Thursday, February 18, 2010

Go Max Go Jokerz Candy Bar

JokerzThe Jokerz Candy Bar from Go Max Go Foods is the last of their vegan candy bars on my list for review.

The happy red wrapper features jaunty typography and little playing card suit symbols in lavender. The name has one of those Z things on the end of it, I’m not sure if it was because there as already a Joker bar and they had to pick another name (actors usually go with a middle initial). Or maybe that was to make it cool and hip. As cool and hip as a vegan who doesn’t eat real chocolate. Much of the wrapper is spent explaining what’s not in the bar. There are no dairy ingredients or cholesterol, no hydrogenated oils or trans fats and it’s free from artificial flavors and colors. Their description on the website is a little more appealing:

When your idea of the perfect candy bar is all about peanutty goodness, then we’ve got you covered. If layers of dry roasted peanuts, buttery-tasting caramel, and rich peanut nougat, sweetly wrapped in a delicious chocolately coating sounds like a little slice of heaven, then smile, the Jokerz(tm) bar is for you!

Jokerz Bar

The bar, if you couldn’t already tell, is a vegan version of a Snickers. But really it’s just inspired by the Snickers, as there’s very little that’s the same except for the inclusion of peanuts. The bar I got was a little worse for wear. A bit melted on one side, this is generally the hazard with mockolate candy, which often has a lower melting point than chocolate. But the good thing about mockolate is it doesn’t lose its tempering as easily - so the texture that exists is generally the same after resolidifying.

Jokerz Bar

The construction inside is a smooth and dense “nougat” with peanuts on top and then layered with a caramel-like chew. It’s all covered in a thin layer of rice-milk mockolate. The bar is a bit flatter than Snickers (about the same weight though, which is 2.07 ounces), but also a bit longer (about 4.25 inches long).

The bar does smell good, like opening a can of Spanish peanuts. Lightly toasted, the nut aromas are not at all dark and there are hints of toffee sweetness.

The texture had a few similarities to the Twilight - a chewiness but no buttery caramel flavors. The good news is that the grassy and green tasting peanuts covered up a lot of other things that I found lacking in this bar. The chocolate coating felt greasy (possibly because parts of it were melted & reformed) and the nougat center simply had none of the fluffy qualities associated with American nougat nor the silky dissolve of the European versions.

The bar was filling, too filling for me, I was pretty satiated after about a third of it.

I liked it better than Twilight and Buccaneer, but then again I like Snickers better than Milky Way or 3 Musketeers for the simple reason that I like peanuts. I’d rank it as my second favorite of the Go Max Go bars, but really, don’t make me eat any more of them.

On the whole I don’t like things that pretend to be other things: fake meat, fake fur and certainly not fake chocolate. But these bars go further, they try to emulate complex things like caramel and nougat, which can be done, but I have to wonder why. There are plenty of other fabulous vegan things that can be done with sugar and chocolate (and nuts) - trying to pretend to be something else instead of something originally awesome is just an exercise in disappointment.

For a vegan version of this candy, try Goldenberg’s Peanut Chews (also called Chew-Ets) in the dark version. Far cheaper but not free of hydrogenated oils.

(For anyone interested in the candy maker’s reaction to this post, check this out.)

Go Max Go is not organic, not fair trade, not Kosher and is made in a facility with dairy, eggs, wheat, peanuts and other tree nuts. They do market themselves as dairy free and gluten free, but there can be traces because of their manufacturing practices.

Related Candies

  1. Go Max Go Mahalo Candy Bar
  2. Zingerman’s Zzang! Candy Bars
  3. Crispy Cat
  4. Sjaak’s Vegan Chocolate Assortment
  5. Snickers Xtreme
Name: Jokerz Candy Bar
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 4 BENIGN
Brand: Go Max Go Foods
Place Purchased: Whole Foods (Park LaBrea)
Price: $2.39
Size: 2.1 ounces
Calories per ounce: 140
Categories: Mockolate, Nougat, Caramel, Peanuts, United States, Go Max Go, All Natural

POSTED BY Cybele AT 9:53 am Tracker Pixel for Entry    

  1. I have to say, once I got over the unbearable sweetness of this, and the fruity one-dimensionalness of said sweetness, and the scarcity of peanuts, and the lack of roasted oomph to said peanuts… it was okay?!

    Comment by Hannah on 2/18/10 at 10:54 am #
  2. I think a big reason why vegetarian/vegan foods imitate other foods is because they want to “participate”. It’s all well and good to eat nut roast day after day, but on Thanksgiving you want to join in on that sense of occasion. Why is why the Tofurky was created.

    Also, many people go on vegetarian/vegan diets for health reasons and they don’t want to have to give up the foods that they love. Indeed, when someone becomes a vegetarian/vegan it can be purely for ethical reasons, that doesn’t mean they don’t like the taste of bacon. Which is why Fake’n was born.

    Some things work better than others in the vegan world. Tofurky’s are okay, Fake’n is okay. Other things such as vegan cheese are just revolting.

    In my experience, vegan candy bars that try to mimic things like the Snickers are always sub par. Like you, I’d recommend the original Goldenberg’s Peanut Chew, which is an excellent candy and isn’t trying to pretend it’s anything other than what it is! smile

    Comment by Richard @ The Bewildered Brit on 2/18/10 at 2:04 pm #
  3. “Indeed, when someone becomes a vegetarian/vegan it can be purely for ethical reasons, that doesn?t mean they don?t like the taste of bacon. Which is why Fake?n was born.”

    Correct.  I haven’t had this bar, so I can’t attest to its success in mimicking the original, but telling a vegetarian or vegan not to desire the taste of Snickers, say, or chicken nuggets when there’re many other delicious foods to be had is like scolding a hamburger lover for not abstaining in favor of all the tasty fish out there.  It’s getting into dictating others’ tastes for arbitrary reasons.

    I should mention that, as a vegetarian, I don’t expect substitute products like this to be completely successful duplications; I ask only that they replicate some of the taste of the original.  I’m not arguing that the products should be graded on a curve for general-audience reviews like this -  if a product doesn’t work for the taster, then it doesn’t work.  To say that vegan products shouldn’t try duplicating nonvegan ones at all, though, does miss their point.

    (I do appreciate the consistent labeling of certain products as vegan/vegetarian and not; would’ve been nice had I expressed that independently instead of sticking it in a message with a somewhat negative tone.)

    Comment by Synonymous on 2/24/10 at 10:19 am #
  4. Cybele's avatar

    Synonymous - but if chocolate is vegan why use palm kernel oil instead of the natural cocoa butter? I get the imposition of not using animal products, but why handicap the product even further with one of the essential elements of chocolate?

    Faithful imitations of popular things should really only compromise when necessary. Especially at this price.

    Comment by Cybele on 2/24/10 at 11:31 am #
  5. success! thousands of VEGANS and NON VEGANS love the bars…your attachment to all things murder (fur, meat, milk) renders your opinion of any vegan product as useless.  i think our vegan community will agree with me when i say “you suck”.

    Comment by susan on 2/26/10 at 12:38 pm #
  6. I was interested in trying one of these bars but the company response on twitter seems rather unprofessional. 

    This is the problem with most companies these days, they should embrace criticism, rather than first circle the wagons, then counterattack.  All that gets you is bad press and shows people like me that the customers are not always right, even the ones that don’t like your product or criticize it. 

    A good book for the go max go PR folks to read would be “What Would Google Do?” by Jeff Jarvis, it should be required reading IMO.

    Comment by Mark D. (sugarpressure) on 2/26/10 at 1:38 pm #
  7. Cybele's avatar

    For the record, sweet readers, Susan’s comment was from an email domain registered to the manufacturer of the candy bar. (I was unsure at first, but this tweet confirmed that it was an actual member of the company)

    I don’t necessarily expect every reader to know the Candy Blog comment policy because most readers are simply decent folks, however, it is posted. Simply put: I do not tolerate sock puppets. All commenters with an association with a candy company must disclose it. (Most basic business ethics acknowledge this to be a standard.)

    In my opinion a true vegan who cares about animals specifically and the environment (where animals live) would not use palm oil in place of cocoa butter. Deforestation due to palm plantations is a contributing factor in the imminent extinction of dozens of species - they matter as much as livestock species.

    In your other comments you mention that dark chocolate is boring, but that doesn’t mean that you must use a tropical oil in place of cocoa butter - there are good actual rice milk chocolates out there.

    Susan, your assessment of my attachment to all things murder is poorly made. You don’t actually know what my eating/clothing habits are outside of candy, do you?

    A rating of 6 out of 10 is not a panning of the product. It means I have reservations about a wholehearted recommendation to everyone, but it’s certainly a nice product.

    I am a candy reviewer - and as a person who eats a lot of different candy, I can provide a particular, well-documented perspective. I know that many of my vegan readers struggle to find tasty candies that also don’t compromise their other standards, but you’re the first who has said that by not being a vegan I am unworthy of an opinion at all. (Yet you heralded at the beginning of your comment that non-vegans love your bars ... so someone who likes your products is worthy, but not someone who doesn’t love them?)

    Susan - your divisive behavior doesn’t change the facts about my experience with the bar, but probably will prevent me from buying any product from GoMaxGo again. Not only that, your comments here will be left in place for others to see (with this note that you are a sock puppet).

    Comment by Cybele on 2/26/10 at 1:39 pm #
  8. I grew up on Snickers bars and after becoming a vegan 1.5 years ago for ethical reasons I was disappointed in the available treats.  A lot of companies are concerned with making treats that are healthy, which is ok but sometimes I just want something that tastes sinful. I found it in GoMaxGoFoods. I am so grateful to them for producing candy bars that taste great! So what if it’s not ‘just like a snickers’, its awesome that a company cares about producing vegan food that tastes great.

    Comment by roxanne on 2/26/10 at 2:14 pm #
  9. No, the vegan community does NOT agree. I love your site! This is all a matter of taste wink, and I think you are very fair in your reviews.  The fact that you recommend other vegan products to try as another alternative is testament to that.

    Comment by umme on 2/26/10 at 4:28 pm #
  10. Cybele, you rock - don’t let “vegan-gelical” haters get you down!! Keep up the fabulous reviews! smile

    Comment by VeggieGirl on 2/26/10 at 6:38 pm #
  11. Wow. I would’ve picked up one of these bars had I come across it, but I certainly won’t now! Don’t business owners realise you can’t act like an unprofessional buffoon these days without word getting around?

    Well, I guess word didn’t really need to get around, when they’re acting like idiots in the public of twitter….

    Comment by LK on 2/26/10 at 7:34 pm #
  12. How is milk “murder?” I don’t understand that comment.

    Comment by Bill on 2/28/10 at 12:46 pm #
  13. This is a poor recreation of my previous post, but here goes…

    There are many good reasons to list on the wrapper all of the things the bar does not contain. Often times, those who begin a special diet—and particularly people who go vegetarian or vegan—develop a greater food awareness in general. It actually helps to sell me a product to confirm for me that it has non-GMO ingredients, no cholesterol. And I want to know if the company participates in fair trade or sustainable sourcing. As a gluten-free vegan, I can assure you, there are many unpleasant surprises hidden in food and that companies are not usually forthcoming with information. Knowing what you’re eating should be a basic right, not a game of mystery and intrigue.

    As someone who typically pays two to three times what others do for candy, frequently to find it is low quality and not worth the price, I appreciate hearing someone else’s take on treats before I buy them. And that cost estimate is low, considering I live in an area that doesn’t particularly cater to vegans and I have to order and ship in many of the treats I want.

    Chocolate (or “chocolate” if you prefer) is the most difficult of all to find in a form that is both fulfilling and affordable. I think we vegans deserve some credit for being willing—on the basis of moral principle or health concern—to walk past all of the conveniently wrapped and displayed items others can enjoy without thought or effort. Maybe the line “As cool and hip as a vegan who doesn’t eat real chocolate” was a little bit of a jab, but it is minor and I’ve said worse just to be controversial.

    I haven’t been a vegan all of my life and I have eaten a Snickers bar or two, decades ago, so I appreciate the comparison as a basis to inform me what this bar is like. As a thinking human being, I can also imagine some non-vegans might be tempted to try a vegan product that is similar to one they already enjoy—if we don’t jump down the throats of non-vegans who dare to touch our candy!

    My partner jokes that vegans are angry and vicious because we don’t work that out through eating meat. He’s joking, of course, but I’m beginning to wonder. It is like the whole vegan community has turned bitter militant overnight, not just here, but in several places I frequent.

    I happen to agree that the company should be making good treats that stand alone and not trying to remake favorites if the quality simply isn’t there. However, I thought the reviewer made plenty of positive statements about the bar, statements that would make me confident enough to try it.

    That is, if the company didn’t turn on the candyblogger. Because I dislike an entitled and pushy company with no respect for consumers.

    Comment by aliceone on 2/28/10 at 2:37 pm #
  14. Bill, the thought process for dairy is that cows are kept in an unnatural cycle of constant calving/lactation to produce milk. Often the calves are slaughtered young or kept as lifelong breeding stock. The animals are confined and juiced up with antibiotics and hormones to maximize production of milk, which causes the cows to suffer (and the humans, too, eventually). They’re often artificially inseminated and many cattle are not allowed to deliver normally (sparing you the gory details, let’s just say there is more suffering involved).

    It all goes along with the factory farming mentality that animals have no rights or feelings and are basically delicious furniture that we can buy, sell and trade without care.

    While milk itself may seem like a natural byproduct available at no harm to the animal, the way the system is set up, the animals are subjected to some nasty conditions that are far from happy cows grazing in the field and relieved to be milked by the nice farmer.

    Comment by aliceone on 2/28/10 at 2:47 pm #
  15. Thank you, aliceone, for being a reasonable and respectful vegan….I know there are more of you out there!  I try to be a reasonable and respectful person who happens to be non-vegan.  And I WOULD have tried these bars based on Cybele’s reviews had I not later read all the comments by the company.

    Comment by Michelle F on 3/03/10 at 5:32 pm #
  16. Way late with a reply to #4 here, but let me reiterate: my objection wasn’t to your panning the bar based on bad taste.  My objection was to the review’s suggestion that vegan/vegetarian things should never try to imitate off-limits food items.  Many choose a vegan diet for moral reasons; it doesn’t stop them from missing the taste of foods like caramel or nougat.  Vegan versions of these foods, when done well, help take the edge off.  No, they’re not perfect, but they contain some of the flavor, and that’s what helps.

    That’s my sticking point with the review’s advice that vegans just stay over in the chocolate-and-nut corner and leave all the other tastes to the carnivores, regardless of the facsimiles available: there’s only so much you can tell a person what they should want to eat.  (You can certainly tell them what’s a *good* version of that something to try, of course, which is what draws us here in the first place.)

    Comment by Synonymous on 3/29/10 at 10:41 pm #
  17. Cybele's avatar

    Synonymous - I stick by my statement that anything that’s an imitation isn’t the same and rarely similar enough for diehard fans. (I don’t care the reasons behind why the substitution is made.) There are good products that try to be something else, as long as you don’t get too married to expectations. SweetEarth has an awesome “caramel” that uses coconut oil. It has a coconutty taste though, so a fervent dairy caramel fan might be put off. But it stands well on its own. Same with Sun Cups - they’re peanut free but they do such a great job of fulfilling so many of the awesome aspects of a Peanut Butter Cup as long as you can set aside the peanutty thing.

    Honestly I think there are far more bad “true caramels” out there than bad “faux caramels”. Just because the ingredients are “correct” doesn’t make it a good product either.

    But this is a review blog, which is an opinion. I’ve got mine, you’ve got yours. And I’m glad we’ve found the middle ground to at least talk about it rationally.

    Comment by Cybele on 3/29/10 at 11:18 pm #
  18. Speaking as a vegetarian who is allergic to dairy and egg (i.e., vegan by default when not taking risks) - I just tried a Jokerz bar and loved it! So many vegan bars are way too healthy, this is nicely junky. Quite close enough to Snickers for me (I’m not a chocoholic but do like peanuts in anything) to qualify as nostalgic, but it stands on its own as just a tasty candy bar with no “healthy aftertaste” (if you know what I mean…). It doesn’t taste like a (gasp!) “health bar” at all and doesn’t claim to be one.

    The price was initially off-putting, but these are quite filling and so 1/4 to 1/3 of a bar is very satisfying. And it doesn’t give me headaches, fatigue (I could be arrested for driving under the influence of eggs), or an allergic craving for more, more, more - what’s not to like?

    Anyway - I would suggest that vegan types not be put off by the review if looking for a really good junky candy bar. I love the reviews here (great detail), but everybody has their own distinctive preferences. Someone who regularly eats animal products (even if only dairy) may also taste things differently than someone who eats strictly vegan, certainly they will make comparisons that may not matter to vegans.

    But I must protest the comparison with Golddenberg’s Peanut Chews. Jokerz are nothing like those - the texture is quite different and so is the taste. The Peanut Chews have that dark chocolate taste, the Jokerz taste like milk chocolate to me (I’m not a dark chocolate fan myself, so that’s a plus for Jokerz for me). Also Jokerz are much softer (unless I was always getting old Peanut Chews… they do seem to last forever!). I like the Peanut Chews occasionally, but comparing them with Jokerz is like comparing apples and watermelons. Both nice fruits, both have moisture and carbohydrate and seeds, but they don’t taste anything alike.

    Comment by jwoolman on 5/16/10 at 9:45 pm #
  19. I realise this is an old post, but I finally tried this candy today, and I just wanted to chip in my two cents on it and the company’s response to you.

    I’ve been vegan for seven years, and before I went vegan, Snickers and Twix were my favourite candy bars. I had known about Jokerz for a while, but it’s hard to get overseas, so until now I hadn’t tried it. Quick verdict: if a Snickers stand-in is what you’re after, this probably won’t be it. I found there were barely any peanuts, the caramel just tasted really sweet but didn’t have much flavour, and the inside of the bar (I think it must have been the nougat) had a kind of chalky, unappealing aspect. I’d give it a 3/10, but I don’t like wasting food, so I cut it up and left it in my dorm’s common room.

    As you mentioned, some kinds of vegan chocolate (not all in my experience, particularly dark) don’t stand up well to shipping and heat, and when this and the other GoMaxGo product I got in the mail today arrived, they were both looking a bit roughed up. Honestly, I don’t really care about how the candy looks, though. If it tastes good, whatever. Unfortunately, that just wasn’t the case with Jokerz. Fortunately, the brand’s Cleo Peanut Butter Cup came to me in the same shipment, and I really enjoyed it. At first, I thought it was a bit heavy on vanilla, but I set it down (partly because it was quite sweet) and came back to it a few hours later, and I realised it’s just great. There’s some other vegan peanut butter cups out there that may be better, but I think they’re mostly dark chocolate, so they’d be a different thing. I’d rate the GoMaxGo peanut butter cup 8.5/10. It would get more if the peanut butter section was bigger, because the more peanut, the better.

    Lastly, I think it’s pretty obvious that the company’s response to your verdict on their bar was pretty ridiculous. I don’t think it’s necessary for there to be bad blood between vegans and non-vegans, and being antagonistic about it really means that people who aren’t vegan might take onboard this frustrating stereotype about our being sanctimonious, nasty people. You may be keen to defend your product, and when veganism is frequently under attack just for being different, I don’t blame you. But being insulting about it is no way to respond to the fact that someone isn’t fond of your products. The average vegan would be a lot more likely to buy your products based on the fact that they’re vegan than the fact that they saw them reviewed online on a non-vegan site. Because of that, it’s a pretty bad move to say things like that. On the one hand, you’re shielded from much of a negative response, because vegans may be looking for candy bar substitutes, and there isn’t that many companies besides yours producing them. At the same time though, it really makes you look like a nut job. By the way, what’s the point of saying that because someone’s not vegan, their opinion on vegan goods is worthless? Most vegans used to not be vegan. How can we know we would have take the same path if we’d had mean things like that said to us by vegans? By being rude and dismissive in an uncalled for way, you’re harming the movement. It’s a pretty elementary fact of life that we can’t agree about everything. What’s worse: the fact that someone could dislike a few vegan products, or that they could grow resentful and dismissive of veganism in general, because those are the same feelings they’ve gotten from vegans? Please do us a favour: make your candy and pipe down.

    Comment by Grace on 12/28/12 at 11:36 am #
  20. The Jokers bar is quite close to Snickers. The bar I tried had a perfect balance of nuts and filling. The reason for the price being high is the fact that the ingredients used cost more. The dark chocolate Peanut Chews you mentioned are also to Snickers, however for a vegan to eat them, you’d have to put aside your feeling about through sugar used in that product. White sugar uses bone char (from animals) in the process to make the sugar white. So some vegans will buy some products like Oreos and say these are technically vegan even though the sugar is not. Hence, looking for a product that is labelled and marketed to vegans. Being vegan is complicated and easy at the same time.

    We look these products because sometimes you want a candy bar, or faux bologna or bacon because to get in the kitchen and create spice blends and such to create what you want at that time can for most who aren’t cooks daunting. These products make it easier for those who are transitioning to a vegan/vegetarian lifestyle for health or other reasons. Most longterm vegans don’t eat faux things too often. We’re the ones who are like mad scientists in the kitchen creating what want which sometimes result in the creation of products you see in stores. We had our favorites in life, yet do we have to give them up because some of the ingredients could make us ill, kill us, or conflict with our moral or spiritual beliefs?

    Also, a vegan’s palate is quite different from that of an omnivore or someone who consumes dairy. Dairy coats the mouth. Even someone who consumes a lot of salt can have a different palate. I’m not saying that you do, yet sodium is high in plenty of our packaged foods and you did try this bar a while ago. Maybe you’d have a different experience now maybe not. Even though I am vegan (almost 10yrs), I enjoyed reading your review because it is your perspective and I appreciated it. Love you site! Keep up the amazing work. Thank you for taking the time to try something plenty wouldn’t.

    Comment by Jacqueline on 8/15/14 at 7:38 am #
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