Jelly Belly Blech

The Huffington Post is running a bracket-style voting contest to find the people’s least favorite flavor of Jelly Belly. Voting starts later today for the final round, which will be either popcorn or top banana versus cappuccino or licorice! Winner (or loser?) will be crowned tomorrow.

My favorite part about all this is that Jelly Belly is actively promoting this on their Facebook page. They are either good sports or have sneakily creative PR people.

My least favorite Jelly Belly is probably the canned dog food one from the Bertie Botts/Beanboozled beans. I actually have tasting notes from when my friends and I had a blast playing the Beanboozled game, but I never wrote them up because they were things like, “weirds me out that it has notes of ketchup” (barf) or “musty and moldy, sort of tastes like an attic” (pencil shavings).

Busy busy busy

Hey readers,

If you noticed, I missed my usual Monday review. That’s because I spent all of this past weekend moving! And now I live in a messy new apartment full of boxes. Things are getting a little hectic, so it may be a a bit before I get to posting reviews. News posts are still in the pipeline!

Skinny Cow Divine Filled Chocolates – Caramel

I’ve never been a big fan of candy companies that refer to candy as a guilty pleasure. Why can’t it just be a pleasure, without all these extra hangups? As long as you’re not eating as much candy as I do, you’re probably fine.

Skinny Cow, with its ridiculous svelte cow logo, clearly markets itself to dieting women. This package of their caramel filled chocolates, which they were handing out as free samples at Sweets and Snacks, was clearly labeled as containing 130 calories.

It also claimed to be “velvety milk chocolate and luscious caramel”. All for 130 calories? I was skeptical…

The package contained 3 pretty chocolate squares, each lightly imprinted with the words Skinny Cow. The caramel inside was thin and runny with a slight grain to the texture.

The chocolate was grainy as well – definitely a few hours of conching shy of being velvety. It was extremely sweet, to the point of being throat burning.

The caramel was similarly sweet, but it also packed a heavy hit of saltiness, which was a nice surprise. It helped bring a little more interest to treat, and it provided the flavor of something besides just SWEET.

Still, I’d rather have one really high quality chocolate covered caramel than three of these guys. Quality over quantity! But if you prefer quantity, or if you absolutely need know the calorie count of what you’re eating (made easier when your food is factory made!), these wouldn’t be a terrible compromise. An O.

Just Born at Sweets and Snacks 2013

One of my favorite moments from last month’s Sweets and Snack’s Expo was the surreal Mike and Ike press conference with Nelly at the Just Born booth. Yup, that Nelly.

At last year’s Expo, it was announced that Mike and Ike of Mike and Ike were splitting up. This year, they brought Nelly to the Expo to announce that he got them back together by talking Mike out of a music career.

There was a whole press conference in which various press people asked Nelly about his role in reuniting the candy duo. It was a little absurd, since Mike and Ike are technically not real, but Nelly was a good sport about it all. I also learned quite a bit about the philanthropic side of Nelly, which was quite impressive.

Packing from the Mike and Ike split-up.

Afterwards, I had a chance to chat with David Yale, the current president of Just Born, about the Mike and Ike press campaign. He was a really nice guy! He gave me his card, I assume for whenever I’m in the neighborhood.

David said that Mike and Ike campaign was inspired by fans asking about Mike and Ike: Who are they? What are their likes and dislikes?

From those questions, they spun a story about Mike and Ike’s diverging interests and how that would lead to their break-up. Later, when it was time to start thinking about getting them back together, Just Born wanted a celebrity to lead the charge.

Nelly was chosen as the one to bring Mike and Ike together because he’d independently professed a love for Mike and Ikes in an appearance on Monique’s talk show. At the press conference, Nelly told a cute story about stopping by a neighborhood gas station to stock up on the “green box”, and he says he always has them on hand in his dressing room (even more so now that’s he’s a spokesperson, I bet!).

The campaign was a big success. As David put it, “All the numbers are up”, meaning sales, social media presence, brand awareness, etc. improved over the course of the Mike and Ike split.


All in all, it was a fun event. I got to talk to Nelly! Sort of – that’s the side of my head as I asked him a question about how he reconciles being a candy spokesperson with all his charity work getting kids to exercise.

Lovely Caramels

The Lovely Candy Company was a new (founded this year!) candy company that made its debut at Sweets and Snacks last month. They make gluten-free licorice, caramels, and fruit chews (gluten-free was a continuing trend from 2012 to 2013), and I grabbed a couple of free samples of their caramels for review.


I got one Original Chewy Caramel and one Chocolate Swirl Caramel. The samples that I got were loose, so the photos of the packaging shown here were from Lovely.

Both caramels were wrapped in wax paper. They were soft and sticky, and a few bits of caramel got left behind on the wax paper upon unwrapping.

The Original Chewy was a pretty golden brown, and it was indeed chewy, with a small amount of teeth sticking. They tasted sweet with a slightly fruity sour tinge to it.

The flavor was quite similar to that of Brach’s Milk Maid Caramels, more on the sweet and buttery side rather than the scorched and bittersweet. I prefer the latter type of caramel, but if you like the former, these make a nice alternative to Brach’s that’s with better ingredients.

The Chocolate Swirl was a pretty swirl of the Original golden brown and a darker cocoa brown. Its texture was similarly soft and chewy.

The Chocolate Swirl had a great cocoa depth of flavor. It didn’t taste of chocolate; it tasted of intense dark cocoa powder. I appreciated the deep cocoa complexity here.

The Original was nice, but I prefer my caramels with a darker complexity, so an O. The Chocolate Swirl, on the other, brought plenty of cocoa complexity, and they get an OM.

Jelly Belly Jewel Collection

Jelly Belly didn’t have a totally new candy product to show off at Sweets and Snacks this year (last year was all about Snapple Jelly Bellies), but they did have some fun tweaks on existing products. One especially eye-catching tweak resulted in these Jewel Jelly Bellies (photos without my watermark are from Jelly Belly):

Jelly Belly Jewel Collection_waves

They took their blueberry, bubble gum, sour apple, cream soda, berry blue, orange, and very cherry flavors and added a gorgeous pearlescent sheen to them all.

Jelly Belly Jewel Collection_circle

The result was incredibly eye-catching, and they look even better in person than they do in these photos.

They’re currently only being sold in bulk, so they didn’t have photos of the future official packaging to send me. They did have some example packaging at the Expo, however, as Disney Princess Jelly Bellies, which I thought was great cross-branding.

Russell Stover Caramel Apple with Peanuts

I got this Russell Stover Caramel Apple with Peanuts as a free sample at the Russell Stover booth at Sweets and Snacks. There was also a version without nuts; this is just the one that was handed to me by the nice booth representatives.

The wrapper described this as “naturally apple flavored caramel, peanuts, and milk chocolate”. It was an apple shaped chocolate shell filled with caramel and coated with chopped peanuts.

The caramel was soft and sticky, with a substantially chewy pull. It tasted sweet with a subtle hint of green apple tartness, a flavor that was reminiscent of Tootsie’s Caramel Apple Pops.

The milk chocolate was on the sweet side, while the crunchy peanut bits brought a strong nuttiness. When all the ingredients were together, the apple undertones got a bit lost, though the mix of chocolate, caramel, and peanuts was pretty good in and of itself.

Overall, I found this to be a creative treat that was tasty and made me nostalgic for fall. To be fair, I have an inordinate love for caramel apples, so this especially suited my tastes.

My one nitpick is that not all of the chopped peanut bits were anchored to the chocolate, which made this a messy treat if you weren’t careful. An OM.

DeMet’s Turtles Minis

DeMet’s Turtles were another candy trying to make mini happen at Sweets and Snacks. They were handing free samples of their Turtles Minis, so I, of course, grabbed a little bag to review.

Despite my efforts to pick a bag that didn’t feel smushed (some of the sample bags obviously contained one large stuck together clump), my Mini Turtles looked less than pristine once I opened the bag.

To be fair, they had been packed and repacked into a variety of bags between the Expo floor and my candy photo shoot table, so I wasn’t surprised when they emerged a little worse for wear.

I think that’s going to be a problem for all of these unwrapped mini candies – without the extra padding and barriers of individual packaging, things are going to get scuffed. The Mini Turtles were especially affected because they oozed caramel and got stuck to each other.

Turtles is actually a trademarked name for these pecan-covered-in-caramel-and-dipped-in-chocolate treats, though I’ve seen “turtle” used generically in Mom-and-Pop candy shops. It is, after all, a cutely accurate description of the treats’ general shape.

The Mini Turtles had a super sweet milk chocolate over a chewy, sweet caramel. I found them both to be pretty one note (aka sugary) here and wished for some more flavor complexity out of them.

I was especially disappointed in the pecans. Really good pecans have a distinctive nuttiness to them, especially if they’ve been toasted. The pecans in my Mini Turtles were so bland that I wondered if they were actually walnuts, and they were sparse to boot.

I’ve had much better versions of Turtle-esque treats by other brands. Hammond’s Piggy Backs, for example, use higher quality ingredients and are a far superior (though also much more expensive) treat, and Lamme’s Longhorns are a hometown favorite.

At the mass market price that they’re shooting at, these Mini Turtles’ simplistic flavors just can’t compare. I could forgive them the eh chocolate and caramel, but the whole point of Turtles are the nuts! And the nuts here are bland. An O.

Yet another weird Skittles commercial

Via AdFreak, here’s yet another weird Skittles commercial. It’s interactive, which is neat, but you totally lose the brand engagement by the time the interactive stuff starts.

I don’t really understand why Skittles goes for the purely bizarre in their commercials. Strange but funny I get; strange for the sake of being strange is just… strange. Maybe I’m just bitter because they took away lime Skittles for no good reason.