Posts filed under ‘Current Candy News’
As every cotton candy lover knows, the treat is at its best when served fresh from the machine. And a big part of the pleasure is watching the magical transformation of powder into spun floss.
The first machine to spin sugar floss was invented in 1897 by a pair of innovators from Tennessee named William Morrison and John C. Wharton. Around the same time, other versions of cotton candy machines appeared and their inventors claimed to be “the first.” But the Morrison and Wharton device was closest to the modern machine.
The mechanism is very simple. Heat melts the sugar, and the centrifugal force created by spinning the apparatus pushes it through a fine mesh. The tiny strands of molten sugar solidify when they hit the air, and cotton candy collects around the sides of the bowl. A skilled confectioner could spin sugar manually off the tines of a fork or similar instrument, but the result would never be so fine, nor could the fluffiness of cotton candy be achieved by hand. So even though manual techniques existed for creating very find strands of sugar, the spinning into fluffy clouds can only be achieved as a machine effect.
Cotton candy must be made fresh, on the spot. A whiff of humidity and it wilts into a sticky mass. As for that pre-bagged stuff at CVS…not even close. So dedicated cotton candy lovers count the days until summer, with its carnivals and county fairs. That’s the way it’s been since 1897. But the cotton candy times, they are a changin’…
I’ve seen the future, down at the multiplex: it’s a big box called the Cotton Candy Factory, a vending machine that makes a fresh, fluffy cotton candy on a stick in under a minute, right before your eyes. The floss is identical in every way to the midway classic, except you don’t have to step in horse poop to enjoy it. Price per vend? 2 dollars U.S., or 4 dollars N.Y.C.
There was a time when some people thought eating candy was a good way to cut down on the booze.
Looks like the tables have turned. Now instead of all that bad sugar, you can get your candy fix with a nice shot of vodka:
This hot of the presses (courtesy WSJ.com):
After promising early results from Dr Pepper Ten, a low-calorie version of its flagship soda, Dr Pepper Snapple is giving the same treatment to five of its other sodas…. Starting as early as January, the company will start testing 7 Up Ten, Sunkist Ten, A&W Ten and Canada Dry Ten in Columbus, Ohio, Des Moines, Iowa, and central Pennsylvania. It will also test RC Ten, a cola, in Chicago, Evansville, Ind., and Des Moines.
As we chroncled in these pages a few weeks ago, Ten is NOT FOR CHICKS! So what about all these other perfect Tens, I wonder?
The real story isn’t getting diet soda into men so much as getting HFCS into diet soda. Evidently, the company’s proprietary blend of non-nutritive sweetener and HFCS makes the calories go away while keeping the “real soda” flavor. I guess we’ll all be Tens soon…
By the way, if any beverage executives are listening, I’ll tell you what I’d really go for: a low or no calorie drink that wasn’t so sweet! I don’t like the extra sugar of sweet drinks, so I prefer the diet sort (I save my sugar quota for real candy). But why should I have to choose between the sweet-bomb of Diet Snapple Iced Tea and the mouth-puckering virtue of the totally unsweetened stuff? I don’t want sugar, just a little sweetness, just a pinch…
Last week’s Sweets and Snacks Expo in Chicago showcased some fabulous candies from the past that are just right for today, like Goo Goo Clusters and Modjeskas (see my previous post). Here’s my take on some slightly more perplexing nostalgia candies coming down the candy pipeline.
Necco Wafers: A strange story from the folks at New England Confectionery. Necco Wafers are returning to their original artificial colors, having shifted to an all-natural palette a couple of years ago. The Necco representative explained that it was like New Coke and Classic Coke: Necco is going back to Classic Necco. This one surprised me. It seems totally contrary to the whole away-from-artificial movement. But the official line is that the customers demanded it. It is an isolated case, but you’ve got to wonder if there isn’t more of this counter-revolution brewing.
In the image above, the current packaging is at the bottom (note “all natural”), and the new package at the top (“an American classic”). The all-natural kind are still on store shelves, but will soon be replaced with the Classic. The package on the new (old) version doesn’t proclaim its artificialness, so this may be a switch with little fan-fare. If you are interested in comparing the flavors, buy an “all natural” roll now and hold on to it for a couple of months.
The difference in appearance is not dramatic. The image shows the new, artificially colored wafer at bottom. Here’s the ingredient list for the current all-natural version: sugar, corn syrup, gelatin, coco power, natural flavors, vegetable gums, natural colors (red beet, purple cabbage, turmeric, caramel color, paprika). The new, back to the old, version adds citric acid and artificial flavors and instead of those lovely vegetable colors, you will enjoy the visual stylings of Yellows 5 & 6, Blue 1, Red 3, Red 40.
So nostalgia, it turns out, it a tricky thing. Those good old days involved a lot of chemicals.
Bosco Milk Chocolate: Speaking of nostalgia, here’s a new product that is un-ashamedly all about the packaging of nostalgia. Bosco you may recall from your childhood (or not, since if you are old enough to recall it, you probably can’t recall it….) Anyway, whoever owns the trademark now (who may or may not have anything to do with the original Bosco) has licensed it for use by Priam LLC. Priam is not actually a candy maker. Priam is a brand builder (at least I think that’s what this means: “a one stop resource solution…lending its expertise to its brand partners in the critical disciplines of sales, marketing, logistics, merchandising, graphic design, accounting and finance, and public relations.”). Priam has arranged for the wrapping of the Bosco name and logo around a bar of milk chocolate which does not, so far as I can gather, actually contain any Bosco. But this bar was a huge draw at the New Products Preview event, and everybody wanted to take a picture and take one home. We probably won’t even open it; the “value” of this candy is entirely in the wrapper.
Fizzies: These are flavored and sweetened tablets that work on the Alka-Seltzer principle to produce a glass of … beverage, I guess. I don’t have much to say about these, except that I remember them from when I was a kid and now they are back. They went off the market in the late 1960s when cyclamate, an artificial sweetener essential to the Fizzies formula, was banned. Bummer.The new version is sweetened with sucralose, another non-nutritive sweetener. We thought they were fun when I was 6, so perhaps a whole new generation of 6 year olds is waiting for this sensation.
Of course, when I was 6 we didn’t have Pop Rocks and Toxic Waste Candy and other such violent taste experiences, so Fizzies was about as exciting as it got. Will the youth of today prove too jaded for old fashioned fizz? In the Candy Professor test kitchen, the answer seems to be “yes.” My kiddie test subject yawned and walked away when the tablet fell into the water and then, well it didn’t so much fizz as fizzle. When she came back a few minutes later, it was still fizzling. Either they got the formula wrong, or we were just way more easily amused forty years ago. Against just such a possibility, the Fizzies people have come up with several cocktail recipes to keep the over-21 crowed fizzing along.
Today, some fresh candies that made an impression at the Sweets and Snacks Expo. I notice an inadvertent theme. Is the digestive tract* a new direction in candy concepts?
Farts: I was so put off by the name of this candy that I almost passed it by. This photo is all the Farts I brought home to sample, less three that I ate just before I wrote this, when I discovered that they actually taste really good! Clearly, when they decided to call them Farts, I was not the target consumer. But if your kids bring some home, try them. Flavors are (soothingly) predictable: green apple, purple grape, pink bubblegum. They are small nuggets, sour in a gentle way, grainy, softer than Nerds with a nice crunch that will not harm your dentist’s handiwork. If you eat more than one flavor at a time, the flavors cancel out and they just taste like chemicals. But they do not smell like farts at all.
Overload: While much of the latest in sweets and snacks is about being more healthy, more natural, more virtuous, or at least seeming that way, there are always the contrarians. I met a couple of guys from Long Island who seem very confident that there will always be a market for American much-ness. And I suspect they may be on to something. (Sigh. The genie is already out of that bottle, sorry Michelle.) Overload is based on the premise that if you like one candy at a time, you’ll love three. So these folks have piled a chocolate sandwich cookie on top of a peanut butter cup and sprinkled it with mini-M&M’s. There are variations on this theme involving chocolate chip cookies, Butterfinger chips, etc. This is the candy you’d get if you went to Cold Stone Creamery and left out the ice cream. I did not bother flipping the package over to look at the nutrition information. I doubt anyone who buys this item will do it either.
Jelly Belly Dips: Jelly Belly has always taken a creative approach to the jelly bean: unlike traditional beans, the folks at JB see an inside wrapped in an outside, and imagine flavors that way. But Dips takes the principle to a new level. They stripped the grainy coating off the “belly” part and instead dipped it in dark chocolate. In addition to creating an entirely novel candy for the U.S. market, this evidently shaves a fraction of a calorie off each bean, so you can worry a little less when you notice you ate the whole package, which you will because they are soft and chocolatey and yummy. The fruit assortment (coconut, orange, strawberry, cherry, strawberry) works very well with the dark chocolate. There is also a mint variety (packaged separately). If you mix in a few regular beans in the same flavors, you have a very pretty and tasty candy bowl. These have been a big hit already, and I heard murmurs that even more flavors might be in the works.
There is nothing like Dips made for the U.S. market (maybe chocolate coated gummi bears are close, but I find those strange and not so good). However, similar candies have been long popular in Japan. You can find various brands of chocolate or white chocolate coated gummis in Japanese groceries on this side of the Pacific too (see a review of Meiji Gummy Choco on candyblog.net, for example). I don’t know whether Jelly Belly was inspired by this Japanese confection, or just that good ideas tend to appear, but it is nice that we now have a domestic version.
Morinaga Hi Chew Peach Flavor: And while we are on the subject of Japanese confections, let us pause to savor the delicious spongy gumminess that is Morinaga Hi Chew. Hi Chew boasts its intense, juicy fruit flavors, so a new flavor is exciting news. Morinaga even hired a publicist to send out press releases in advance of the peach debut at the show, and candy bloggers for the past couple of weeks have been all a-twitter to grab their samples and chew away.
I arrive at one end the Morinaga booth, where they have a long row of samples for about 15 flavors. I am directed to the peach at the other table. I stride over, saying “Where is this famous peach flavor I have heard so much about?” The rep behind the counter stares at me, eyes wide. “How did you know about the peach flavor?” It is so new that they don’t even have properly wrapped samples yet, they are just pulling the wax-paper squares out of the retail packages. I give him my best wise-and-mischievous look. “Because it’s my business to know these sorts of thing,” I reply and laugh. He looks intensely puzzled and worried. Then relief: “Oh, he told you,” gesturing down to the other end of the booth where I started. I shake my head and intone, “No. I just know.” Poor guy. Now, imagining himself confronted with either a mind reader or a corporate spy, he is becoming quite flustered. I rescue him with the truth: “Your publicist sent me a press release! Everybody is talking about the new peach flavor!” Well, everybody except the Morinaga representatives at the trade show, I guess.
Hot Lix: When you are offered the chance to eat something really strange, who will you be: Terry Timid or Bertha Bold? This time, it was a bowl of chocolate coated beetle larvae. I decided to put on my Bertha Bold hat; why shouldn’t I be that fearless person who jumps in and says yes! So yes, I did sample the chocolate worm, the chocolate cricket, and even the cheddar worm on the savory side. I did, so now I can say I’ve done it. That means I don’t have to do it again.
Tasting notes: The chocolate covered worm/larva is the easiest to begin with. The shape is not obviously insectoid, so your mind is not rebelling right away. And in the mouth, it begins well: smooth chocolate, nice melty mouthfeel, a bit of crunch from the dried larva. So far not bad. Swallow. Hmm. Wait, what’s that? The chocolate is gone, and now I’m just left with the aftertaste of worm! Not good. Cricket goes a bit better, although the spiky cricket shape is a little less appealing.
Is fraternity pranking that big of a market? In related insect candy news, I also picked up a sample scorpion lollipop thinking my kid would go for the weird factor. She just said “eew.” She would rather eat a fart.
Next post: Nostalgia: new candies for old-timers.
*Did you get it? Un-scramble the candies to Dip, Lick, Chew, Overload, and then Fart. Fizzies, Alka Seltzer-style fizzing tablets, will be reviewed in the next post, as a potential remedy.
I got home late last night from Sweets and Snacks Expo 2011, the big national trade show for candy and other snacky things. It’s a big show, three acres comprising booths and displays for some 550 exhibitors, large and small, all vying for the eyes and wallets of candy and snack buyers and brokers. I’m still a little bleary but I’m eager to share my impressions of what’s happening in the land of big candy (this being CANDY Professor, I didn’t focus too much on the savory snack side…not sure if there is a “Chips and Meat Sticks Professor” out there…).
My legal team requires the following disclosure: this event was sample-palooza. Every candy I will discuss was a freebie, some pressed on my less-eager hands by the manufacturer, others sought out by me, but all free none the less. Will that bias my judgement? We will see.
Today’s theme is everything old is new again. For better or for worse, here are some very not-new candies that caught my eye.
Grape Pop Rocks: They used to come in grape flavor, then they didn’t, and now they do again. This has occasioned several press releases and a new advertising campaign. I am missing something here. I include a mention of this item as a scrap thrown to the publicists who stuff free things into media bags in the hope of generating hype. That is the only explanation I can find for why these were featured at the National Confectioners Association New Products Media Preview Event on Monday night before the show. Now I feel I have paid off my karmic debt for a lovely spread of hot hors d’oeuvres and cocktails.
Modjeskas: Where the marketing professionals have sunk there teeth deep into Pop Rocks to make something out of nothing, Modjeskas are an example of a real something that will be taken for nothing unless some marketing savvy turns things around. First off, the name. Mo-what? I can barely say it, much less remember it. There is some kind of quaint story about the origin of the name, but it never sticks in my head. (Wait, here it is, stapled to the back of the company brochure: A Polish actress, Helena Modjeska, gave a memorable performance in “A Doll’s House” in Louisville Kentucky in 1883. Hmm.), The candy’s appearance, which is basically a blobby brown lump wrapped in plain wax paper, doesn’t help. All of which is too bad, because these are ONE OF THE BEST AMERICAN CANDIES ever.
A version of this candy has been made by Bauer’s Candies in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky since 1889. A Modjeska is caramel-covered marshmallow. The caramel is soft with a bit of grain and a medium chew, while the marshmallow is firm and not too sweet. The terrific mouth-feel, and the interesting contrast in textures and flavors, make this candy irresistible. When they are fresh, which they must be, they have a tender, right off the farm sort of quality. These are the kind of candies the nostalgia boom is desperately searching. These candies embody the local and the authentic and the small. Anna Bauer makes them still, no longer in her parent’s basement as she did when she was a kid, but the attention and commitment of a family business make a huge difference. Modjeskas (or maybe we could call them “Cara-Mo’s”?) should be on the shelves of every faux-farm food boutique in the nation. If you see one, eat it right away.
Goo Goo Cluster: Not a new candy, but a great story.
Lance Paine, Executive VP of Goo Goo Cluster wins the prize for effective communication technique at a candy trade show. Goo Goo was on my show must-see list for two reasons: it is the oldest composite bar in America (1912!) and after 100 years, they decide to change the classic cluster from round to square. This is not the kind of change we here at Candy Professor can allow to pass unexamined.
I stroll up to the booth and announce, “So, I hear you’ve started making square Goo Goos.” Lance raises his eyebrows. “Square? Who said that? Those rumors are flying all over the place!” Then he grabs a wrapped candy bar, rips it open, and displays the Cluster within. “Does that look square to you?” he demands.
I must confess, it is not exactly square. It’s more of a… cluster. But before I’ve had a chance to insist that it is kind of squarish, and I do sort of remember something more definitely round-blobbish, he jams the bar in my mouth. What can I do? I bite. Oh my goodness, that is a good candy bar. Is it square? Is it round? I suddenly have forgotten the question.
Which, after I’ve chewed, swallowed, and regained my composure, turns out to have been Lance’s strategy all along. Because the point of Goo Goo Cluster is not its shape, but it’s essential Goo Goo-ness. Lance now admits that yes, the nougat base is square, and it used to be round. But once you pour on the caramel and the peanuts and the chocolate, the square is square in theory only.
The reason for the change, Lance explains, is technical. The round nougat base was made using the starch mold process: round indentations are pressed into a tray of starch, then the nougat is poured in and allowed to dry. Goo Goo decided to change to a slab cut process: take a slab of nougat and cut it into squares. Lance claimed that moving away from starch moulding resulted in a more moist and tender nougat. The bar I tried was indeed moist and tender, delicious and dare I say tending toward the confectionery sublime. So I’ll take the square.
By the way, I has somehow escaped me until now that a Snickers bar is basically a streamlined Goo Goo Cluster. Nougat, peanuts, caramel, chocolate. In the candy business, the candy matters, but so does everything else.
Next post: more candies from the show, new and old, and I reveal what I ate that I never thought I could eat…
What does this look like to you? Valentines candy? Or the party drug Ecstasy?
A report surfaced in Canada last week of a stash of the substance depicted above seized during a drug bust. The perps had been under surveillance for a while, and were hauled in on posession and distribution charges. They definitely had drugs: a half-pound of cocaine and “a quantity” of Ecstasy. But it seems they also had some of the motto candy hearts most commonly found in kids’ Valentine cards.
The report is extremely vague on how the presence of these candies led the police to conclude that the candy was actually drugs. It just states: “The ecstasy was in the form of a popular kids candy.” The photo of the bust items, however, clearly shows bags of pills along with the candy. Did the police taste or test the candy? Or is candy in a drug dealer’s kitchen just automatically suspect.
So the alarm is out: drug pushers are endangering children with candy-shaped pills. Citizens responded with appropriate panic:
I have candy that look exactly like this on top of my fridge right now. These people need to be put away for a long, long time.
Esctasy may not be highly addictive, if in fact you know what you are talking about there. But a child getting their hands on two or three of these and eating them thinking they are candy could really put them in harms way, this could very even lead to death.
I have a young son who has eaten candy hearts that looked like this. We need judges who will make examples with stiffer jail terms for these low lives. People who disguise kids candies as drugs need to be put on a firing range. I would have no problem watching these scum bags gasp for their last breath.
Well, you get the general idea (these are comments from the news report on the web site of The Telegram, link below). With no substantiation, and a highly unlikely premise, this news story stirs the pot. The image of children lured down the path with candy is too powerful to question.
But in fact, the story gives no evidence at all that these hearts are Ecstasy. And as many commentators point out, Ecstasy tastes terrible, and chewing it in candy form is not going to be a pleasant experience (disclaimer: I have not investigated this personally, I’m just going on the comments). The kicker for me is the image of the candy itself: are we seriously meant to believe that a drug dealing couple in St. John, Canada, has gone to the considerable effort and expense of setting up a whole candy manufacturing operation to make these drug hearts? Because folks, you can’t just make these at home. And yet, the news report is presented with a totally straight face. Out of 40 comments on the Telegram story, only 2 actually question the premise that the hearts hide drugs.
Most people find it easy to believe that drug pushers are hiding their wares in candy. This is just the mirror image of our long-standing and deeply held suspicion of candy itself: it’s easy to believe that what looks like innocent candy is really a potent drug.
Images from the Telegram story, credited to Royal Canadian Mounted Police.