Thursday, March 17, 2011
Starburst makes some excellent jelly beans and have expanded their line to include a couple of different flavor mixes similar to their fruit chew flavors. The new Starburst Crazy Beans are unlike the fruit chew ancestors. They feature a flavored and colored shell with a different colored and flavored center. There are six varieties in the package.
The package is fun, the bright purple and yellow certainly got my attention. The prospect of two flavors in one, instead of combining flavors is also appealing. The crazy part, I think, comes with the combinations that Wrigley’s has come up with.
The beans are opaque and note quite as jewel toned as the standard beans. There’s a slight mottling to the color which I liked, it was as if they were dyed little granite pebbles. The sizes are pretty standard and the quality of them is good - they were consistent and glossy. The package boasts that they use real fruit juice, but the ingredients say that it’s less than 2%. Unlike the regular Starburst chews, these have no additional vitamin C. They also contain a confectioners glaze so shouldn’t be considered vegetarian/vegan.
(These don’t go in the order of the photos above, just because.)
Grape-Ade (Purple) - the grape on the outside was easy to distinguish right away, just like a Pixy Stix. The lemon center was a little more muddled, but still had a little citrus note. Good start.
Peach-A-Palooza (Orange) - is definitely peachy on the outside. I don’t know what the center is supposed to be, but it tasted like cherry to me. Not a winner in my book, but I’m sure this is an ideal combination for someone.
Tropical Cherry Splash (Blue) - it’s unfortunate to find another cherry one, this one has a bit of a papaya note to it that makes me as equally unhappy as the peach. Pass.
Razzin Watermelon (Pink) - this pink one was a little confusing. It’s pink on the outside and blue on the inside. But the outside tastes like bubble gum instead of watermelon. And the inside is all sweet and fragrant like raspberry and strawberries. The shells on all of these were downright thick and crunchy as well.
Banana Berry Blast (Yellow) - it starts with a light whiff of banana but quickly becomes a standard tangy berry. I liked it though I would have preferred a little more banana in the mix.
Strappleberry (Green) - it’s true to its name, it’s a sweet golden delicious apple flavor mixed with a mellow berry note. These varied widely, some were puckeringly tangy, others were all sweetness and little flavor.
They’re much more expensive than other jelly beans, though I admit that they’re quite flavorful. However, this particular flavor mix didn’t really hit within my zone of interest. I’d prefer something a bit more on the traditional side or with more intense fruit flavors. (Or maybe they want to try doing candy coated gummis, since they’re already making Life Savers Gummis and Starburst GummiBursts.)
I feel like we’re running out of flavors and though there’s a large number of combinations possible - the results are merely proof of concept, not great candy.
I don’t know if these are a permanent item or just a seasonal one.
Tuesday, February 22, 2011
Wrigley’s (part of Mars) has quietly released a new variety of Skittles called Skittles Blenders. They feature blended fruit flavors.
The package is bright yellow with sky blue accents. I’m not sure if Blenders requires an exclamation point at the end or a tornado like the package shows. Unlike the Crazy Cores introduced about two years ago that have contrasting flavors for the shell and center, these flavor combinations are completely combined.
The package smells a lot like the Tropical Skittles at first.
Blue - Melon Berry Burst (tm) - the aqua blue Skittles have a distinct flavor that’s just like Tropical Punch but tastes nothing like the melon or berry mentioned in the name. It’s tangy and certainly vibrant.
I’m underwhelmed by this new version. There were two flavors that I picked out to eat, which left 3/5 of the package uneaten by me. I have nothing against the invention of new flavors or new flavor combinations but the fact that all of these are trademarked leads me to believe that there were more intellectual property lawyers involved in the creation of this candy than actual candy makers. I wish Wrigley’s/Mars would just stick to really great flavors instead of these strange mixes. They make a Citrus Mix for Australia, why won’t they give those a try in the United States?
The package states that they are gluten free and gelatin free. It also reminds you to do your part and dispose of the wrappers in the trash. Skittles are fortified with vitamin C and a package 40% of your daily recommended amount.
Thursday, November 11, 2010
Starburst launched a new line of gummis back in 2008 called GummiBursts. They’re a very firm gummi disk filled with a flavored syrup. A year later they introduced a sour version, which sports a tangy grainy coating. Neither is a huge step forward in goo filled gummis, a product which has been around for at least twenty years. The best selling point I can note is that they’re available in small bags of 1.5 ounces and have a very low caloric density - at only 140 calories a bag which is 93 calories per ounce (2 grams of protein, too).
Starburst GummiBurst Flavor Duos are the newest version. They feature a different flavor for the filling from the gummi. The four flavor combinations are: strawberry-watermelon, cherry-fruit punch, green apple-strawberry and lemon-cherry.
The package contained ten little candies. As far as I can tell, I only got three of the four flavor combinations. (And I didn’t feel like chasing down another bag.)
I liked the smell, it was like fresh cotton candy and strawberries. Sweet and a little fruity and nothing plastic or artificial about it.
Lemon-Cherry - the outside was yellow along the edges but the red goo center made it look orange for the most part. The lemon gummi is soft with a distinct bite to it that’s chewy but not completely bouncy like some gummies can be. The lemon flavor is ordinary but intense enough to overshadow the center. It’s tangy and has a well rounded citrus flavor. The goo in the center is sticky and didn’t taste like much except perhaps sour with a light note of wild cherry on some of them. Of the flavors I tried, I liked this one best.
Strawberry-Watermelon - this one has a lot more definition. The outer strawberry gummi is quite tart and otherwise has only a light strawberry flavor. The gooey center is a throat-searing sweet and artificial watermelon flavor. It actually goes pretty well together and I’m not usually a fan of watermelon candies.
Cherry-Fruit Punch - the cherry gummi shell is sweet and tart without much cherry flavor. The fruit punch center has only a slight difference in flavor, more to the tropical side of things. The whole piece is a bit sweeter than the others.
I’m learning that I’m not that fond of goo filled gummis and these are no exception. They’re interesting combinations (though I’ve only tried 3 out of 4 of them) but not really up my alley as far as flavors go. They’re better than the originals, at least in my opinion, but that may just be the flavor assortment was more to my liking.
Monday, November 1, 2010
Life Savers were introduced in 1912 by Clarence Crane. They came in one flavor, Pep-O-Mint. Crane made chocolate most of the year but wanted a candy product that could withstand the summer heat and have a long shelf life. So he innovated the Life Saver. At first he was just trying to create a mint disk, similar to a Necco Wafer. But the pill maker he took his contract to had trouble making a plain, thick disk that didn’t fall apart. So they put a little hole in the center to stabilize the production. The look of the little white hoop of candy reminded Crane of the life saver found on boats, so that’s what he named the mint.
Within a could of years Crane sold the company and rights to Life Savers to Edward John Noble who saw the great potential of the candy. They were sold in little cardboard tubes, he streamlined things and packaged them like they’re sold today, in a roll wrapped in waxed paper and foil with a little paper label.
Noble was an excellent salesman and introduced techniques to his clients, such as telling them to make sure that customers always had at least one nickel in their change and to display the rolls on the counter by the cash register. Life Savers were positioned as an impulse buy. Early packages were all one flavor and consisted of the standard mints (wintergreen & spearmint), cinnamon, violet and even licorice. It wasn’t until 1935 that Life Savers in the Five Flavor roll came out.
In the late 1968s Noble sold the company to E.R. Squibb Corporation (yes, the drug people that later became Bristol-Meyers Squibb who make Plavix and Coumadin) and then they sold to Nabisco Brands Inc in 1981. Nabisco in turn was taken over by Kraft in 2000 and Kraft sold their candy interests including Life Savers off to Wrigley’s in 2004. Wrigley’s was acquired by Mars in 2008.
Life Savers Pep-O-Mint themselves are simple. A little loop of compressed sugar with some strong peppermint flavoring. It’s all held together with a dash of stearic acid. There are 14 in the standard rolls these days.
Instead of the smoothness of a boiled candy mint, these have a little bit of a chalky texture to them. They’re not as grainy as Altoids (and not as strong) but they’re not as airy and melt-in-your-mouth as Buttermints or After Dinner Mints.
It’s quite a simple little candy. I like to crunch them, but they also dissolve slowly if you’re patient. I’m not patient and can crunch through a whole roll on a drive home from work.
Just as Life Savers have gone through plenty of owners, the wrappers have been designed, redesigned and undesigned time and again. The packages I’ve featured in this review are from the new “throwback” release of the Pep-O-Mint and Wint-O-Green rolls that are available in convenience stores. (Here’s one article about the most recent redesign shortly before Mars acquired Wrigley’s.) Here are some more photos of the different designs & flavors of Life Savers over the years.
I like the classic look of these packages, but really it’s the size and shape that probably compels me. It’s the one consistent item no matter what year it is.
Wint-O-Green Life Savers were introduced in 1919. They’re probably best know because of the cool feature that you can create a luminescent spark when crunching a Wint-O-Green Life Saver. (I can’t capture it with a camera, but here’s a guy who has.)
They’re smooth but quite aromatic. After eating about half a roll I tend to get a strange numbness, like Cepacol or other topical anesthetics can cause. It’s not all about medicine and therapy though, it reminds me of classic Bazooka Bubble Gum and Root Beer soda.
I don’t really like the smell of wintergreen that much, because of some of the more unpleasant associations with pain relieving rubs, but I do like the strange tingly flavor and how different it is from the standard peppermint or spearmint.
Both flavors are classics and still made in the classic way, though now in Canada where sugar is cheaper. I’m glad Wrigley’s hasn’t mucked around with anything aside from the packaging.
Monday, March 22, 2010
Back in October I heard that Wrigley’s was introducing some new Skittles. These weren’t just new flavors, they were going to be a completely new way to experience the chewy fruit-flavored candy lentils.
Skittles Fizzl’d Fruits are billed as Fizzling fun for your mouth. As you can imagine from the name, they’re Skittles with a foaming, fizzy component.
The package is cobalt blue and holds the same amount as the Sour Skittles, 1.8 ounces (the regular flavors are 2.17 ounces). I couldn’t wait to find them in stores locally, so when I saw a box of them posted on eBay, I bought them right away.
From the outside of the package they looked like Sour Skittles, which of course gets my mouth watering immediately. The images show a softly sanded set of Skittles, my guess was this was the fizzing part.
This sort of fizzing reaction is the same as AlkaSeltzer or other effervescent tablets. Sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) is mixed with an acidic agent, in this case citric acid. When it’s dry, nothing happens but when water (or saliva) wets it, they begin a reaction that results in carbon dioxide (the air) and sodium citrate (an alkaline salt with a tangy flavor that works as a mild antacid).
I took one Skittle and carefully put a drop of water on it and sure enough as the water wicked around the whole candy the surface started to bubble slightly. It looked like it was being deep fried, or like putting a strawberry in a glass of champagne. It’s not like the whole thing got covered in scrubbing bubbles nor would a whole bowl of them create a “snap, crackle, pop” but it’s still a remarkable little chemistry demonstration.
The flavors are Berry Punch, Melon Berry, Raspberry, Strawberry and Wild Cherry. If this set of flavors sounds familiar, yes, it’s the same as Wild Berry Skittles.
They smell softly sweet with a light floral note, but nothing that really hints at the experience to come.
They are strange! I can say right now they are not for me, but they are definitely intriguing.
I was expecting the caustic and biting sour coating when I popped two of the Melon Berry flavor in my mouth, and yes, there was a sour tingle, but then there was a fizz. It’s not a carbonation fizz, it’s more like putting an Alka Seltzer tablet on your tongue. The foaming is soft and has small bubbles which dissipate quickly, especially when I chewed up the candy. I didn’t care much for the melon berry flavor as it was, so the additional component was weird and slightly metallic.
The Raspberry went nicely, the sour bite was less noticeable and the foam seemed to support the floral flavors. The coating, I was noticing, has a medicinal mineral salt flavor to it, like eating antacids.
Berry Punch had a kind of bubble gum note to it, so the bubbly coating fit right in. It reminded me of a cheap soda from my childhood, in the best way possible.
Strawberry was much more tangy than the one found in the regular mix and combined well with the fizzling.
Wild Cherry was a strange combination of foreign flavors, it simply put, an effervescent cough drop. It had all the worst aftertastes for me, a mid-tone metallic note and then the lingering cherry and bitter red dye afterglow.
As I mentioned earlier, they’re just not for me. I’m not much for effervescence; the caustic burps after just aren’t worth the tongue tingling. The mineral aftertaste is also a bit disconcerting for me, but I know it’s completely benign. Finally, I’m not that keen on the name. They’re using the Wild Berry mix so seems like they could have gone for Bubbly Berry instead of Fizzl’d Fruits since Fruits is the name of the classic flavor mix. I also ate three bags of these over the past five days and found that the fizzy coating was inconsistent. Sometimes it was fizzy but flavorless, other times it was a perfect blend of tangy and foamy.
I know that kids like to snort the sour powder from Sour Skittles, but this would be a very bad idea ... I give it about 11 days before videos start showing up on youtube of kids doing it. Skittles are now gelatin-free and gluten-free. They’re also no nuts and vegan if you’re the kind who will eat artificial stuff. Not Kosher.
Monday, March 8, 2010
The flavors are Lemon, Apple, Orange, Tangy Cherry, Tangy Punch and Watermelon.
All the candies are sherbet colors, soft, opaque pastels. They’re bouncy and squishy, not quite greasy but they definitely cling together readily.
I expected them to be big, about the same size as the hoops known as LifeSavers Gummies, which themselves are larger than the hard candy version. Instead they’re actually smaller than the little images on the package. These cute and plump little shapes are barely the size of a traditional gummi bear. (I threw an M&M in there for you to see the scale.)
Blue is Tangy Punch - it reminds me of Hawaiian Punch. It’s tangy of course and has an artificial flavor to go with the tropical fruit.
Green is Apple - it’s far less tart than I expected. A little like apple juice.
Orange is Orange - it looks like sherbet and tastes rather like it too, soft and mellow with a light sour note but mostly a juice flavor.
Red is Watermelon - at first I thought it’d be cherry. The watermelon reminded me of Jolly Ranchers in the best possible way. Fresh, a little more intensely fruity than the real melon and of course an artificial version of the actual flavor.
Lemon is Yellow - I didn’t care much for this one, it had a metallic note, like drinking lemonade in a can.
Pink is Tangy Cherry - this is not the cherry I associate with LifeSavers. It’s far too mild and though it’s called Tangy Cherry, it’s not terribly sour at all.
On the whole they’re adorable, rather mild but nothing extraordinary. Gummis for Easter aren’t that common, so it’s nice to see a themed product. There is no allergen statement on the package but it does contain gelatin and of course artificial colors & flavors. It doesn’t say anything about gluten or nuts.
Friday, November 13, 2009
If you’d asked me a year ago if there were any more mint flavors that Altoids could come in, I would have said, “Nope, it’s all been done.”
I know, this is a really short review but it has a really big picture. I spotted these new Cool Honey Altoids at Walgreen’s. I liked the prison stripes of yellow and black,oh wait, maybe they’re supposed to be bee colors. It’s distinctive enough I don’t think anyone will mistake this for Ginger or Licorice.
I liked the idea of cool honey, like a cough drop version of Altoids. (Honestly a eucalyptus version might be good.)
They’re lightly tinted, maybe a little yellow, I thought sometimes they looked a tad green. Perhaps absinthe! But the flavor? They’re minty and strong but other than that I wasn’t getting anything honey-ish out of them. They’re milder than a regular Altoid, but lacking the complex flavor combination that I enjoyed in the Creme de Menthe version.
It’s too bad, it was a nice idea. But at least the tin is cute. Gigi also reviewed them.
Friday, December 19, 2008
I’m buried in mints! So here’s a huge roundup of all the mint items in my queue that I wanted to get through before Christmas.
Like the Trader Joe’s Espresso Pillows I picked up a few months ago, Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Mints come in a cute round tin and hold 2.45 ounces. Unlike the Espresso Pillows, these are not a very original product.
Inside the tin is a fluted liner that holds a large handful of soft, white candy-shelled mints. Each is about the size of a kidney bean. The tin says that there are no artificial flavors or preservatives. I think they shy from the “all natural” part because the white shell is created with titanium dioxide.
They reminded me of the classic Dutch Mints and luckily I had some of those around for comparison.
Jelly Belly makes a large variety of Dutch Mints. They come in different colors, these are all hot pink and individually wrapped, though you can also get them in the stark white, pastel mint colors or right now in the Christmas assortment of red, green and white. (And they’re Kosher.)
The Dutch Mint is the size of a garbanzo bean but my guess is the same mass as the TJ’s.
They’re both the same construction, a soft mint fondant with a thin layer or dark chocolate then a crispy candy shell.
Both are lovely and addictive. The Trader Joe’s retails for $1.22 an ounce. The Jelly Belly can go for anywhere from $.70 an ounce for the small 2.9 ounce bag to $.56 for a one pound tub (check out Cost Plus World Market).
Jelly Belly Dutch Mints get a rating of: 8 out of 10
These also closely resemble the York Mints that also come in a tin.
The previous are great for toting around and especially nice if a restaurant gives you a few with the check. But if you’re entertaining, you might want to provide some other more chocolatey mint morsels.
I’ve always loved After Eight Mints, which are a flowing mint fondant in an ultra thin square. I used to love how they came in individual glassine envelopes, like a little file box of deliciousness.
Of course After Eights are made by Nestle now and not nearly as good as I remember them on top of the controversies that they’re made from questionably sourced chocolate. The Fair Trade movement has been working to bring families and communities out of poverty through fair payment for goods & services.
Divine Chocolate has been doing this since 1998 in the United Kingdom and recently expanded into the United States. Not only do they have tasty bars they also have addition treats like these Divine After Dinner Mints.
The mints are nicely sized for two bites at about 1.5” square. The mild semi-sweet chocolate is crisp and cracks well. The mint fondant center is creamy and minted only slightly so as not to overpower the chocolate. The dark chocolate has some berry and fruity tones that combine well with the cool peppermint flavors.
I’ve seen these at Whole Foods (at an endcap display for hostess giving), so they should be pretty widely available this season.
Divine After Dinner Mints get a rating of 7 out of 10.
Creme de Menthe Altoids have been out for a few months, though it took me a while to find the variety that isn’t covered in chocolate. I realized that I might have seen them before, the green of the package is only slightly lighter than the Spearmint boxes. These were on sale for $1.50 to boot!
Basically the flavor of these is like a Peppermint TicTac. It has a powdery vanilla scent, softer than a harsh peppermint and perhaps just a hint of licorice.
But these are Altoids. Though they might start out mild, they do pack a much stronger kick later on. I like the flavor a bit better than the straight Peppermint if only because of the mix of aromas.
Creme de Menthe Altoids get a rating of 8 out of 10.
Quite a few folks have been lamenting that Trader Joe’s discontinued their English Soft Peppermints. I’m pretty keen on the generic & mild butter mints I find at the drug store, but those were some pretty good mints.
Around this time of year, however, I see a lot of these See’s Peppermint Twists in candy dishes around the office. It took me a while, but I think I found out who makes them. There were two contenders: King Leo Soft Peppermint Candy or Bob’s Sweet Stripes.
I saw this box of King Leo Soft Peppermint Candy at the 99 Cent Only Store and thought I’d give them a whirl. They were a dollar for 3.5 ounces.
I thought they were “butter mints” and read through this to see how I came to that conclusion:
So I was expecting a soft mint. Either crumbly soft or mushy soft.
These were neither. They’re soft as in rounded and smooth, but after that they were not butter mints until I sucked on them for a while. Which is kind of the opposite of “soft from the moment you open the box”. Annoyance aside, they’re peppermint candies. They are airy and dissolve nicely and of course none of those hard candy sharp edges. They’re sweet and a bit less intense than a starlight mint and really pretty to look at. Like those English Soft Peppermints that were really made in the Netherlands, King Leo are made in Mexico. Kosher.
King Leo Soft Peppermint Candy gets a 6 out of 10.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.