Friday, July 13, 2007
There are some candies that are placed very low on the shelves at drug stores and grocers for a reason, they’re appealing to little people. And until I started shopping the bottom shelf, there was a lot of stuff that never even entered my candy radar.
This little baby bottle filled with compressed dextrose tarts is one such candy. It’s made by a small company called Imperial Toy and they haven’t even bothered to name the product. So I’m just going to call them Baby Bottle Pacifier Tarts. Once I took off the clear plastic shrink wrap, there’s no branding on here at all.
The little bottle is an actual toy baby bottle, complete with a rubber nipple with a hole in it, so as to make a mess with your little baby doll that actually drinks, or maybe it doesn’t. (Here’s a tip, don’t put actual milk in your doll that actually drinks. It’s fun at first, but then your doll smells like spoiled milk.)
The bottle holds 1.5 ounces of candy, so it’s a nice size and of course refillable with candy or kids can use it as a toy bottle for their dolls.
The little compressed dextrose candies are cute, a great size an the pacifier shape is nicely done. The flavor isn’t very strong, certainly not as strong as SweeTarts. I’d liken these to Smarties, but perhaps a little harder and a little more flavorful (well, and a little more colorful).
I think these are called “Oh Baby! Pacifier Candy” and made in Canada by Concord Confections. I’ve seen them in bulk at candy stores and advertised as a favor-filler on sites that specialize in baby shows and the like. Since you can buy them in bulk, I suppose you can make your own little filled favors for parties. Since this was $1.09 at the drug store, it may be a less expensive way to go. (Concord also makes the super-fun Candy Blox.)
As a novelty item, this doesn’t really do much for me, but then again I don’t recall actually having a doll when I was a girl (I know I must have had one, but I don’t remember her ... I remember my sister had that doll that grew her long blonde hair when you pushed a button on her tummy). I see this as more of a “favor” item or stocking stuffer. As a candy container, it’s cute but of course once you take it out of its plastic wrap, it doesn’t work very well to keep moisture out because there’s a hole in the nipple.
Thursday, July 12, 2007
I’ve been holding onto the news since January and the Fancy Food Show that Jelly Belly is coming out with a line of all natural jelly beans. This means no artificial colors, preservatives or flavors (the colors I know are a big concern with some parents and hyperactivity in their children). Jelly Belly is currently test-marketing the new beans on the west coast at Whole Foods. The new line includes ten flavors at the moment. I picked up a package of Tropical Fruit Blend Jelly Belly.
This blend has six flavors: banana, coconut, lemon, orange, pineapple and strawberry. The flavors are actually from real fruits (the ingredients list things like coconut flakes, banana puree, pineapple concentrate, etc.). The colors are created using natural colorings like annatto extract, cabbage juice and curcumin.
The standout flavors for me were banana, which tastes like a really ripe banana and pineapple, which has a nice tangy bite to it and then a smooth sweetness.
If I have a complaint it’s that the color combination made it nearly impossible for me to tell the beans apart. The pineapple was kind of a colorless bean as was the coconut and the lemon on the yellow side and then the orange was more of a light peach but I still got them confused in dim lighting situations. The unmistakable beans were strawberry (though I didn’t care much for the flavor on this one, it tasted a little canned and metallic) and banana (the mottled one).
If I were looking for this blend of flavors and I had a choice between the all natural and the regular ones, I’d absolutely go for the all natural. They taste great and I already get confused about the color keys for Jelly Belly anyway.
The package also says that Jelly Belly - All Natural are gluten free and Kosher. They do contain beeswax so may not be suitable for vegans.
For those of you who don’t get the JellyBelly.com newsletter, they’re running some pretty awesome sales in their outlet. For some bizarre reason they’re clearing out their Christopher’s Fruit Gems at insanely low prices ($2.99 for a box of 2 lbs unwrapped or $14.99 for 9 lbs in a basket of the individually wrapped ones). They also have something for licoricians (licorice-lovers) with their 15 ounce licorice assortment at only $9.99. And finally, for fans of games of chance, from now until Monday, July 23, 2007 or while supplies last, if you order 2-4 bags of Belly Flops you pay only 6.00 each. But if you order five or more bags, the price is slashed to only 5.00 per bag! (That’s $2.50 a pound for Jelly Belly, not gonna do better anywhere else.)
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
There are a bazillion candy bars in the world because people have different preferences and determinations of why they buy & eat them (dietary restrictions, politics, price, availability). While I review candy, I’m giving my opinion with information about all my other preferences as a touchstone and I respect other people’s opinion (that’s why there’s a comment section on this blog!). I don’t think I’ve ever gotten in someone’s face and said “this bar is better than that one and you’re a fool if you believe otherwise.” (Okay, I’ve been a bit harsh on Arcor.)
The funny thing about the whole article was the comparison between Cadbury made in the UK and the American Cadbury chocolate manufactured with some UK ingredients here by Hershey’s.
Anyone who’s been following along with the story about the FDA considering the dilution of the definition of chocolate will recognize that the stuff that Cadbury sells as “chocolate” in the UK doesn’t even qualify as such in the US. (So it’s good that the article is titled best candy bars and not best chocolate bars.) Also that last bit about soy lecithin makes it look like there aren’t any emulsifiers in the UK version, which are listed quite clearly right after that vegetable fat. (Honestly I’d like to see the complete lists side by side.)
I have to give it to the Brits though, they still have the Curly Wurly ... what a sad country we are that the Marathon bar is gone. Here’s my roundup of English candy ... which I generally like quite a bit! (I don’t think it’s better or worse than American and I’m glad that so many of the traditional English candies are still around ... Allsorts & Barley Sugar anyone?)
As for Hershey bars tasting like ear wax as Kevin Ellis was quoted in the article, well I’ve never tasted Kevin Ellis’ ear wax, so I can’t comment about his opinion, but I’ve always likened Hershey’s to being like a yogurty chocolate (the tangy milky taste) instead of the dried milk flavor of Cadbury. To each his own.
(I haven’t done many head to heads, but here’s one on the Milky Way/Mars bars from UK, Canada and US.)
Summertime is about long trips in the car with whiny, sweaty children. One of the options to appease the little ones, of course, is candy. But I know a lot of parents want to do better by their kids so they opt for fruit snacks, items that are ultra-portable, don’t spoil and can take the heat of a parked car.
So while on a trip to the 99 Cent Only store I decided to pick up a couple of brands that seemed to be positioning themselves for kids but not made by candy companies. I found the Betty Crocker Scooby Doo Fruit Flavored Snacks and the Kellogg’s Hello Kitty Fruit Flavored Snacks. Both say they have 100% of the RDA of Vitamin C and have six flavors (naturally and artificially flavored).
The Hello Kitty snacks come in one large bag (3.8 ounces) while the Scooby-Doo ones come in four pouches of .9 ounces each (3.6 ounces total weight for the box). The portion control of the Scooby-Doo ones is a nice feature, since it’s only 80 calories for a pack. (And if you have kids who can’t share from a single bag, that might be a good option.)
Just a note, when I looked online for these products I did see that the Hello Kitty ones come in boxes with individual packed portions as well, so you can have it either way.
I used to watch Scooby-Doo when I was a kid so I can tell you that I didn’t have to go looking up anyone’s name (like I tried for Hello Kitty). My packages (I’ve only eaten two of the four so far) were slight on Velma, which is too bad because I like orange best. Shaggy was grape and tasted like magic markers and the Mystery Machine was green and tasted like floor wax. Daphne is red and cherry ... which fits because she was always my least favorite character.
They were soft and fresh. Not bouncy like a gummi, but not as chewy as Swedish Fish either.
The Hello Kitty ones are so cute I could cry. Look ... a bow! Look ... a star! Of course my favorite is the little pink bunny winking at me (someone help me out with a name there).
The pieces are soft and chewy, but not sticky. Firm, but not hard. The flavor is good, it’s easy to tell them apart (pink is cherry and red is strawberry). They’re not super-tangy, but do have a little tart kick to them. It may just be my imagination, but these have a little coconut background flavor to them. I know that the ingredients mention coconut oil which is way down on the list and I’m guessing is something they use to keep them from sticking together.
The only real difference so far between these snacks is the shape of the candies and that one comes in individual portions. So I turned the packages over to study the nutrition (the same) and ingredients. I found this part rather interesting, so I’ll share what’s inside each:
Scooby Doo Fruit Flavored Snacks
Hello Kitty Fruit Flavored Snacks
So when I first looked at these I thought, Scooby Doo wins ... the first ingredient is fruit juice! But upon looking closer, Scooby Doo has lumped apple & pear juice together as a single ingredient, while Hello Kitty breaks them out into two separate ingredients, which makes them fall, by proportion, lower on the list.
Both products are made by cereal companies (Betty Crocker is run by General Mills). While they both have fruit juice as an ingredient, let’s be realistic here, Apple and Pear juices aren’t known for high antioxidant properties or their nutrition profile. (There’s a reason why applesauce makes such good cake, after all.) The packages call these “snacks” but these products are candy plain and simple and the 99 Cent Only store rightfully put them in the candy aisle. (I don’t know where they keep them at the grocery store, but I don’t see them in the candy aisle.)
As portion controlled candy, hey, they’re fun. They’re small, they don’t have a lot of calories because there’s no fat, but then again, they don’t have any fiber or protein in there either. If your kids want some candy and they like these, then hey, give them to them as a sometime snack. If you think that these are part of a balanced breakfast, well, do some more reading and maybe buy some fresh fruit instead. There are other candies that have a similar nutrition profile (jelly beans) so don’t be afraid of looking at some labels to find a good compromise between treat and indulgence. (There’s an article in the Detroit Free Press today that lists 10 great healthy snacks for kids.) If you’re actually looking for a candy that’s free of artificial colors and flavors, try the Organic Surf Sweets.
Tuesday, July 10, 2007
Once upon a time the 3 Musketeers candy bar made sense. Back when it was first introduced in 1932 it was actually a set of Neopolitan bars. One was a vanilla fluff, one was a chocolate fluff and one was a strawberry fluff. In 1945 all three segments were switched to the chocolate fluff. Then sometime later (I think in the late sixties) it was formed into a single bar as we see it today.
The current 3 Musketeers bar is supposed to taste kind of like a malted milkshake. A chocolate outside and a chocolatey malted milk fluff inside. Though it’s not malty enough for me (and they long ago dropped that marketing aspect), the bar is very popular, especially among dieters who like the heft and satisfaction but lower fat (though it does still contain 260 calories at 2.13 ounces). The package even mentions that it has “45% less fat than the average of the Leading Chocolate Brands.” The commercials lately feature skinny women at the office and movies.
So that brings us up to today where 3 Musketeers is finally extending their line of bars, not by looking back to the glory days of Strawberry but forward to the cluttered field of Mint and Dark Chocolate.
The new 3 Musketeers Mint with Dark Chocolate is a very attractive set of bars. The package weighs significantly less than its chocolate progenitor at only 1.24 ounces but boasts two Musketeers inside. Dark Chocolate coating with an appealing and clean looking white fluffy filling. (I was afraid it was going to be pink or green or have sparkles.)
I rather like bars that come in smaller portions inside the pack. I like it in my Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, I like it in my Goldenberg Peanut Chews and I think it was the right move for 3 Musketeers Mint with Dark Chocolate.
I’m not a huge consumer of 3 Musketeers, I prefer them in the miniature size but sometimes I’ll eat a frozen one. So with that in mind I bought two packages of the 3 Musketeers Mint and froze one.
The room temperature 3 Musketeers are nice. They have an easy bite and an appealing sort of spongy give like the regular 3 Musketeers. However, my first impression after the nice dark chocolate shell is SALT. Then comes a light hit of peppermint, but really it tastes salty to me.
So I went and found a York Peppermint Pattie, just to see what the salt content is on that (and figured, what the heck, I’ll take a photo of it and really compare the two candies). The 3M (I just can’t keep typing that long name) has 65 mg of salt (3% of your daily value) ... that’s 52 mg per ounce. The York Peppermint Pattie has 10 mg in a 1.4 ounce pattie ... that’s 7 mg per ounce. So let’s see ... that’s more than 7 times a salty.
Maybe that’s the new fad 3M is starting here. They’re going after the crowd that enjoys artisan sea salt caramels ... it’s the new rage ... salted mints! (Hey, it’s been working for Licorice for a long time!)
Okay, all that aside, I enjoyed the salty difference. It didn’t feel cloying and sticky like some peppermint creams can. There was a bit of a grain to the fluffed center (as there is with the regular 3M bar). But since I had the York PP sitting nearby, I had to have some of that as a side by side comparison. The YPP is smooth and has a very noticeable minty blast, much more noticeable than the 3M.
However, upon taking the 3M out of the freezer, I noticed that the salty flavor wasn’t quite as apparent and the actual cold supported the cooling mint quite well. Freezing it though does make the center a little tacky and chewy, not really a selling point for me.
So, if you like a really strong minted bar, this isn’t for you. It you dig a really subtle hit of mint and perhaps need to recharge with some electrolytes (salt) this may be a pleasant change. Also, because this bar weighs less than the regular 3 Musketeers, it’s only 150 calories but still really quite satisfying. (For reference the slightly heavier York Peppermint Pattie is 160 calories).
3 Musketeers Mint have egg whites in them so are unsuitable for vegans. They are Kosher though ... may contain Peanuts.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.