Friday, April 20, 2007
Let me just start by saying that Starburst has some of the oddest commercials. Not “Freshmaker” odd, really really odd on purpose. The older Starburst commercials were rather traditional - selling Starburst on its description and merits. It’s fruity! It’s a chew! There’s real fruit juice in there! Now they focus on the experience and the kind of hip person (or tragically unhip) eats them.
I don’t read much into commercials. I eat Take 5 bars even though they had a wretched ad campaign last year that definitely wasn’t speaking to me.
Starburst started expanding its flavors many years ago and now has a rather large family. Today I’ll tackle the “Cremes.”
Starburst Berries & Creme - as with all the Starburst packages, this contains four flavors. While many companies are going with “smoothie” flavors (Skittles & Necco Wafers) for some reason Starburst decided we needed creme flavors in our Starburst.
Strawberries & Creme - reminds me of strawberry yoplait.
On the whole the new flavors actually tasted new to me. The strawberries and creme didn’t taste like a regular strawberry, so kudos for originality. But I like the clean taste of the original fruits.
I was kind of confused when I was buying my array of Starbursts for this series. I didn’t understand the difference between Fruit & Creme and Berries and Creme. Turns out there’s only a fifty percent difference. Two of the flavors are the same, I’m guessing they’re what Starburst thinks are the two best flavors, or perhaps the ones that make the colors of the package look good.
I don’t know if Berries & Creme and Fruit & Creme are meant to exist side-by-side, perhaps they’re battling it out right now for your affection and only one will remain on the regular Starburst repertoire.
Starburst Fruit & Creme - I’ve got to say that if nothing else the colors of the wrappers are enchanting. I’m always pleased when there isn’t a blue in the package though. Something weird about blue food.
Strawberries & Creme - yup, still strawberry yogurt.
Thursday, April 19, 2007
While working on my editorial for the LATimes I did a lot of research. I looked at the issue from a lot of different points of view in order to figure out the best way to frame my 700 words on the subject.
One of the points that a few commenters have made is that restricting confectioners through FDA regulations creates a nanny state. While I think this is true in general, I think that speaks more for keeping the definitions the way that they are. As consumers we’re just asking for consistency. We’re not saying that they can’t use vegetable oils, we’re just asking for the commonly accepted language to be maintained.
The naming convention also protects people who are buying products that are not individually labeled, such as chocolates from a bakery or candy shop. If you’re looking at a row of confectionery creations like chocolate covered strawberries, rocky road, chocolate croissants, chocolate chip cookies, chocolate dipped apples or chocolate pretzels you probably have an assumption about what that chocolate stuff is. With such a wide latitude under the new rules, are you going to be faced with playing 20 questions with the staff behind the counter about what exactly is in that chocolate? Do you seriously believe that they’ll be equipped to answer those questions? (Having worked in a bakery before, I’m going to say no.)
One of the other things I also examined was the value of real chocolate in the consumer candy market. I’m not talking about the high end stuff, I’m talking about plain old candy bars made with chocolate. I’ve said it over and over again, confectioners don’t need the FDA’s permission to make mockolate. They just want their blessing the relabel their existing products as real chocolate. I think it’s rather telling that of the top chocolate candy bars, there is one that is made with mockolate (Butterfinger). So success is possible with a non-chocolate product in the chocolate category (see chart below).
According to one of the articles I read, about 25% of chocolate is made from cocoa butter. Cocoa butter costs three times as much as vegetable oil substitutes. So the end product may cost 18% less for manufacturers. I can see why this is a tantalizing proposition for them (again, see chart below). The soda companies changed to high fructose corn sweeteners, check out Kate Hopkins analysis of that (note that the majority of a soda is water, not sweetener). Soda manufacturers who still use sugar are few and far between and charge a premium, Jones is the first one that comes to mind.
Don’t forget to spread the word and enter the Keep it Real Raffle.
My editorial in the LATimes was published.
Keep up with all my coverage of the issue here. Daily reviews continue as usual below.
Starbursts were one of those candies that simply appeared from nowhere and filled an aching void in my being that I never knew existed. They were chews, like Now & Laters, only they were actually chewy.
I didn’t know that they were road tested in Europe as Opal Fruits since 1960. They were introduced in the US in 1976, just as I was getting a regular allowance and permission to walk down to the convenience store with my sister. Though vaguely similar in format to Now & Laters, the soft chew and salivary-gland tingling tartness set them apart.
Starbursts are great for kids, I can say this authoritatively because that’s what I thought when I was one. They’re individually wrapped, have an array of flavors and the long narrow package looks like it has a lot of candy in it. It promotes sharing and portion control. And they’re brightly colored. The bright wax wrappers can also be folded into chains. (I never went this far though.)
The original flavors were orange, lemon, lime and strawberry but at some point lime was out and cherry was in. I wasn’t that fond of lime, but my dislike for cherry is well-known. The packages contain 12 chews.
Orange - super tangy and then mellows into a pleasant zesty chew.
As I was preparing this review and photographing the candies I was surprised that there were three of each flavor. I could have sworn that they were random and sometimes I was getting far too many cherries.
Starburst actually have real fruit juice in them as well as 50% of your RDA of Vitamin C. They also (in the States) have gelatin in them, so they’re not suitable for vegetarians and not certified Kosher. I’ve heard that the European versions of Starburst don’t have gelatin, so I’m curious if the texture is any different.
Other Starburst varieties:
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
This was one of the worst purchases I would make as a kid. I love little nuggets of gum (and often bought those Chicklets Tinys as well) but really the selling point here was the fact that it came in a real cloth bag! Still, it was a sweet treat with a reusable package (I would keep little pieces of beach glass or pennies flattened by trains in mine).
I have no idea if this is the same brand that I would buy at the Stop ‘n Go in Munroe Falls, OH. I seem to recall a little miner in a big hat grinning his fool’s gold heart out on the front, but I might have imagined that.
Gold Mine Gum is just little candy coated nuggets of gum. I recall it being a fruity flavor (ala Juicyfruit) when I was a kid, but this stuff tastes kind of like cherry to me.
The gum was actually inside a little clear cellophane bag inside, which is a good thing. After I took the photo (and chewed up everything outside of the bag in the picture), I didn’t put it back in the wrapper. The stuff I chewed right then was nice and soft. The stuff I’m chewing right now as I write this is a little crumbly to start, but as with trading card gum wafers, it softens up eventually. It’s sweet and sugary and then loses its flavor. The bubbles are okay, not super-smooth like the high-tech bubble gums that came long later.
But back to the bad purchase ... there’s not a lot in here. 2 ounces of gum isn’t much and at a retail price of $1.25, there are better deal out there. But there’s something about the idea of chewing representations of an ore that may one day be made into your dental work that’s appealing.
Note: this isn’t the same brand of gum from when I was a kid.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.