Friday, August 31, 2007

Head to Head: M&Ms vs Koppers Milkies

Last year I reported that M&Ms was pulling back on candy stores on the internet being permitted to sell M&Ms ColorWorks candies. This means that if you want single colored M&Ms, you’ve either got to trek out to a candy store that carries them or order directly from M&Ms and their website.

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ColorWorks are wildly popular as a candy for special gifts, parties, wedding favors and candy buffets ... but they’re also rather expensive when you think about how much a regular mixed bag costs at the drug store or grocer. A pound of M&Ms usually costs about $3 to $4 (I can get them for about $2 on sale at times) a pound in their standard mix. However, the ColorWorks on the M&Ms website are $10 a pound when purchased in 5 pound bags (and $13.69 when purchased in the next smaller size, 7 ounces).

So what’s a bride to do when she wants pretty chocolate pastilles for her favors? Well, unless you want to buy the regular M&Ms in bulk and separate them yourself ... or stock up around a holiday such as Easter or Christmas ... or pick something like Kissables then I thought I would look at an alternative brand: Koppers.

I’m very fond of Koppers as a brand to begin with, not only for their variety but also their innovative flavor combinations (they invented the chocolate covered coffee bean and chocolate covered gummi bears!) but mostly because they’re just so darned pretty. It’s a quality product, made in the USA and is certified Kosher. They also have a wide selection of color variations.

A few weeks ago I did a huge photo shoot with a large selection (14 different colors) of the Koppers Milkies and I figured it was a sign that I should do a piece on them, more specifically in a head to head with M&Ms.

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Colors: I picked up a pound of pre-mixed M&Ms at The Jelly Bean factory which features 21 different colors. Though Koppers makes at least 28 colors (and would probably do a custom color for you directly if you ordered enough) I think it’s safe to say that both have a great selection of colors.

M&Ms and Koppers - AboveSize & Shape: The candies are pretty much the same. The M&Ms are a little bit bigger around, but the Koppers are slightly higher in the middle. The Koppers are much more consistent in their size and shape and shell than the M&Ms. Of the Koppers that I sorted through, I found perhaps 3 or 4 “rejects” per pound. For the M&Ms I found at least 15 rejects in the single pound that I had to go on. I find at least one reject in a single serving bag as well (this would be a candy that is markedly out of proportion, has a problem with its shell in some way like bumpiness or missing part of it or irregular coloration).

M&Ms and Koppers - CrossShell & Color - the M&Ms have a slightly thicker shell which appears to be colored all the way through. This gives it a consistent color depth. The Koppers has a white or colorless shell at its base and then a colored shell. I never encountered any that lacked a good coat of color on them. The color was more consistent and dense than the M&Ms, where sometimes had a slight mottled appearance, especially on the darker colors. M&Ms also have a little grey, lowercase M stamped on every one (including the grey ones, even though you really can’t see it). Koppers are unbranded and I like the look. I’m not sure I would if they weren’t so perfectly consistent.

The colors available for both are rather similar and it’s likely if you’re very picky for your occasion you should get some samples before you commit to large quantities. (I was able to buy a pound bag of the complete mix of colors at The Jelly Bean Factory.) Most of the colors in real life from both brands are remarkably consistent with those posted on their websites. Koppers has a larger variety of colors they produced, however, few stores carry all of them. (But might be willing to do a special order if you give them some lead time.)

Taste: M&Ms taste like, well, M&Ms. The shell is crispy and crunchy and the chocolate inside is mellow, sweet and has a slightly acidic milky flavor and maybe even a little hint of nuttiness.

The Koppers have a rather different chocolate flavor. In fact, they taste more like chocolate to me, especially since the shell is a bit thinner. The shell crackles at first but then dissolves away to leave only the chocolate. It’s a light milk chocolate which smells divine in large quantities. 

The nutrition info on both was virtually identical (200 calories per 40 grams).

Price: M&Ms ColorWorks prices seem to be pretty carefully controlled. Buying on the internet you’re going to find very few shops that still have inventory left, and they’re probably not selling for much less than M&Ms direct. Just about every shop I go into that has M&Ms ColorWorks sells for $8 to $10 per pound. Koppers are sold at a variety of online stores (and not very many brick & mortars). I got mine from Candy Warehouse (because I do photos for them) but there are a few other online stores that are starting to carry the line. Most are about $8 to $10 a pound - even less if you buy in HUGE quantities. (Please check out any online retailer before you order something for a special event.)

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Here are a few things I noticed:

  • Both candies are prone to cracking when exposed to warmer temperatures, so keep that in mind if your candy buffet will be outdoors or in a warm environment (don’t point hot lights at them!). When I do my photos I have a 600 watt light on and it does get warm on the shooting table. The Koppers were the first to crack but the M&Ms weren’t far behind. Even if they didn’t crack, sitting around in 90+ temps will cause the cocoa butter to migrate, giving the lentils a glossy appearance, but greasy feel (and then when they cool, perhaps a chalkier texture inside). If you’re buying any kind of chocolate, be sure to store it properly! Even though temps in my house in the daytime have been in the mid nineties the chocolate has been doing fine sequestered in a large ice chest kept in a dark closet. I don’t put any ice in it, I think the insulation of the chest and the mass of the chocolate itself is enough to keep it within the safe range.
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  • Both candies can also crack when handled roughly. Pouring a pound or two into a very large glass vase can cause some of them to shatter, as can dropping a big five pound bag like it’s a bag o’ pirate loot. So take care with them.
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  • You need a lot of candy to make it “look” like there’s a lot of candy, so don’t be afraid to have too much. I’ll have more on the volumes & weights next week.
  • It all comes down to what you want at your party, what you prefer, and perhaps even which brand has the colors that go with your motif best. Definitely give both a try (and check out the rest of the Koppers line ... I’m rather fond of their mocha lentils and licorice lentils). It’s fun to think outside of the normal Jordan almonds motif and the great thing is that the internet has made so many different kinds of candy available.

    As mentioned earlier I have a lot of the Koppers Milkies and am planning a party for tomorrow evening where I intend to make all my friends eat pounds and pounds of the stuff. I’m going to create the ultimate “candy buffet” so look for some postings and photos in the future with ideas on how to make your own candy buffet.

    The results of this head to head? I prefer the Koppers. I like the more authentic chocolate taste and they simply feel a little more upscale to me, mostly because of their high degree of consistency. However, M&Ms have a lot to recommend them. They’re pretty easy to get a hold of (and I’m guessing if you order direct they’ll be super fresh) and a known crowd pleaser, if a bit more “casual” in feel because of the branding.

    Koppers (website) get a 9 out of 10 and M&Ms ColorWorks (website) get a still respectable 8 out of 10.

    Related Candies

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    4. Equal Exchange Miniatures
    5. Head-to-Head: Smarties vs. M&Ms

    POSTED BY Cybele AT 8:20 am Tracker Pixel for Entry     CandyReviewKoppersMarsChocolateM&Ms8-Tasty9-YummyUnited StatesHead to Head

    Comments
    1. I’ve tried these Koppers and found that I prefer them. The candy shell, instead of acting like a candy itself, I think of as a chocolate delivery system. I didn’t check to see if they melted in my hand or not, because they didn’t stay there long enough!

      Comment by Russ on 8/31/07 at 3:47 pm #
    2. Ooh, a candy buffet!?  Can I be your friend? wink

      Comment by Trisha on 9/01/07 at 7:35 pm #
    3. for my wedding, i did a candy buffet and for the m&ms;, i wanted only pink. but i refused to pay the ridiculous prices. thank goodness they have the breast cancer m&ms; at certain times of the year. i saved a lot on that.

      pointless story, i know. raspberry

      Comment by Pam on 9/04/07 at 9:41 am #
    4. Economy Candy has Colorworks M&Ms; for $6.99/lb. I just bought some there yesterday! I’m not sure if that price applies to online orders, though.

      Comment by Kate on 9/07/07 at 5:07 am #
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    Next entry: This Week in Candy - Too Hot

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