Monthly Archives: May 2007

Mike & Ike Original Fruits

Five flavors of fruity candy chews in a movie theater box (or a smaller bag if you prefer)—you can’t go wrong with this formula. Mike & Ikes come to us from Just Born Candy Company, based in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. They were invented in 1940, and the popular flavors changed over the years. But the five original fruits (strawberry, lime, lemon, orange, and cherry) remain today and are sold in a variety pack. Other Mike & Ikes combinations available are Tropical Typhoon, Jolly Joes (grape), Berry Blast, and Tangy Twister. They have an upcoming promotion where you can vote for the next new flavor combination, if you feel your voice should be heard. Just Born candy company also makes Hot Tamales (a cinnamon-flavored version of Mike & Ikes), Zours, and the Easter season’s popular treat, marshmallow Peeps.

Mike & Ikes are the same consistency as a jelly bean, but they are about the size and shape of a large Tylenol Extra Strength pill. Still, you won’t have to work hard to get these pills down, because their fruit flavors are pure delight. My favorites are strawberry and lemon, and I especially like to mix them together for a little strawberry lemonade. Mike & Ikes’ packaging has changed over the decades, but the flavor remains the same. You can tell by visiting their website that Mike & Ikes are trying to appeal to a young, hip audience with their Web presence resembling a skatepark with grafitti text and all. But adults will buy them for the nostalgia factor and kids don’t really need a reason to eat candy—so in that sense, they’ve got all their bases covered. Mike & Ikes are one of my favorite chewy, fruit candies that I’ve recently rediscovered. Discover them again or for the first time at your local convenience or grocery store or a movie theater. You won’t be disappointed by the juicy taste that bursts from each little piece.

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Maynards Wine Gums

Candy for wine connoisseurs? A brand of British-based Cadbury candies, Maynards Wine Gums are hot, hot, hot in the UK, which is where I first tried them. In fact, they are to the U.K. what Starburst and Skittles are to the United States. Imagine chewy gum drops in wine-inspired flavors and colors, and you’ve imagined Maynards Wine Gums.

But, don’t be fooled by the name. Wine gums are not chewing gum, but more of a chewy gummi candy. And they don’t contain any wine! They come in larger bags and smaller rolls that you can pick up from the candy aisle and take on the road for a refreshing fruity taste. These candies may not suit those who don’t like wine—or parents who don’t want their kids to develop a liking for alcohol. They come in flavors like port, sherry, burgundy, champagne and claret, as well as different shapes including kidney-shaped, crown, and rectangle. Invented by Charles Maynard in 1909, these chews have a thicker consistency than other gummies, which lets the flavor last—like a fine wine. The flavor quotient on these candies is outstanding—bright and refreshing all the way down.

I was initially lured in by a wall-sized poster in a London Tube stop. Wine Gums? I was stumped. I could tell they were candies and that I wanted to try them, but I really didn’t know what to expect. So I dashed off to a convenience store to stock up on Green & Blacks candy bars (a real candy gem!) and purchased a pack of wine gums out of curiosity. At first taste, I didn’t know what to think. They did in fact taste a bit like alcohol, but not in an overwhelming way. The flavor was unique but hard to describe. Black and red wine gums are the most popular, but yellow, green, and orange are not to be omitted. The number-one selling fruity candy in the U.K., wine gums are a product you really have to experience for yourself.

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Laffy Taffy Ropes

What’s so funny about taffy? After all, it’s just artificial colors, corn syrup and some other standard candy ingredients. When did taffy go all Jerry Seinfeld on us?

For those still wondering what’s behind the name, I’ll tell you. There are jokes on every wrapper of Laffy Taffy whether you buy it in smaller wrapped cubes or 10-inch Laffy Taffy Ropes. This gimmick has made Laffy Taffy, a Wonka brand, a frontrunner in the taffy market as well as a favorite with kids everywhere. But it kind of feels like a prize that isn’t an actual prize. (Example: The box of cereal that claims to have a prize inside, and it’s really just a Mad Lib printed on the box. Or a Cracker Jack box with a prize that is nothing more than a printed piece of cardboard.) Still, it’s kept the kids on board for a number of years, so it’ll do. Laffy Taffy Ropes come in flavors like apple, banana, blue raspberry, grape, strawberry, mango and cherry. But I am a person of intrigue, so I picked up the two-flavor “mystery swirl�? rope. Would I open it to find cherry-banana? How about raspberry-grape? Only time would tell.

I opened up the wrapper carefully so as to preserve the jokes. (“What is a caterpillar afraid of?�? A DOGerpillar!) Don’t hurt yourself laughing. These are kid-friendly jokes after all. My taffy was most certainly green (apple) and pink (strawberry) swirl, which was so tightly swirled together that there was really no discernible color once you got into the “meat�? of the stick. It was more of a brownish green than anything. But my taffy rope had a soft, chewy texture and bright, fruity flavor like I expected to find. Not like salt water taffy, these fruit chews were more the consistency of a Starburst. Which is a very good thing! I would eat a few of these ropes in one sitting—I guess it’s a good thing that they sell for a quarter each. Affordable for kids and adults, Laffy Taffy is here to stay.

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Trolli Apple O’s

Manufactured by Farley’s and Sather’s Candy Company since 2005, Trolli candies came out in the 1980s. The product line changed hands several times in two decades, but they are now distributed with Farley’s and Sather’s other hard, soft, chewy, and gummi candies. The first product created by Trolli was the gummi worm, one of today’s best-selling gummi candies along with bears.

Now the Trolli brand has expanded its line to include Trolli-Os, in flavors like sour apple, peach, melon, and tropical fruits. Apple O’s are donut-shaped gummies with green on one side and white on the back. The whole candy is coated in sugar to offset the kick you get from the fresh yet tangy apple taste. With a hole in the middle big enough to stick your tongue through, these candies are fun for kids to eat—almost as fun as creepy, crawly gummy worms. But parents may prefer these treats for their kids to Trolli Brite Crawlers or (gasp!) Gummi Octopus. Other candies represent something you really shouldn’t stick in your mouth, which can drive some parents crazy. The size of each candy is larger than normal, but you can definitely manage it in your mouth all at once. Just picture a gummi bear on steroids.

Trolli Apple-O’s come in a 4.25-ounce bag. Now normally I would say that the majority of candies don’t have a large enough quantity-per-package ratio. But for these candies, I was done with the apple flavor and ready for something else by the end of the bag. So it’s just right in size. But that doesn’t mean the flavor is bad, though some would sense a slightly unpleasant aftertaste to the Trolli Apple-O’s. Overall, the fruity apple flavor is refreshing and makes a great summer candy that won’t melt in your bag. So toss some in and hit the beach or the park. You can celebrate summer any time of year with Trolli Apple-O’s gummies.

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Certs Roll Peppermint

One thing is certain—we all need fresh breath. A roll of Certs in your pocket or bag can make a huge difference when you go to lean in for that big kiss. Or maybe you just want to sweeten up your breath for your colleagues in case they get a little too close. Whatever the reasoning, Certs peppermints are a classic breath freshener manufactured by the Cadbury Schweppes Corporation. They are as commonplace at grocery store checkout aisles as any other mint or gum.

When Certs were introduced in 1956, they were the first breath mint to really spark the American obsession with minty-fresh mouths. Though they don’t contain any peppermint oils, Certs are made with an ingredient called retsyn which gives the white mint its colored flecks. About the circumference of a penny, these mints come in handy rolls that you can take with you anywhere. The brand also released boxes of Certs Cool Mint Drops (shaped like tiny eggs) and Certs Powerful Mints (lots of flavor packed into the smallest mint possible). But the classic roll has remained a staple of convenience stores all over the U.S.

Debate ensued over the validity of Certs as a breath mint, because they don’t actually contain antibacterial ingredients. They’ve been referred to as a mint-flavored candy because the sweet flavor can lighten up your breath without really knocking out the odor-causing bacteria. This issue came to the forefront when Certs applied to be recognized as an oral-hygiene product rather than candy, to change tariffs applied to imports. After a back and forth battle in the courts, Certs triumphed and was recognized as a legitimate breath mint. (Well gee, I could have put one in my mouth and told you that.) Peppermint Certs are the classic flavor, though cinnamon and wintergreen are also popular. At one time, I remember Certs coming out with a cherry flavor, which I was always delighted to find in my mom’s purse. These classic mints are cheap, handy, and refreshing with decades of sales to prove their candy (I mean minty) legacy.

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Nips Peanut Butter Parfait

Nips, a brand purchased by international chocolatier Nestle in 1989, have been around since the 1920s. These milk-infused caramels are long-lasting and absolutely delicious, in flavors like butter rum, coffee, mocha, and dulce de leche. Chocolate Parfait and Peanut Butter Parfait have a silky “parfait�? center that melts in your mouth, making the treat truly irresistible. It’s easy to eat one after another, after another. The round, individually wrapped caramels are easy to toss in a candy jar or in your bag.

Peanut Butter Parfait Nips have an interesting consistency—if a Werther’s hard candy and a soft caramel chew produced offspring, this would be it. Nips have a smooth caramel shell that is harder than a chewy candy, but not as soft as the caramels you’d use to melt over caramel apples. Inject a dose of creamy peanut-butter flavor into the center, and you’ll discover all the peanut-buttery goodness after the candy dissolves in your mouth. A 5.5-ounce box of Nips provides a few dozen of these premium candies at a discount-store price. Variety bags are also tempting for candy lovers who can’t make up their minds. Also available in sugar free, Nips are enjoyable to a variety of candy lovers.

I had a middle school teacher who always kept Nips on hand and would occasionally reward her students occasionally with one of these candies. This only happened semi-regularly—my theory is that she just really didn’t want to let them go. Now that my middle school days are long gone and I’ve graduated to adulthood, I can buy my own bag of Nips and chomp on them all day long. But, they always tasted better coming from Mrs. Price’s candy jar. If you try any kind of Nips, try the Peanut Butter Parfait. They are by far the most fulfilling variety that’s just so creamy and different from what other candy brands bring to the table. Pop one in and let it dissolve your cares away.

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Harry Potter Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans

If eccentric jelly beans are your thing, you’ll die for these peculiar little treats from Cap Candy. The complete flavor list includes some normal tastes, like blueberry, grape jelly, and green apple. If you’re a bit more daring, you’ll flip for flavors like grass, black pepper, and buttered popcorn. But only the truly brave (and all 5-to-10 year old boys) will be willing to stomach the grossest jelly bean flavors: booger, bacon, soap, sardine, earthworm, earwax, rotten egg, dirt, and—the kicker—vomit. I found these flavors absolutely disgusting. Still, that’s part of the charm of the candy. And if they intent was to gross me out, Bertie Bott’s Beans certainly did that. I found a surprisingly higher ratio of revolting flavors to enjoyable ones. Grape jelly was nice and fruity. Bacon and earthworm were rubbery and waxy.

This candy is part of the Harry Potter craze that swept across the world like wildfire at the turn of the century. Potter books and accompanying products found themselves in the hands of kids and adults alike as they sought a touch of magic in their everyday lives. Because of their link to the literary world, these jelly beans are sold in specialty, gift, and bookstores in addition to candy-specific shops. Other Harry Potter candies inspired by the book series include: Cockroach Clusters, Fizzing Whizbees (a popping candy), Chocolate Frogs, Jelly Slugs, and Blood Pops. Mmm, mmm good!

Is there something morally wrong with a company that can make kids eat booger- and vomit-flavored jelly beans—the same kids who wouldn’t pick up a piece of broccoli for a hundred bucks? I’d say so. Nevertheless, the clever marketing scheme behind these beans is a lesson for all candy companies: exploit what’s hot. The jelly bean giant, Jelly Belly manufactures the Bertie Bott’s brand in 10- and 20-flavor boxes. With that quality reputation, these beans have become an established treat rather than a mere passing fad in the novelty candy industry. Now, go wash out your mouth with a soap-flavored jelly bean.

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Bubble Yum Bubble Gum Balls

If you’re a kid, or if you like to eat like one, you almost certainly love Bubble Yum. The popular gum has been around since 1975 when it was created by LifeSavers. The bubble gum’s fame spread like wildfire, and it was no surprise that candy giant Hershey’s would take an interest in and subsequently acquire the brand in 2000. It’s a success story any way you look at it, considering the brand had to fend off nasty rumors soon after it arrived on the market. You see, gossip began to spread that Bubble Yum’s recipe included a foul ingredient which allegedly made it so soft: spider eggs. Once the rumor was cleared up, Bubble Yum sales climbed sky high again.

The gum is traditionally sold in soft, square chews in flavors like original pink, blue raspberry, grape, and sour apple. The recipe makes it oh-so-ripe for popping bubbles much superior to those produced by your ordinary stick of gum. But did you know that Bubble Yum is now available in gum balls? It’s true. A movie-theater box style weighing in at 4 ounces and containing just less than 60 pink, original flavor gum balls has arrived on the candy scene. How does this form of gum compare to its predecessor? These gum balls are super soft, with almost no outer candy shell to gnaw through. They actually have a fantastic flavor that last unusually long for pink bubble gum.

The packaging may be this products biggest challenge. Once you open up the movie-theater box, there is no way you are going to eat it all in one sitting. It’s not easy to store for safe keeping, because little pink gum balls come spilling out of the box wherever you try to put it. And because gum is not something most people digest, you’re not going to just sit down and consume the whole box, even with several friends helping out. That’s why gum is sold individually wrapped, or in gum ball machines—it’s just more convenient. That said, Bubble Yum fans will love the pink product in any form.

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Licorice Altoids

Maybe it’s the ultra-clever marketing. Or maybe it’s the crackle of that white protective paper you must peel back to get to the mints inside each nostalgia-inducing tin. Whatever it is, there is a reason why consumers choose Altoids, the “curiously strong mint�? over its competitors. Mint flavors like wintergreen and peppermint aside, Altoids are also available in cinnamon, ginger, and even licorice (or “liquorice,�? as the tin reads). That’s not to mention their newer Altoid raspberry, citrus, and passion fruit sours available in round tins rather than the traditional tins shaped like a deck of cards.

But to zero in on a particular mint, Licorice Altoids are a special candy for a special consumer. Indeed, not every candy connoisseur enjoys the flavor of black licorice. And from a company known for its mints, this is not quite a mint, though one could make a case for the fresh-breath potential. Closet black-licorice fans truly have limited options when it comes to the treat—it’s a rare flavor, and Altoids nearly has the market cornered on licorice mints. Twizzlers still makes black licorice ropes, but you won’t find it in all stores. The red licorice ropes are definitely more popular. In fact, black licorice is usually only enjoyed by mature taste buds, leaving young consumers with more kid-friendly flavors. It carries the flavor of anise, an herb used not only as a cough suppressant but also as a breath sweetener. So maybe there is reason to market licorice as a mint.

These Altoids are potent and packed with flavor, like other Altoid varieties. If you’re mildly fond of licorice, you’ll probably eat a few of these and get bored. If you’re a black licorice fanatic, you’ll ingest the entire can in a week. But don’t expect to offer this treat to unsuspecting friends under the label of a “mint.�? They may be surprised by the taste and spit it out in front of you. As one food reviewer for the Chicago Sun-Times stated, black licorice tastes like “stale tobacco dipped in cough syrup.�? Ouch, that’s harsh. But don’t let one person’s opinion stop you from at least giving Licorice Altoids a try.

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King Leo Strawberry & Cream Puffs

 Available in a 7-ounce bag or a 2-pound tub, King Leo’s strawberries and cream puffs are classified as one of King Leo’s “soft candies.? But they are not actually soft, nor are they chewy. The consistency is like a hardened ball of tightly wound cotton candy, or the pastel after-dinner mints that I so often savor. I’d call them semi-soft, based on the premise that you are able to chew through without too much work, but not effortlessly. In fact, naming it a “puff? is inherently misleading. But what is not misleading is the creamy, fruity taste. The flavor of each individually wrapped pink-and-white-striped candy is a tangy yet smooth strawberry, also reminiscent of cotton candy spun into strawberry sugary goodness. I’m a huge fan.

Since 1901, King Leo has been cranking out the sugary goods, like their world-famous peppermint stick (read: huge candy cane in stick form). Since they introduced other treats like soft candies in flavors like mint, key lime, and strawberries and cream, the company has established a fan base among young and old alike. They are currently headquartered in Julian, California and continue to churn out new candy inventions (like their award-winning peppermint bark, drinking chocolate, and chocolate-dipped peppermint sticks) to round out the collection. Though they are a low-key corporate entity, they’ve stood their ground and maintained operations for over a century. What an accomplishment in a world of candy giants.

Refreshing as King Leo’s strawberries and cream puffs are, I must complain that these candies go too fast. With the great flavor, I wish it lasted a little longer like a hard candy or a sucker would. But, perhaps that’s why these candy puffs are available in 2-pound tubs! Buy some of these for your office candy jar, and you’ll have returning grazers. Stash them in your car, and you’ll enjoy the drive time much more. Whatever you do, try these candies—don’t let your taste buds miss out. They are strawlicious.

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