Hello Panda – Strawberry and Double Choco

Hello Panda is Meiji‘s answer to Lotte’s Koala’s March: cream-filled cookies imprinted with cute animal cartoons. I got a couple of boxes to try in my free MunchPak samples, first in Strawberry and the following month in Double Choco.

The Hello Panda biscuits were either round or round with ears, like teddy bear heads. The Strawberry version was vanilla biscuits with strawberry cream, while Double Chocos were chocolate biscuits with “choco” cream.

Compared to the Koala’s March, the Hello Pandas had a more substantial crunch and a greater cookie to filling ratio. Strawberry’s biscuit was lightly sweet, while the center strawberry cream had the texture of a solid frosting and a floral sweetness to its artificial strawberry flavor.

The chocolate cookie of the Double Choco was darker in both appearance and flavor. It had a slight cocoa bittersweetness, like a mild Oreo cookie, and its chocolate filling was creamy with a slightly greasy feel.

I liked the Double Choco better than the Strawberry, which was too artificially floral for my taste. I did wish, however, that the Double Choco had more intensity of chocolate flavor and wasn’t quite so greasy. An O for both.

Guest Post: Meiji Fruit Gummies Part II

I was at the Society for Neuroscience conference in New Orleans earlier this week, so I’m turning things over to some globe-trotting friends. Cameron and Meredith are former roommates of mine (we did lots of chocolate truffle tastings together), and they’re writing about some treats they bought on a recent trip through Japan. ~Rosa

Here’s the rest of the Meiji Gummies first covered on Wednesday.


Cameron: A bit firmer than the rest, but unfortunately the bog-standard strawberry flavor that you get from any mass-produced strawberry gummy – it tastes like cheap jam. I’m not totally opposed to it, and perhaps it’s better for a mass market product like this to go with the de facto standard, but it certainly isn’t an innovative or unique take on the flavor. O

Meredith: I have a problem with a lot of strawberry-flavored candy: I can’t stand peanut butter, and apparently over the years I’ve picked up an PBJ-mediated distaste for certain mass-produced strawberry jam flavors too.

I like fresh strawberries and some strawberry-flavored products (again, Hi-Chew comes to mind), but this sort of mass-produced strawberry jam flavor is seriously offputting to me.  This strawberry gum actually had a peanut butter aftertaste for me that is almost certainly illusory, so I have to give it a highly subjective .

And finally, the odd one out – the white grape flavor, from the Pupurun line. (Which has a particularly adorable mascot.)

Cameron: No question, this is a superior gummy to the other product line. It’s super soft, with a center that’s just barely not liquid, and the flavor is very nice and authentic to the fruit. It’s got a bit of complexity that’s similar to the difference between seedless and seeded grapes, and some wineyness in the aftertaste. OMG

Meredith: First off, I loved the texture of the dome gummy! It has a sproingy outside layer and an oozy melty inside, much like an actual grape. And its flavor is spot on in the “real grape flavor” category. Makes me want to go to the market and buy some Finger Lakes grapes! A solid OMG.

We ended up rating the Pupurun a bit higher than Rosa did – I think this is the closest you’ll get to a direct comparison, so you can maybe say that we’re a hair less discerning than your usual host!

Guest Post: Meiji Fruit Gummies Part I

I’m currently at the Society for Neuroscience conference in New Orleans, so I’m turning things over to some globe-trotting friends this week. Cameron and Meredith are former roommates of mine (we did lots of chocolate truffle tastings together), and they’re writing about some treats they bought on a recent trip through Japan. ~Rosa

For our second and third post (to run on Friday), we have a selection of fruit gummies from Meiji! Rosa’s reviewed a red grape variety of these before, which as we discovered is actually a slightly different product from what we’ve got here.

As you can see, there are two package sizes: Both contain ~50g of candy, but the larger packages (labelled as 2700mg – this number appears to refer to the amount of collagen in the candy) are fairly traditional fruit gummies while the smaller green package (1200mg collagen) is the dome-shaped, gooey-center gummy that matches what you’ve seen before.

We picked these up in the Ameyoko shopping area, along with about 80% of the candy we brought back. Ameyoko is a several-block area nestled along the rail line to Ueno Station in Tokyo. The area was famous for its candy shops a long time ago, although it’s probably more famous as the site of a major black market in the postwar era.

Nowadays it’s mostly a mishmash of all sorts of stores, with lots of clothing and fashion accessories. But there are still several candy vendors, and the grocery store we went to is almost hilariously candy-centric – something like 75% of the floor area is aisle after aisle of candy, both local stuff and the major national brands like Meiji.

On to the taste. Meredith and I had substantially divergent opinions on some of these, so I’ve listed our notes separately. She’s obviously the more experienced gummy consumer!

Without further ado:

Red Grape!

Cameron: These are pretty basic mass-produced gummies: chew is firm, not at all sticky, with a robust and not overly sweet grape flavor. I kind of think red grape is the easiest gummy to get right, since it has a strong, fairly standard flavor that you can get from basically any manufacturer. O

Meredith: I disagree! In my gummy experience there are two general categories of grape candy: the basic mass-produced type that Cam describes, which has the generic grapeish flavor of Dimetapp and the sugar content of grape soda, but basically nothing else to recommend it; and a second type that does some degree of justice to the complex seedy flavor of real grapes (the gold standard here in my comparatively limited experience being grape Hi-Chew, which I love).

I’d put these gummies more in the second category: They have an aroma and flavor that is seedy and a little wine-y, and a chewiness that is pretty gummy-typical but nonetheless satisfying. OM. I probably would have eaten the whole package if Cam didn’t have me on a tight candy-sampling schedule.


Cameron: Much less generic flavor. There is a lime on the packaging in the background as well, I think these might actually be a citrus blend rather than pure lemon. A bit softer than the other flavors, and a bit stickier.

They have a slightly chemical hint to them unfortunately, but overall they taste very much like the “dry” lemon flavor that is super popular in Japanese beverages right now (which is a bit tarter and much less sweet than American lemon flavored beverages). OM

Meredith: I thought these totally smelled like CC Lemon (side note: Japan spoiled me forever in terms of deliciously tart citrus soda) but tasted a bit over-sweet and medicinal, like pinesol or a bottom-shelf whiskey sour. I’d still give it an O for soda nostalgia, though!


Cameron: These actually taste more like apples to me than mango. You don’t really get mango out of them until the aftertaste. After closer inspection, could that be an apple on the package, behind the mango? I think so.

Mango is such a hard flavor to capture in candy, and these certainly don’t excel at it. Like the rest though, they’re certainly not bad candy… just, uninspired. O

Meredith: While I agree that these gummies don’t really taste like mango, I didn’t get apple either.  If I didn’t know they were supposed to be mango, I’d call them magnolia gums.  They’re really floral and perfumey, which was unexpected but pretty tasty in their own right. O

We’ve got a couple more gummies to cover – that post will run on Friday.

Yan Yan Creamy Choco-Hazelnut vs Nutella & Go

Nutella & Go won the Most Innovative New Product Award in the sweet snacks category at this year’s Sweets and Snacks Expo. It was a plastic tub with biscuit sticks and a little dipping well of Nutella.

Sounds/looks familiar? That’s because Meiji‘s Yan Yan has been making basically the same product for at least a decade. I remember eating them while growing up.

While Meiji was handing out Yan Yan’s at the Expo, no one handed them any awards. I’d say this is an instance of Europeans taking credit (or at least acclaim) for something Asian people invented years ago.

Clearly this calls for a head-to-head comparison. While Yan Yan comes in an assortment of flavors in both dipping cream and biscuit stick, I’m using their creamy choco-hazelnut dip for maximum similarity to Nutella & Go.

Both the Yan Yan and Nutella & Go were free samples from Sweets and Snacks. The former was given to me by Meiji’s US distributor for the purposes of this head-to-head review, while the latter was freely left out for all takers by Ferrero.

Both products were quite similar in packaging design with a little well separating the dipping medium from the dipping sticks. Yan Yan came in a trapezoidal tube (the top circle was slightly bigger than the bottom; is there a fancy math term for this shape?) while Nutella & Go was in a half circle tube with a trompe l’oeil Nutella jar look.

Let’s start with the dipping sticks. The Yan Yan biscuits were longer and a lightly toasty golden brown. They tasted slightly sweet with a tinge of butteriness to the finish.

The Nutella & Go sticks, on the other hand, were shorter, with the pale, alabaster hue of Dita Von Teese‘s skin. They were airier, like a crunchy restaurant breadstick. The flavor reminded me of the wheaty blandness of a saltless saltine.

Yan Yan definitely came out ahead on the dipping stick front. Let’s move on to the dips!

Yan Yan’s “smooth creme” had the texture of whipped frosting. When I dipped and then pulled out the stick, little holes were left in the cream. The flavor was that of malty chocolate with a light tinge of nuttiness.

The Nutella portion of the Nutella & Go was, as far as I could tell, the same as standard Nutella. It was much more flowy. When I pulled the sticks out of the Nutella, it clung to the sticks with a long pull, and the Nutella left in the well settled to fill in the holes.

Though it had a viscous flow in the well and on the stick, the Nutella felt thick, sticky, and pasty in my mouth. The hazelnuttiness was much stronger here, with a great nutty intensity that matched its chocolatey-ness.

I’m going to call it a draw on the dips. Though they’re supposed to be similar, they’re actually quite different in flavor and texture. I liked the Yan Yan version for its malty notes, but I also enjoyed Nutella for the nuttiness. And because its Nutella!

In the end, Yan Yan wins out for its tasty biscuit sticks. Nutella & Go’s sticks were not very good and didn’t add anything to the product. I’d stick with just getting Nutella in a jar. An OM for the Yan Yan and an O for Nutella & Go.



Meiji Pupurun Grape Gummis

These Meiji Pupurun Grape Gummis came in my generous free sample box from Tsunami.hk. They came in a conveniently resealable bag with a cute mascot and an intriguing rendering of the gummi’s cross-section.

Each gummi was the size of a gum drop but with a rounder domed shape. They had a stiff outer shell that was thickest at the top. The center was a softer gummi that was just shy of an oozy goo in texture.

They tasted sweet and juicy with a nice floral flavor that I thought was more strawberry than grape. The finish, however, had a noticeable grape taste that tasted quite genuine and was not at all medicinal.

While there was nothing revolutionary about the flavor of the gummis, I absolutely loved the texture. The solid flavor combined with their unique texture earned these an OM.

Gummy Choco Fruits Mix

I’ve wanted to try Meiji Gummy Chocos ever since Cybele from Candy Blog gave them a rave review. I had looked for them every time I went into an Asian grocery store and finally, FINALLY! found them last month in Austin, TX. They came in single flavor and fruit mix tubes; I went with the fruits mix, which contains strawberry, muscat, and orange.

Each Gummy Choco is about the size of a chocolate covered peanut, only they’re chocolate covered gummies. To be more specific, they’re dyed white chocolate around a millimeter thin layer of real chocolate around a gummi center. The chocolate layer is just thick enough to be noticeable while not warring with the sproingy gummis inside.

I like to eat these by chipping off the outside chocolate layer and letting it melt in my mouth before I chomp up the gummi. The coating only tastes faintly of cocoa, since it’s mostly white chocolate, but it’s pleasantly sweet. I think a greater proportion of real chocolate would have overwhelmed the gummi center anyway.

Strawberry is a pastel lavender color. I guess they were shooting for pink? The gummi is bright and fruity and does an admiral job of balancing out the sweet, milky coating. When this one is chomped all together, a strawberry finish lingers.

Orange is a pinkish orange color. This gummi is only mildly citrusy, with a zesty finish that comes through after the chocolate is all gone.

Muscat is a pale yellow green. The inside gummi tastes lightly of white grape, which is quite a different flavor from most purple grape gummis. It’s mild and floral and almost peachy.

I didn’t love these as much as Cybele did, but I did enjoy them and would buy them again for candy snacking. The sweet coatings get to be a bit much after a while, but they’re manageable a palmful at a time. An OM.

Now that I’m in upstate New York, I’ll have to begin my search for these again. I may just have to ask my mother to buy and mail me more. I especially want to try the peach only tube.

Meiji Mini Candies

I got a set of five Meiji Mini Candies from my friend Michael, who is originally from Japan. I’m still looking for a place where I can buy them in the states.

Let’s go left to right and top to bottom, starting with the chocolate sugar-shelled candies (possibly called Marble Chocolate?). These were slightly thicker than M&Ms. Either the chocolate had a slightly fruity finish, or the shells were flavored. They were agreeable enough and get an OM.

The next three were variation on a theme, lemon, yogurt (?), and strawberry. I love the little character thingies in the corner. Japan does ridiculously cute so well! These were all little spheroids with sugar shells around a sugary flavored centers.

Strawberry was lightly pastel pink. It tasted bright, with a slightly sour strawberry preserve taste. It was so genuine that I wouldn’t be surprised if I found seeds inside. OM.

Lemon was yellow and tasted bright, tart, and effervescent, like a candy version of lemon zest. OMG.

Yogurt (I think) was white and had a little blue alien instead of a lemon or strawberry head. It had a sour tinge to it and reminds me of those little yogurt jugs you can get in Asia. The Chinese name for them literally translates into “sour milk”. Not for me, but a pretty genuine representation of what they were going for. O.

I was all sad that I had lost my Poifull notes. Then I realized that I didn’t lose them; I’d just already reviewed them here. If you’re too lazy to click over, they got an OMG.

I would buy the whole assortment just for the lemon sugar thingies and the Poifull. Of course, ideally I could just buy the lemon sugar thingies and the Poifull on their own, but hey, variety is the spice of life.


I received my box of Poifull from my friend Michael who bought them for me in Japan in a set of assorted mini boxes. I’ve never seen these guys in my local Asian supermarkets, but I’m definitely going to start looking for them now.

As you can see from the photo, they’re look like jelly beans or Mike and Ikes. And they sort of are, as they have a hard sugar shell with a jelly innard. But the insides of the Poifull were much bouncier than those of jelly beans. I wouldn’t be surprised if they squeaked between my teeth. The nexture was almost rubbery, which you may think would be unpleasant, but that wasn’t the case.

Poifull come in four colors and flavors. Purple was grape and tasted like a red grape. Pink was apple, in the sweet Fuji way as opposed to the sour Granny Smith way. Yellow was pineapple, which carried a wonderful acidic tang, and green was muscat, which is a kind of grape. Its flavor was noticeably different from the purple grape. The concept of Poifull was simple yet well executed, with vibrant fruit flavors that carried a wonderfully bright tang, earning them an OMG from me. My tiny box quickly disappeared, and while fruity/sour Jelly Bellies may make a good substitute until I can find more Poifulls, they just don’t bounce against your teeth like the Poifull do.

Gummi Sushi

More Japanese candy fun thanks to my friend Michael, this time in the form of Gummi Sushi. The Japanese are quite good at coming up with cute things (Hello Kitty much?) and clever things, and they certainly haven’t skimped on cuteness and cleverness in their gummis. Better yet, unlike the gummi hamburgers or pizzas that you can find at most party stores,the Gummi Sushi actually tasted good.

I like the cartoony sushi chef guy on the packaging and the clearly illustrated instructions on how to eat sushi gummies. Just in case you couldn’t figure it out for yourself. And I liked the little pictures of fruit – an apple, a cantaloupe melon, and a strawberry – on the bottom to help those of us who love Japanese candy but can’t actually read Japanese.

The gummies themselves are sealed inside a second bag and arrayed on a plastic tray so you can marvel at the cuteness of the gummi shrimp and rice and things. The gummis are sweet and fruity smelling, with a scent that reminds me of those little lychee gelatin pots.

The gummis are very soft (a case of good double-bagging!) and slightly greasy to the touch. And they’re so cute! Red is strawberry, white is apple, and orange is cantaloupe. While the apple and strawberry go well together, the melon flavor of the cantaloupe is so strong that it’s not so good for pairing. A sweet concept with a sweet and tasty execution earns these an OMG.

Meiji Chocolate Tasting, part II

Part II of II of the Meiji Chocolate tasting (courtesy of my worldly friend Michael) that started on Monday. Today, we shall begin with the somewhat incongruously named Black Chocolate.

Why incongruous, you ask? Because for a bar that’s named BLACK in giant letters, this one isn’t very dark in taste or appearance, though it did have a nice snap to it. You can see the coloring for yourself below. It’s definitely brown, not black, and it’s not even a very dark brown at that.

This “dark” bar had a nicely smooth melt, but that’s less of an accomplishment when your cacao percentage isn’t that high. It also tasted quite sweet, for too sweet for a dark bar. I found its finish to be fruity; berries, perhaps? Overall, an OM. As chocolate, it’s not that bad, but it’s also not that great. As a dark chocolate bar, it should hang its head in shame.

The Meiji Rich Matcha bar was another bar where the color is worth noting. Matcha is a green tea used in Japanese tea ceremonies and is also used as a flavoring for lots of Japanese foods. The wrapper is an iridescent green and is sort of pretty, in a cheaply flashy way.

The chocolate bar itself, not so much. Instead of being a bright, fresh, spring-timey green, it’s the color of pea soup. While I’m unsure as to how appetizing bright green chocolate would look, I can tell you that G.I. Joe green chocolate is not appetizing. Especially when it smells and tastes like flowers.

I don’t know if matcha is supposed to taste like flowers, but Meiji’s Rich Matcha bar had a strong floral scent and a sweet floral flavor with a slightly bitter finish that lingers a bit, almost imperceptibly. I’d wear that lovely floral scent as a perfume, but I didn’t like eating it in my chocolate. This bar was really not for me and gets a . You can read Terry’s take on it here; he didn’t much care for it either.