Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Fling: Milk Chocolate, Dark Chocolate & Hazelnut

FlingSomeday I may write a long(er) article about public relations, marketing and product launches. I have a few case studies. Well, not really case studies, perhaps they’re just essays where I make fun of PR. Mars’ new Fling would probably be at the top of the list.

(If you just want a review of the candy, skip down to the photos of the actual candy bars out of the package, because I’m gonna go on here for a while with liberal use of parentheticals.)

The Ranting about Marketing & Press Spin

Fling is a new candy bar being test marketed in Los Angeles. The tag line is naughty but not that naughty (tm).

It’s geared towards women, and even more specifically towards women with food issues.

Dark Chocolate FlingBut it’s packaged like tampons (the individual fingers sold in stand up boxes moreso), so maybe it gives women who are embarrassed to be seen with a chocolate bar a more discreet package to disguise it. (If I were a child or man searching through someone’s handbag for a snack, I’d certainly think at first glance that this was some sort of feminine hygiene product and not a sweet consumable.)

The press release that accompanied my single sample (yes, I requested samples since I hadn’t seen it in Los Angeles, yet and I was overnighted a huge box with a too-small tee-shirt, press release and one package of the milk chocolate ... no samples of the other flavors, which is pretty much what I do here, eat all the flavors and then provide oodles of description & photos) is filled with fascinating stuff that defies logic:

Can chocolate be a replacement for men? Not yet, but California women confess that they enjoy chocolate as much as passionate kissing (77% enjoy chocolate, 75% enjoy passionate kissing).

There was no accompanying Venn diagram to show me what the overlap of that was. Is that 75% that enjoy passionate kissing a subset of the 77% of all women that enjoy chocolate? (The footnotes did provide me with the information that these surveys were conducted in Los Angeles and San Francisco, so perhaps this is only the leanings of 500 California urban women who were willing to talk about items so personal?)

Milk Chocolate FlingThe only fact contained in the release that I think will be of interest to retailers is that “California women claim they are less likely to give up chocolate and splurging on clothes than other indulgent flings, such as drinking gourmet coffee, having girls’ night out and spa treatments.” So with the current economic situation, this product will thrive. I have to say, I am not these women! (I don’t drink gourmet coffee, I don’t have girls’ night out, spa treatments or splurge on clothes ... really the only thing that I fling my money at is chocolate.)

The other threats contained in the press release include a marketing campaign that will include innuendo-laden headlines. (Just when I was starting to recover from the Herbal Essence commercials - as long as they don’t become the GoDaddy of candy.) Oh, I could go on and on about the things that I found insulting about the press release. But hey, consumers don’t get to read it.


There’s a companion website as well, which actually contains information about what the product actually is (there is an accompanying fact sheet that does have some additional scant info with more marketing-speak).

We’ve broken the rules by creating FLING(tm) Chocolate, an un-regrettably indulgent premium chocolate. It is a delicate truffle sitting on a subtle crisp layer enrobed in shimmering chocolate that looks at glamorous as the woman it speaks to.

The marketing mentions that these are 85 calorie treats, but they’re sold in packages that are pairs. So each package, each serving size is 170 calories. They come in three flavor varieties: Milk Chocolate, Dark Chocolate and Hazelnut.

The Actual Candy Review

The Fling Milk Chocolate is meringue plank with a layer of chocolate cream covered in milk chocolate. The milk chocolate has an iridescent/pearly finish to it.

Milk Chocolate Fling

The marketing calls this premium chocolate, yet careful reading of the ingredients reveals that it has PGPR in it. Odd.

The fingers are rather like a Twix bar, about 4.25” long in a mostly half-round log. There are little squiggles that distinguish it from the Hazelnut variety.

They smell sweet and a little milky. The bite is quite nice. The meringue is crispy and has a very distinct crunch. It’s a very smooth meringue, not like a honeycomb. The vaguely sweet and toasted meringue is set off by the truffle cream, which is silky smooth and a little salty. The milk chocolate coating is a bit milkier than the rest of the bar and gives it a little malty punch and pulls it all together.

It’s a rather nice bar, wonderful blend of textures and delicate flavors. A bit on the sweet side for me when eaten alone, but with some strong tea or a cup of coffee, it’s a good break.

The Fling Dark Chocolate is meringue plank with a layer of chocolate cream covered in dark chocolate (which contains milk, milkfat and lactose) but no PGPR.

Dark Chocolate Fling

The iridescent coating on this was more noticeable and frankly, more disturbing to me. What is that stuff? Eyeshadow? Crushed gemstones? Powdered mussel shells?

The smell of this bar reminded me a lot of Dove Dark Chocolate. It has a woodsy and slightly acidic/milky scent to it.

Again, the snap of the bar was really refreshing. It releases a little waft of toasted marshmallow flavor from the meringue. The darker chocolate gives it a dry finish and a bitter bite towards the end, leaving me feeling a bit more satisfied.

The Fling Hazelnut is the same meringue plank with a layer of hazelnut-flavored chocolate cream covered in milk chocolate. (The zig zags are doubled on these.)

Hazelnut Fling

I thought this one was the most innovative. Hazelnut isn’t a common flavor in the United States for candy found in single packs at grocery & drug store checkouts, so they’ve found a unique selling proposition right there.

The bar smells like a flavored mocha drink. Sweet, with a toasted nut scent like hazelnut “flavor.”

The crisp bite still pleases me in this version, but the overly fake hazelnut flavor doesn’t do much for me. I would have preferred an actual giaunduia instead of the truffle cream, but I recognize that the coffee drink culture owns this hazelnut flavor thing.

There are a lot of things to like here. It’s a completely new style of bar, they’re really well made. The attention to detail is great (even the imprinting on the bottom of the bar is little flowers & swirlies like the package design).

I think the use of meringue, the mix of textures and the finger format is excellent - perfectly proportioned. It was crisp, it was creamy and overall, two bars was satisfying. The dark chocolate was my favorite of the three, but all were definitely good and different enough that I can see people having favorites.

The calories controls stuff is a little disingenuous (as most stuff regarding dieting and portion control is). The packages only hold 1.11 ounces. The caloric density is actually higher than most other candy bars on the market at 153 calories per ounce ... just a smaller portion. Twix, which is their own product and perhaps the target audience for this is only 140 calories per ounce, 3Musketeers is about 125, KitKat is about 150. The big difference here is that it doesn’t look small. (I think this was a similar hurdle with the 3 Musketeers Mint.)

To bring this back to my earlier assessment of the marketing and positioning of the product, I think it’s a huge error to launch this as its own product line. I think it should be part of the Dove products, which are already about indulgence (and strike me as less likely to alienate men) and have a recognizable package & logo design.

The other striking thing is that Fling is not new to planet Earth. It’s been around in Australia for two years. (Candy Addict had a review of it on its launch.) The packaging there was less feminine (no pink) and though still aimed at women it had a quirky campaign that used the tagline, forever is overrated. Here’s an animated commercial. (Thanks Sera!)

They’re only available in Los Angeles in stores right now, but if you’re convinced this will be your new secret love, you can order online.

UPDATE 2/15/2009: A couple of other blogs have picked up on this marketing campaigns & have commented on it. Read more views on Mother Jones (picks up on women with food issues) & Jezebel.

Related Candies

  1. Trader Joe’s 100 Calorie Chocolate
  2. Ferrero Prestige (Ferrero Garden)
  3. 100 Calorie Packs - How Lazy Are We?
  4. Twix PB
  5. Candy Mash Ups - Marshmallows & Chocolate
  6. Head-to-Head KitKat vs KitKat!
Name: Fling Milk Chocolate, Dark Chocolate & Hazelnut
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 4 BENIGN
Brand: Mars
Place Purchased: sample + CVS (Silverlake)
Price: $.75 (on sale)
Size: 1.11 ounces
Calories per ounce: 153
Categories: Chocolate, United States, Mars, Kosher

POSTED BY Cybele AT 9:51 am Tracker Pixel for Entry    

  1. What is the nutritional information? (fat,sat. fat, etc)....thanks! Good review!!

    Comment by Emily on 2/03/09 at 11:45 am #
  2. Cybele's avatar

    Emily - Thanks! The nutritional stuff is all included on their website (including the ingredients). Check here for the Milk Chocolate.

    Comment by Cybele on 2/03/09 at 11:51 am #
  3. Hmm… usually I avoid anything that hot pink like the plague, but as a meringue person, I’m intrigued by these in spite of myself.

    Comment by laurie on 2/03/09 at 12:51 pm #
  4. Packaged like tampons, eh? 

    I’m so waiting for the white chocolate version of this.

    Comment by Marvo on 2/03/09 at 1:23 pm #
  5. Good to know how this is being marketed, I’ll be sure not to waste my money on them now.  I like hazelnut flavors, but I loathe food being marketed as “naughty” even more.

    Comment by chris on 2/03/09 at 2:59 pm #
  6. I’m surprised all the time at how sexist advertising and marketing can be, even now in the 21st century.

    Comment by maggie on 2/03/09 at 8:04 pm #
  7. We already had this in Australia ages ago. Though our version tasted better, and didn’t have a tampon wrapper.

    Comment by Sweet Pursuit on 2/03/09 at 9:23 pm #
  8. In Australia the package was white and definatly didn’t have that tampon vibe. I think the chocolate was different too, I don’t recall any iridescence.

    It was definatly still marketed at women though, perhaps they don’t think Australian women are that “girly?”. I find marketing so often misses it’s target with me. It seems to be based so heavily on stereotypes “women like pink sparkly things!”

    Comment by Moyran on 2/04/09 at 12:16 am #
  9. Your review of the marketing pitch was very entertaining. I was lauging at the sexist absurdity of it and the clear move to appeal to women with food issues.

    If the coating is crushed gemstones, I’m all over it! Kidding. The pearlescent is not totally visible in the first few pictures, but can’t be missed on the dark chocolate. It might make me think I’m eating my kids’ lipgloss. However, I’m intrigued by the mix of meringue with the different chocolate layers, and may have to place an order.

    Comment by Sydney on 2/04/09 at 3:24 am #
  10. Gotta love the addition of the tiny t-shirt with your sample. Coming from California, it was probably the right size for a thin six-year-old, am I right?

    It’s like they dusted off some sexist marketing campaign from the 80s. Lame.

    Comment by Alix on 2/04/09 at 3:52 am #
  11. nice.  someone above me said it best, dust off of an 80s campaign.  You’ve come a long way, baby.

    Comment by surfing pizza on 2/04/09 at 5:12 am #
  12. i love the idea of meringue in this, a LOT. i love meringue! and i’m going to los angeles next month, so i’ll have to be on the lookout.

    Comment by pam on 2/04/09 at 7:47 am #
  13. I live in No. California and our WalMart has them. I was wondering if they were good so I will pick one (or more!) up when I go up tonight and check them out! Thanks for the info!

    Comment by Marilyn on 2/04/09 at 5:28 pm #
  14. We were supposed to be getting these rolled out in the UK but Mars decided not to because they supposedly didn’t have the capacity for production!!

    Comment by Jim on 2/05/09 at 3:53 am #
  15. At first glance, these look a lot like Twix bars to me.

    Comment by Johnny Carruthers on 2/05/09 at 9:01 am #
  16. If I want chocolate, I’ll eat it right out in the open, thank you very much.  I never understood why people are ashamed of the food they eat.

    Comment by Rita on 2/06/09 at 6:30 am #
  17. Am I the only one who read “Fling” as “F-Ing” milk/dark/hazelnut chocolate?  Unintentional profanity always gets me to chortle.

    Comment by epimethea on 2/09/09 at 4:33 am #
  18. Love the idea of meringue also!  However, as a dark chocolate lover, I am always astonished when American candy manufacturers put milk in the “dark” chocolate. I’m not sure they could get away with that in the European Union, where the definition of “dark” (or “plain”) is, I think, highly regulated.  I have to agree with Europe on this one.  It’s like those “dark” chocolate M&Ms;, which also have milk in them, and which are actually better termed, “semi-sweet.”  (They taste just like chocolate chips!)

    Comment by Karyn on 2/10/09 at 5:03 am #
  19. I saw these at the drugstore and tried them, and I really liked them a lot.  The fluffy cream with the snap of the meringue was great.  Different and a nice change from other candy out there.

    However, what a terrible marketing campaign!  I really can’t see it appealing to consumers, but I guess you never know!

    Comment by Lesley on 2/15/09 at 10:45 am #
  20. I wonder if anyone is sufficiently lacking in awareness to find this sort of marketing attractive. I guess there may be some link between the types of people who worship shoes and think “Sex and the City” is spot on in its portrayal of women and their values who might be naive enough to find this appealing.

    Though I’m not actually offended, I find it all pretty silly and unappealing.

    Comment by Orchid64 on 2/15/09 at 1:48 pm #
  21. I saw these at a 7-11 and picked them up because your review intrigued me! They are a pretty interesting candy. I was strongly reminded of freeze-dried ice cream for some reason. Probably the particular texture of the meringue. I didn’t find them satisfying the way you did, though, unfortunately. Idk what it was exactly, but I was left wanting more.

    Comment by Kathleen Payton on 2/15/09 at 11:26 pm #
  22. i saw this while i was grocery shopping @ albertsons the other day.
    i bought the milk chocolate version and i ABSOLUTELY love it.

    it is light, fluffy, not too sweet. the mixture of textures of the ingredients blend in well and melt in ur mouth like woah.

    Comment by roxxi on 3/15/09 at 3:07 pm #
  23. Ugh! I had the hazelnut and thought it was simply horrid. It tasted like instant hot cocoa mix.

    Comment by Jeni on 4/20/09 at 2:19 pm #
  24. Loved these when I was in New Zealand, and they definitely looked different there, too. I’d buy them now in Cali if I weren’t too embarrassed to be seen with them.

    Comment by Kei on 10/17/09 at 3:54 pm #
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