Friday, June 15, 2007
One of the things I like so much about some of the Japanese candies is that they’re incredibly flavorful. I couple of months ago I got an email from the fine folks at JBox telling me about a new UHA Shigekix product called Aha! Brain. It comes in a few different flavors, including “Energy Drink Flavor”, which puzzled me and scared me enough to prompt me to stick to the comfortably familiar flavor called Citrus Flavor.
I tried Shigekix a couple of years ago in the Cola flavor and found them kind of fun. This package doesn’t have the familiar schmoo character on the front, instead a PacMan type character with some sort of electrified brain.
The little gumdrop shaped candies are covered in a light and uneven candy shell. The shell is merely sweet and carries no flavor as far as I can tell. The gummi center, however, is jam packed with flavor. The gummi is much softer than the regular Shigekix, rather like a slightly stale Haribo Bear.
The citrus flavor is just bursting with complexity. It has the zesty notes of grapefruit and perhaps yuzu and lemon then the tart bite and a bit of sweet juiciness. I have no idea if my brain is more awake than before, but my salivary glands are working overtime here.
I probably wouldn’t go popping this to solve problems, but I could see it being a good treat for long car trips where I need to stay alert.
Shigegix Aha! Brain also comes in Muscat flavor.
Check out the JBox site where they feature four different ads from Japan for the product. I have no idea what’s going on (I believe the dancing woman in the yellow helmet is caused by eating Aha! Brain). Now I want that helmet (I rode my bike to work today and my plain white helmet just isn’t doing it for me ... well, except for protecting my now super-Aha’ed brain).
Friday, June 1, 2007
Following up on yesterday’s Starburst Sour, I thought I’d tackle some real sour stuff. I found Sour Extinguisher at the 7-11 a few weeks ago and thought it was a cute idea. There are three different flavors with different levels of sour along with an “extinguisher” that puts out the sour burn.
The first thing I noticed was that the “randomness” of my bag meant that I had an overwhelming number of yellow candies. (The bag makes mention that the assortment may vary, it also makes mention of the chance of mouth irritation.)
The candies break down this way:
Tangy Tangerine - a mild sour ... (6 candies)
The little candies look more like pieces of lumpy gum. They’re matte in color and don’t smell like anything.
The Tangerine is nice. A little firm to chew, not quite a Chewy SweeTart or Skittles, it’s more like a Razzle that never turns into gum. Lemon is quite tart, but actually has some really good authentic lemon flavors in there, even a little bitterness that makes it taste like a freshly shaken lemonade. Lime is very sour, so much so that it takes a while to get to the actual flavor. Again, it actually tastes like lime eventually.
None of them was so sour that I had to reach for the Extinguisher but I pretended with some Lime anyway. The Raspberry was definitely sweet and it definitely smote the sour. The flavor was pretty bland, kind of like cotton candy.
The texture of the candies as a whole isn’t really my idea of great. They’re crumbly but never really chewy and then they disappear. I’d give them higher marks if I didn’t feel like the texture was due to being in the sofa cushions for several years. As an interactive candy that you really need to look at what you’re eating, it’s a fun idea, especially for kids who crave these sorts of things. I found, if nothing else, they really got my mouth watering.
UPDATE 6/9/2009: Big BOING, the company that developed Sour Extinguisher, sold it to American Licorice. It was relaunched in January 2009 with two flavor sets. Full review here of the new Chewy Extinguisher Sour Citrus & Chewy Extinguisher Sour Fruit.
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:
Green (apple) - a little tart, a little floral, vaguely green apple.
Purple (grape) - yeah, fake grape. I liked it. It could be tarter, but I was pleased enough to pick these out first.
Pink (cherry) - blechy, blechy. Cherry, followed by a slight bitter burn and an unpleasant aftertaste.
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
Lime (Green) - classic lime, leaning more towards the tart side than the floor-wax side of things.
Grape (Purple) - a pretty well rounded fake grape flavor
Lemon (Yellow) - good and sour with some hints of zest
Orange (Orange) - juicy and flavorful
Strawberry (Red) - one of the few red candies I like, it smells like cotton candy and has a tangy, creamy berry taste
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.
Raspberry (Blue) - it’s a good berry flavor, perhaps a little more jammy and caramelized than I’d like
Strawberry (Pink) - I don’t know why these are pink, it confuses me ... why not just keep the same red from the classic mix?
Wild Cherry (Red) - cherries aren’t berries ... these are dreadful, they taste like Sucrets but without the numbing power
Berry Punch (Purple) - this one isn’t that different from the raspberry, perhaps a little more floral and less tart
Melon Berry (Green) - melons aren’t berries. It definitely tastes like watermelon and something kind of lemony.
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 *.
Banana Berry (Yellow) - I was hoping this would be like Laffy Taffy. Alas, the banana and berry mix was not pleasant.
Kiwi Lime (Green) - good kiwi flavor, not enough lime
Mango Tangelo * (Orange) - it’s kind of nice, but tastes more like peach than mango.
Pineapple Passionfruit * (Blue) - finally! A blue flavor I like. The pineapple part was great.
Strawberry Starfruit * (Pink) - I don’t eat Starfruits very often, only when they show up as a garnish on an expensive meal. These don’t taste like starfruit or strawberries. This tastes like the way ink pens smell.
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.
Lemon Berry (Yellow) - like lemon sherbet, just a little flavor and no tartness
Mixed Berry (Lavender) - the most flavorful of the bunch, berries lend a good floral brightness to this
Peach Pear (Light Green) - my two of my least favorite fruit flavors ... which don’t taste at all like peach or pear in this mix (more like banana)
Orange Mango (Light Orange) - smells like orange and tastes like papaya
Strawberry Banana (Pink) - I like this, probably because banana creates its own creaminess in smoothies, so it’s a believable flavor
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.
Blue Raspberry (Blue) - a good sour and then a berry hit and then a weird aftertaste
Grape (Purple) - the tartness felt more like citrus than malic acid and I kind of lost the grape flavor and just had a sweet chew
Lemon (Yellow) - the tartness really works on this, it feels citrusy on the outside and on the inside
Orange (Orange) - a slight blister at first and then a good sweet chew
Strawberry (Red) - really sour, then pleasantly floral, kind of like eating a not-quite-ripe strawberry and then a ripe one ... or maybe some limeade with some strawberries in it
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
Tart & Tangy (discontinued)
Ice Cream Skittles (limited edition)
Fresh Mint Skittles (discontinued)
Carnival Flavors Skittles (limited edition)
Skittles Bubble Gum (contains artificial sweeteners, so I haven’t tried it)
Skittles Chocolate Mix (introduced in 2007 - probably discontinued as of 2009)
Skittles Crazy Cores (new introduction January 2009)
Skittles Fizzl’d Fruits (new introduction March 2010)
Skittles Blenders (new introduction January 2011)
Skittles Riddles (new introduction January 2012)
Skittles made in the United States before 2009 contain gelatin, therefore were not suitable for vegans and are not Kosher. As of mid-2009 with the introduction of the new Skittles Crazy Cores they are made without gelatin and marked as being Gluten-Free
Skittles made in Europe do not contain gelatin (but I’m not sure if they’re Kosher).
Skittles have less fat than Starbursts: 2.5 grams per pack, all saturated versus 5 grams with 4.5 grams saturated in Starbursts.
In 2008 Mars and Wrigley’s merged and as of 2009 Skittles are marked as a Wrigley’s product.
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!
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.