Monday, August 27, 2007
As German candy makers go, in my mind Haribo is most associated with Gummi Bears and Katjes is most associated with Licorice.
So here are some Katjes products that are gummis ... I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about them, mostly since I’ve never felt the need to stray from my favorite brand (except of course in service of Candy Blog). But back at the beginning of the year I got an email though, from a reader name Charlene who suggested the Katjes Saure Ananas (Sour Pineapple) ... which sounds just like something I’d dig. Though GermanDeli.com carries them I usually just wanna hold the package in my hand, so I went off to Cost Plus after browsing their online ad and seeing that they had Katjes on sale at two packages for $4.00. While I never found the Saure line, I did find a few other items.
Tropen Fruchte sounded just my speed in the gummi department - based on the cognates and pictures on the wrapper, I decided these are Tropical Fruit. (Okay, okay, the back of the package had an English sticker that said Tropical Fruit Gummis.) What appealed to me most was the supposed grapefruit gummi that was to appear inside.
I’ve gotta give them credit, there’s no need to ponder what the flavor are (once you translate them) ... they’re molded into each and every one: Grapefruit, Tropika, Exotic, Mango, Kiwi and Passion Frucht.
Regardless of what the candies actually said, they all tasted rather the same. Oh sure, the tropika tasted a little more like pineapple than the exotic, which tasted a bit more like passion fruit, but I felt the passion and intensity lacking in all of them.
And of course the grapefruit could not rival my other best pal, the Haribo Pink Grapefruit Slice. Katjes was more of a mellow lemon with a little grapefruit zest in it.
The other item I picked up was the Katjes Yogurt Gums. I have no idea what I was thinking. It’s completely unlike me to ever get anything “yogurty.” As a dairy product, I think yogurt is fine but I don’t like it in other things or even the flavor of it in other things. It’s just a personal thing.
The flavors sounded interesting: Himbeere, Erdbeere, Birne, Heidelbeere, Zitrone and Kirsche.
When I first tried these I detested them. They were soft and felt rather like something for a baby.
However, after letting them sit in the bottom of my desk drawer, then being retired to “maybe someday when I’m feeling too lazy to take new photos I’ll review these” box I tried them again. No longer as soft, but oddly grainy like a pear is, I kind of dug them.
The flavor wasn’t terribly tangy in the “dairy gone bad” way, more in the natural tangy fruit way. The gums have real apple pulp in them, which is probably why the pear (birne) one tasted and felt so authentically pear-ish.
I can’t say that I feel like buying either of these again, but I’m pleased that they use no artificial colors and often have fruit pulp, natural flavors and fruit juices in the candies. But for now, I’m going to stick to their licorice or pounce on their sours when I finally find them.
Friday, August 24, 2007
On my vacation to the central coast of California I stopped in a lot of candy stores. If there was a candy store nearby, you can be sure I went in. There was something sad about most of them. I don’t know if it was that tourism is down in that part of the state or what, but the shops were just not that appealing to me. (You know I love candy stores.)
Part of it was the merchandising. The stores just didn’t feel fresh, the inventory wasn’t “fluffed” to look inviting and tasty. I also noticed a few new “taffy” stores. These are stores that pretty much only sell taffy and often for $6 to $9 a pound. What a great business that is!
Seriously, taffy is one of the cheapest candies you can buy wholesale. At about $2 a pound, that’s a 400% margin. (Of course if you’re running a small chain you can get even better deals.) There’s very little maintenance involved ... you just get some big containers like barrels or whatever and mound the stuff up. Give people a basket or a bucket and tell them to go to town. Taffy is fluffed with air, so it looks like a lot of candy and of course taffy has a strong association with vacations.
I didn’t buy any. I’ll have to post about taffy someday, I guess, I’m a candy blogger.
I did pick up a couple of pieces of fudge (well, one was fudge and the other was penuche). I ate it, so no review or photos. Hey, I was on vacation!
In other candy news, more Mexican candies have an alert out on them about high lead content. This time it’s the brands Miguelito and Barrilito. California inspectors have stepped up their testing of Mexican candies because they are so frequently found to fail the standards, so here’s to hoping that these get pulled from shelves soon. (Original notice from the California Department of Health - PDF.)
In items that have not been recalled but contains bug parts, here’s a curiosity called Edible Ant Farm Candy. Yes, it’s a slab of transparent hard candy that looks like real ants in their native ant farm habitat. Such a strange experience. I’m fine with eating chicken eggs, but I don’t like to pretend they’re still in the nest or anything. (Image swiped from CandyWarehouse)
Brits will be happy to hear that Cadbury is bringing back the Wispa. The bar was discontinued in 2003 and like our good old American Mars bar, when they brought out the replacement, the Dairy Milk Bubbly ... well, it wasn’t the same. I guess it’s a great sign that we should never give up hope. (Check out the current poll ... vote for what you’d bring back from extinction.)
This week’s reviews in review:
Monday: Chunky (6 out of 10)
Tuesday: 3 Musketeers Mini Mix (7 out of 10)
Thursday: UK Smarties (no artificial colors) (6 out of 10)
Friday: Jones Soda Grape Carbonated Candy (6 out of 10)
Weekly average: 6.25 ... 75% chocolate content.
A couple of months ago I reviewed a dollar store find called Soda Can Fizzy Candy thinking that it was a cheaper and possibly cuter version of Jones Soda Co’s new Carbonated Candy.
Allow me to say that I was wrong.
While it is true that the Soda Can was less expensive and had a nice variety of flavors in one package, the candies inside are not the same. It’s not just that the Jones candy tablets are bigger, they’re simply more flavorful and fizzier.
The nice tin from Jones is substantial. It’s tall and has a firmly locking flip top. Inside the top is a little encouraging missive, mine said “jump up and down for no reason” which is somehow more encouraging than some of the sayings inside the Dove wrapped candies. I did have trouble getting the tin open much of the time, but unlike the difficulties with the York tin, I never spilled anything.
I bought these at Target, which had them for $1.39, not a bargain but certainly less than the $2.49 quoted on Amazon which scared me off of them in the first place.
The selection was limited at Target though, at least at the checkstands I checked, so I had a choice of M.F. Grape and Green Apple. Seeing how grape is an actual soda flavor I enjoyed as a kid, I thought that was the deal for me.
Later I pondered the “MF” part of the flavor name. I can imagine quite a few things that might fit into those initials:
Marty Feldman Grape
There’s probably something I’m missing as a possibility ... but this is a family-friendly blog.
The little tablets are the size of a regular aspirin. The smell when opening the tin is absolutely grape, like the foamy head on a chilled grape soda or sitting next to a mouth-breathing child chewing Grape Bubble Yum.
The flavor goes through and through with a tart bite and pretty well rounded grape flavor of both the chemical variety and a small dose of the grape juice note. What is most notable is the carbonation. These are pretty much fizz bombs for your mouth. Not blisteringly sour ones, just a simple frothy foam.
Frankly, they’re not that appealing to me. I enjoyed the flavor more than the Bawls mints (but there’s no caffeine here). Carbonated things make me burpy and while a grape repeat isn’t too bad, I’m not fond of the later revisit of flavors like green apple. This is pretty why I don’t drink sodas anyway. But my husband liked the flavor of them, so I give them marks for appealing to him. The tin mentions that you can drop them in your soda as a flavor booster.
So, if you’re a soda fan and are looking for a dried out capsule version to carry around with you, this might do the trick. The tin is pretty sweet looking and it’s easy to share a little pep-me-up with friends. There are only three calories per tablet and 50 tablets in the tin. I feel a bit more confident recommending them since they’re made in Canada and not China as the Soda Can candies were. Now, if they had a Root Beer version or perhaps Cola ... then I’d probably be more excited. I’ll stick with Bottle Caps for now.
Thursday, August 23, 2007
I’ve noted over on Junk Food Blog the growing, and stupid, market for 100 Calorie Packs of food. While it make some sense when it comes to thinks like crackers, chips or cookies that usually come in large packages that make portion control difficult, it’s just plain ludicrous to reinvent the wheel when it comes to candy.
I was at the Ralph’s in Los Osos, California on vacation earlier this week when I spotted this display in the middle of the candy aisle. It’s advertising Mars’ new 100 Calorie Packs for 3 Musketeers, Twix and Milk Chocolate M&Ms.
For $2.50 (on sale, mind you) you get seven (7) servings and about 5 ounces of candy (depending on which one you pick).
While the box is nice and dare I say, elegant, for something like Twix Bars and M&Ms, it’s an awful lot of packaging and space.
But turning around and looking at the shelf below are some crazy candies that have been around and marketed for “lunch dessert” for at least 20 years. They include eight (8) “fun size” bars, which are junior versions of the full sized candy bars, usually around 3/4 of an ounce and 80-100 calories. This Ralph’s had them on sale for $1.25 a package ($1.79 regularly) but I see them often for 88 cents a pack at the drug store.
So while some folks sit around and lament that it’s too hard to control their own portions and the extra packaging and expense is worth it in the fight against obesity, Mars is introducing a solution to a problem that doesn’t even exist in the candy world. Sure the “fun size bars” aren’t all exactly 100 calories, the Twix I looked at were actually 80 calories each, but isn’t the point that people want a treat and not too much temptation?
Yes, there might be math involved if you get the minis in order to create a 100 calorie portion, but hey, math burns calories too!
I reviewed Smarties a couple of years ago, but they were the Canadian version and I thought they merited a revisit with the originals ... especially since they’re so wildly popular around the world with sales topping $140,000,000 a year!
Smarties were introduced by Rowntree in the UK back in 1937. Legend has it that Forrest Mars and a Rowntree family member were traveling through Spain in the mid-1930s and saw the soldiers there would eat chocolate that was covered in sugar to keep it from melting. Both men saw the merits of this novel way of serving candies, especially when combined with the French and Italian panning processes that provides an attractive colored shell. Rowntree first named their new chocolate lentils “Chocolate Niblet Beans” but changed next year to Smarties.
They’re not sold in the United States owing mostly to the fact that the name Smarties is already taken here (and perhaps some sort of gentleman’s agreement between Rowntree & Mars ... I can’t find any record of it though).
Smarties offer a wide variety of colors in their flat chocolate candies and recently change from artificial colors to all natural ones in hopes that it will reduce reticence among moms because of concerns about artificial colors being linked to hyperactivity.
The hexagonal tubes that hold the Smarties are certainly cute. They’re easy to dispense from and they don’t roll around. The candies themselves are attractive, if now a little mottled in color.
Smarties shells are a little thicker than M&Ms and have a light flavor to them that I can only call cookie flavored (maybe ‘Nilla Wafers or Graham Crackers). The chocolate inside is rather unremarkable - not terribly rich or creamy.
What’s most surprising and pleasant about the Smarties is the flavor of the orange ones. They’re actually orange. Kind of a middle-of-the-road orange, not terribly deep or zesty, more like the Terry’s Chocolate Orange.
The colors are remarkably different than they used to be. I tossed out a little array with some M&Ms ColorWorks as a comparison. The difference is pretty easy to see - the Smarties lack a depth to the color. However, it gives them a little artisan, homespun quality that certainly doesn’t turn me off.
Brits are fierce about their Smarties, and even the little changes in the packaging and colors seem to get people all fired up. Here’s a commercial from last year when the Hex tube replaced the round one with the collectible caps.
Here’s another earlier one that might lead one to believe that there’s something really psychedelic about these candies!
While parents may be happy that the artificial colors are gone, vegetarians aren’t. They now use carminic acid to make the reds, which is made from cochineal insects. (It also means that they’re not Kosher.)
Further, it’s not what Americans would consider “pure chocolate” as it contains whey and vegetable fat fillers. Ingredients are: Sugar, cocoa mass, cocoa butter, dried skimmed milk, butterfat, whey powder, vegetable fat, lactose and soy lecithin. The coating is: sugar, wheat flour, modified starch, colors (titanium dioxide, mixed carotenes, carminic acid, vegetable carbon, riboflavin, copper, complexes of chlorophyllins), glazing agents, beetroot juice and flavourings.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.