flavors and peppermint. These are a little different, a little smaller than regular hard candies.
Larger than Altoids but smaller than regular hard candy disks.
I covered Wet Faced Watermelon, Cheeky Lemon & Pomegranate Pucker over here. The new flavors for me were:
Mango Tango - this pretty little swirled candy. I’m not sure what the mango was tango-ing with, but it was definitely tropical. Kind of like a Bonne Bell lipsmacker with a REAL kick of flavor.
Peppermint (not shown) - this was very strong, much like an Altoid only smoother. I took these on Whale Watching trips all winter.
Either one of these brands has the right attitude ... don’t make your candy look all mousy and plain ... jazz it up with vibrant colors to match their vibrant flavors.
Of course they’re a little more expensive, but my guess is that the economies of scale will kick in as more people demand organic and all natural stuff and the prices will drop.
I’ve seen some of the Yummy Earth in Whole Foods but you can also buy direct from them on their website and Pure Fun is available at Whole Foods.
Both products are organic, gmo-free, no artificials flavors, no synthetics, no gluten, no casein, kosher, vegetarian ... and vegan ... whew!
Thursday, April 5, 2007
Folks are obsessed with Peeps around this time of the year. As I’ve stated before, I love the idea of Peeps, I just don’t really enjoy eating them. So I thought I’d try to improve my experience by creating some Peeps Mash-Ups. These aren’t full-blown recipes but more of a “dry fondue” with some items I had lying around:
Peeps Rocks - here I’ve mashed my Peep into some Strawberry Pop Rocks.
First, when mashing a Peep, it helps to pull it apart. This way you have two sticky halves for picking up other candy goodness as well as alleviating the issue of “double dipping” if you’re mashing with a buddy.
When I mashed the Pop Rocks into this fresh Peep, the rocks started snapping immediately. (You can’t see the noise in the photo, but it’s cracklin’ away, trust me.)
The cotton-candy-like flavor of the strawberry goes really well with the flavorless Peep. Light and refreshing. The pops give it a little sizzle.
Peeps Nerds - when you look at it, a Peep is really just a giant spongy Nerd with a pointy nose. Oh, and eyes. Nerds may have eyes in their little cartoon versions on the packaging, but not on the real candies like Peeps do.
I wasn’t really fond of this flavor combination, or the colors. The red and green (cherry & watermelon) looked too Christmasy. The taste combo was pretty good though. The crunch of the Nerds gave the spongy marshmallow a good texture and the zap of tartness also balanced out the sweetness of the Peep.
Peeps & Mini M&Ms - this is a natural combo and the colors couldn’t look better together if I tried. The little M&Ms adhere really well to the Peep’s exposed marshmallow. The sweet chocolate has a good crunch though it might be a little too sweet.
You could probably try mini dark chocolate baking chips for a less sweet experience (though you’d lose the crunch). The little tube they come in is especially easy for mashing on the go, just press the stickiness to the opening and tip the M&Ms Minis into it.
Peep Tarts - I have to admit that I was especially proud of the name for this one. Originally I wanted to use Pixy Stix for the powder, but I couldn’t find any (I try not to keep them in the house, for sanity’s sake). So I took the powder from an extra Topps Baby Bottle Pop. The Citrus Craze powder is already less sweet because it’s also intended to be “mashed up” with the lollipop top, so it adds flavor and tartness without more throat-burning sugar.
I’m not really sold on the combo, but after eating everything pictured here within about 15 minutes I had a stomach ache. Gah, I’m getting another one just typing this up!
So, what are your ideas for Peeps Mash-ups - either theoretical ones, or ones that you actually do?
Friday, March 30, 2007
After the review of Lifesavers Jelly Beans, I kept hearing that the SweeTart Jelly Beans were also very good. (Actually, readers have been telling me this for a year, but I was hoping to catch them on sale after Easter last year, but wasn’t so lucky.)
So I went out last night looking for them. Luckily they were on sale ($1.50 a bag instead of $2.29) at RiteAid. I carefully chose a bag that looked like it had lots of yellow ones in it (the others looked very pink).
Unlike the Lifesavers Jelly Beans that made up flavors to include in the bag, the SweeTart Jelly Beans stick to the regular SweeTart flavors: Grape, Cherry, Orange, Lemon, Green Apple and Blue Punch.
The colors are typical of an assortment of highlighter pens (well, the purple one just wasn’t photographing well, it’s much more lilac that the photo makes it appear). They’re matte and opaque. They’re also not terribly regular in size and shape, with the colors sometimes looking a little faded in spots and other little bloops of other colors in them.
These beans are different. They candy shell on them isn’t like any other jelly bean I’ve had. Instead of just being a flavored sugar shell, these feel different. They’re a little crumbly and a little cool on the tongue. The ingredients lists dextrose as one of the main ingredients. Dextrose is the same sugar used to make SweeTart and other compressed sugar candies.
It takes a little getting used to, because at first it feels like the bean is past its prime or something. But then I really started to enjoy cleaving off parts of the shell in my mouth before chewing the rest up. They’re kind of like Lemonheads in that respect, except not as sour. The jelly center isn’t really flavored, but does have a slight tang to it (yes, I managed to just nibble off the shell on a few of them). The jelly center is the same for all of them as far as I can tell (Jelly Belly uses specific flavored centers for their beans, which is one of the reasons they’re so flavorful).
I really liked the orange and lemon, but found the grape to be a huge disappointment. It was completely missing that “malic acid” flavor of the grape SweeTart. The green apple also seemed a little weird, just not quite complete. The blue punch was much better than I expected and of course the cherry was just bitter to me. Though all of them are a bit tart, they’re not really sour like a SweeTart is. I can say from experience here that there’s no tongue damage from eating a third of a bag for breakfast (which there definitely would be with the regular chalky SweeTart).
I’m not as fond of these as I’d hoped, so they’re not going to knock the Lifesavers Jelly Beans off the current favored spot for the special Easter jelly beans. Part of it is the lack of visual appeal, they just look old. I also wanted them to be more tart. But I have to give them props for making me eat my jelly beans in a different way. I still have another bag of the SweeTart Ducks, Chicks & Bunnies (I finally found them at Walgreen’s) ... it’s gonna take a big candy innovation for something else from SweeTart to knock them off the top spot.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.