Sunday, 30 September 2012

Mars Milky Way Berries and Cream

(A note to our American visitors: the Australian Milky Way bar is akin to your '3 Musketeers' bar (no caramel layer), while your Milky Way is more like our Mars bar (includes caramel).)

Back in August I gossiped about the arrival of the next seasonal release from Mars in their 'Milky Way' range. Previous seasonal releases include Milk Whipped, and Banana, and I was interested to see how this year's Berries and Cream release would fare.

For the first time it features a dual-layer flavoured centre, with the generic 'berry' flavour on the lower and 'cream' flavour on top. It makes an impressive picture for the prototype, but I knew as soon as I pulled my squished bar from the wrapper mine wouldn't look anywhere near as nice. The chocolate was cracked all over, leaving my bar to look very sorry for itself.

The wrapper is a very vivid dark pink, offset by the royal blue of the Milky Way logo, and white text. At 25g, it weighs the same as the normal chocolate Milky Way (seasonal releases are often smaller), and appears to be the same high and length. Sadly, my poor bar was very squished, although a benefit of the soft soft means the chocolate mostly stays in place. For the curious, the thin milk chocolate layer contains 25% cocoa solids.

Inside, the bottom pink berry layer is quite vivid in colour, much stronger than in my pictures It borders on the brightness of a musk stick or a strawberry Big Boss lolly. The white cream layer is more off-white or cream-coloured than white, but provides a nice cotnrast to the warm colours of the chocolate. There's a mild chocolate-berry scent, but you can really only smell it directly from the bar. It's not an overpowering scent that knocks you on your ass when you open the packet.

Since my poor bar was so squashed, I couldn't attempt to separate the fillings for individual tastings. So together I tried the three elements (chocolate, berry and cream). My first thought was berry-flavoured chocolate-covered banana (my review of the banana-flavoured Milky Way basically amounted to chocolate-covered lolly banana). It's just like the banana Milky Way, which is utterly bizarre. There's the chalky note you associate with lolly bananas but with a somewhat bland generic floral berry flavour. If there are any cream flavours present, they are drowned out by the berry notes. Luckily the chocolate layer, which makes an appearance at the end, somewhat saves the day and turns a somewhat-questionable taste into something vaguely interesting.

It's not a bad bar by any means, and is a change from the ordinary, but it's not somethign I would willingly pick up again.

Milky Way Berries and Cream contains wheat, milk solids, and barley malt extract. Peanuts and treenuts may be present.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Cadbury Cherry Ripe Double Dipped

Seems Cadbury have jumped on the seasonal bandwagon with their releases! In 2010 Cadbury released the 'Cherry Ripe Roll', a round version of the Aussie classic Cherry Ripe covered in extra coconut, and then last year we saw the Dark Cherry version of Cherry Ripe.

The 2012 limited edition Cadbury Cherry Ripe Double Dipped is a play on the standard Cherry Ripe bar. While both are covered in Cadbury Old Gold chocolate, the Double Dipped version contains 60% cocoa solids in the chocolate (the Old Gold blocks contain 45%). I'm not sure how Cadbury can claim it's Old Gold dark chocolate when it's not - although I suppose if it's not the 'Original' version then it doesn't really matter.

Around this time last year I reviewed the Cherry Ripe Dark Cherry version, and I just went back to check out the photos, as Cherry Ripe bars are not a product I normally pick up for myself.

I was surprised to discover the bar smelled strongly of the dark chocolate, so much so that it almost overpowered any cherry or coconut scent for me. Only after a while could I detect a mild cherry layer. The bar itself isn't strongly scented - it won't make your office or your car smell like chocolate - but the scent is there.

The Double Dipped bar may not have been literally dipped, but it does have a hearty layer of dark chocolate on  top of the bar. At the thickest section, the chocolate is about 4mm thick. It gives a solid thunk when snapped, and definitely ensures that the bar is just about impossible to squash. There doesn't seem to be more than the bare minimum of extra on the sides and base of the bar, though. The distinctive Cherry Ripe ripples on the top of the bar are muted by the extra chocolate to mere bumps only detectable by touch.

The extra chocolate at the top seems to have come at a price;  the cherry and coconut filling seems a lot thinner than I remember, taking up just two-thirds of the bar height-wise. It's still a pretty dense bar, and a good size for its 50g weight.

Inside, the coconut is a dull rosy pink colour, occasionally dotted with pieces of glace cherry.  The flaky coconut is very moist and chewy but does have a bit of that medicinal tang to it. Thankfully, the richness of the extra-dark Old Gold balances that out, instead highlighting the sweet bursts of glace cherry, and then lingering a bit afterwards. The thick top layer is fun to bite through - it's very solid compared to the coconut underneath.

Overall, despite the extra cocoa in the chocolate, the bar is still very sweet. I had trouble finishing the bar, and needed a big drink of water afterwards to clear my throat. Having said that, it would probably make a nice cheesecake (I think I've seen a Cherry Ripe cheesecake recipe floating around somewhere) where you could make the slices very thin.

The Cherry Ripe Double Dipped bar contains wheat glucose syrup, milk, soy and sulphates. It may contain traces of peanuts, tree nuts and wheat. It is made in Australia.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Gossip: Mars Bags, and Mars Bars

If you haven't spotted the new 'marsupial' (blame Mars marketing for that gem) pouch bags in your local supermarket, you can expect to see them filtering though very soon. Don't worry - the weight hasn't changed, it's just a packaging swap. The new packaging will be available on M&M's, Pods, Maltesers and Dove Pormises.

To conincide with the new resealable bags, Mars have also launched a new interactive animation on each M&M's package. A free app is available (confirmed for iPhone; I don't know if it will be available for Android), which users then used to scan a specific area on the pack of the pack. They are then presented with a fun animation of the M&M' characters: Red, Blue, Yellow, Ms Green and Miss Brown. There will be a different animation for each variety, and a new animation each month.

Speaking of M&M's, the new seasonal flavour, due to be launched next month, is Crispy Milky Chocolate Orange. The last time we saw orange was a few years ago in dark chocolate, so this variety is a welcome change. I know the Crispy Mint from a few years ago was well received by the public, and I expect Crispy Orange will be as well.

Unfortunately I'm no closer to finding out the new flavour of Mars Bar, which will be launched in December. Vanilla, this year's seasonal flavour, has been discontinued (and if it hasn't already, it will be soon) in preparation for the launch.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Mars Milky Way Magic Stars

All of my close friends know I love stars. They also know that I'm a tightass, which explains why I waited until these were on special before picking up a pack to review even though they came out some time ago.

Like a lot of 'new' products today, the Milky Way Magic Stars are new only to the Australian market. The product itself is available in the UK, although the product we have is in the new Mars gusseted 'resealable' bags, and has the slogan 'Won't ruin your appetite', which is not used in the UK any more.

The bag weighs 130g, and contains 'star-shaped pieces of aerated chocolate'. What aerated chocolate has to do with Milky Way is beyond me, as the bar doesn't use aerated chocolate (or stars). The packaging is really cute though, and shows off the product well, although I was surprised when I opened the bag to find the stars are TINY. They are slightly larger than an M&M at a hair under 2cm wide point-to-point and 0.6mm tall, but I was expecting them to be much larger.

Made from milk chocolate, the stars each feature a little face engraved on the front. According to Wikipedia, the UK version of this product used to have faces, but they were discontinued. The stars are uncoated, so despite their adorable little faces, these arrived looking a little rough and doll from being banged around during shipping. All were whole though; there were no broken points or pieces broken in half in my packet.

Inside the actual star itself we have the promised aerated chocolate, though the aerated section is only in the middle and doesn't extend to the points of the star. Most of the pieces I had had a smooth surface, though I did have one or two where a bubble of air had formed against the edge of the mould, causing an empty space.

Despite containing a minimum of 33% cocoa solids, the chocolate was rather mild and milky. The ingredients look pretty good (no scary oils) but they taste a little bit like compound chocolate (that's the cheap stuff you get at the $2 shop), with a hint of chocolate brownies and extra sugar for good measure. They are sweet, but at least it's not on throat-searing levels like some other chocolates I could name. Still, they are rather moreish, and given their tiny size, if you like shoving handfuls of M&Ms into your mouth, these would do well with you too.

A serving size is 25g (25 stars - one big handful or two smaller ones). Peanuts, treenuts and sesame seeds may be present. Milkyway Magic Stars are made in Poland.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Mentos Roll Mystery

Mentos is a worldwide brand, available in places like the US to Japan and just about everywhere in between. The Mentos chew was introduced to the world in the plain mint flavour in 1948 in the Netherlands. Like with Kit Kat, Mentos rolls often end up with cultural version; flavours that are available overseas often aren't marketed here. (A recent exception to this is the Mocktails (Pina Colada and Mojito) roll, which is also available in the US).

Mentos are distributed in Australia by Stuart Alexander, the same brand that brings us Chupa Chups and Wether's Original, plus lots of other products. Last month, they brought us a market first by producing a Mentos roll (and the Mentos 3D sugarfree gum) with mystery flavours. As I speculated earlier at the Accredited Trade Show in July, there are two different flavours - one for the gum and one for the roll. (I do know what flavour the gum is, but have been sworn to secrecy. Sorry guys!)

The common theme in packaging between the gum and the roll is royal blue, with a rainbow highlight and question mark. The foil at the ends of the roll is royal blue too. Inside, we have the Mentos pieces. Each piece is consistent in size, and is just shy of 2cm wide and 1cm tall. These pieces are a light cream in colour, with a semi-gloss, hard outer shell surrounding a cream interior. They have no scent that I can tell.

As soon as the piece is in my mouth, I get a mild citrus taste - there's no definite flavour, but it's in the citrus family. Chewing the piece brings out a strong but not sour lemon note. There's a little bit of sweetness there too, but the whole piece is refreshing and interesting. I do believe the mystery flavour is lemonade!

It's quite a nice chew. One or two would be enough refresh your mouth after a meal. The chew is stiff at first but softens as the shell dissolves, and the entire piece, depending on how fast you chew is gone in a couple of minutes. I'm not a big Mentos person in general, but these are pleasant, and I'll have no trouble finishing the roll.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Nestle Milkybar Big Round Milk & Cookies

Nestle's Milkybar Milk & Cookies is really the only white chocolate and biscuit chocolate bar we have available in Australia (not counting imported products, or blocks).It's been around for many years, and used to be available in the medium (around 50g) bar as well as the king size (around 80g) bar, as well as a 200g block, but several years ago Nestle decided to discontinue the medium bar and just retain the king bar and the large block.

The 'Big Round', I've been told by my rep, was introduced as a smaller product to be marketed at children, as kids generally don't go and buy an 80g bar or a large block. Based on the small 20g-size of other Nestle products the Mint Pattie and Coconut Rough, the Big Round is 20g of white chocolate studded with bits of chocolate biscuit.

The chocolate (I can't really call it a bar) measures 6.5cm in diameter, and 5mm thick. The top of the circle is moulded into the shape of a sheriff's star, a rather cute tie-in with the original wild west 'Milkybar Kid' from the commercials back in the 90s. On top of that is the Milkybar logo, complete with surrounding milk splash. The sheriff's star isn't as detailed as the Milkybar logo, but both are smoothly moulded with no flaws or bubbles. The chocolate is very smooth and glossy, and smells like, well, milk and cookies. It's a creamy, teasing scent.

The rear shows the biscuit pieces off better; they provide a little texture to the surface. The biscuit pieces vary from larger pieces around 4mm in size, down to tiny little crumbs that add visual interest to the piece.

Unfortunately, I didn't pick up a king size Milkybar Milk & Cookies for comparison as I was hoping to (supermarkets don't sell the king size bars I don't think), but I would hazard a guess that the density of the biscuit pieces in the Round is different to what you would find in the king size bar or the block. Despite the inspiring textured back, snapping open the bar shows a more minimal scattering of pieces throughout the white chocolate.

The snap of the bar is good; mine is nice and fresh, and it snaps with a good sound. White chocolate is the dominant flavour, it tastes as though the biscuit pieces are there more for texture than flavour. I do get very, very mild chocolate milkshake flavours, but that might be more my imagination. The crunch of the biscuit pieces is good; again, the Round seems to be nice and fresh. The pieces crumble nicely, and don't stick in my teeth. Always a plus!

Interestingly, I don't find the Round to be as sweet as the block or bar. That may be due to the thickness, but I have found in the past that the bar or block can be sweet enough to make your teeth hurt. I'm not finding that with this. I would be interested to see if the ingredients are different, or if that's just a result of the portion sizes being different.

Milkybar Big Round Milk & Cookies contains milk, wheat and soy, and is made on equipment that processes products containing peanuts, tree nuts and egg.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Allen's Proudly Aussie Mix

I'm pretty sure this product was supposed to be a tie-in with the Olympics, which means I'm a wee bit late posting this review, but you'll forgive me, right?


The limited edition pack from Allen's, named the 'Proudly Aussie Mix', contains gummy products in an Australian theme. The graphics on the front show a smiling kangaroo (or wallaby) waving an Australian flag while holding onto a sleezy-looking surfboard (?). There's also a creepily-cheerful koala hanging out in the top right corner.

The description on the back assures us we'll have "a bonza time" (yes, really), with "Kylie the koala, Sammy the surfer, Kenny the kangaroo and all their deliciously proud Aussie friends." They even gave the pieces names. I find it odd to personify things I'm about to eat.

Inside we've got six different shapes of gummies: kangaroo, koala, Sydney Harbour Bridge, a boomerang, a surfboard, and a silhouette of Australia. There are five different flavours according to the back of the pack, and the flavours and shapes were randomised; any shape could come in any flavour.

Sadly I didn't get many blackberry (purple) gummies. I think there were three in the entire packet. The piece smells mild, like jam that has been left to dry out on a plate. It's vaguely floral, but very, very mild, and I would never peg it as anything beyond generic 'berry' flavour. The taste is much the same; it's mild, a little bit sweet and one-dimensional.

Strawberry (red) dominated my packet, along with the orange gummies. Strawberry smells a lot like raspberry cordial; very bold and inviting. In taste, it's bright and warm, and a touch medicinal in that I keep waiting for the aftertaste that occurs when taking medicine (but thankfully never comes when eating this piece).

Lemon is the flavour of the yellow pieces. I tried very hard to try and get a scent from the pieces but the other flavours in the packet were too dominating. Luckily, lemon has a good strong taste to it. It's a little bit sweet, but not like lemonade or any of the other flavours. It's refreshing, with a weeny bit of citrus tang that makes it an interesting piece to eat.

The orange pieces are apricot, and they smell a little bit like peach iced tea. In taste, they are a surprisingly good representation of a dried apricot. There's sweetness of course, but even without reading the packet I could probably have picked this as apricot. It's quite rich (almost like a Starburst gummy), but not overwhelming.

The last colour is green, which means it must be pineapple flavour. But it sure doesn't taste like pineapple. It's a generic and uninteresting piece, so much so that I'm wondering if maybe this is meant to be lemon. But a green lemon-flavoured piece doesn't make any more sense than a green pineapple-flavoured piece!

Despite the somewhat odd flavours, I enjoyed the shapes (even if I did feel odd eating Kylie the Koala during this review). Some of them, like the Sydney Harbour Bridge, are skillfully sculpted, with great detail. (Seriously, click on the photo and look at the close up.) The boomerang is kind of cute, with what looks like some sort of flower on the front. The Australia silhouette includes Tasmania, and there's a bit of a crevice between Victoria and Tassie so you can see they aren't actually joined.  The koala and kangaroo are generic and boring, and as for the surfboard, well - let's just say I only noticed now that there are actually feet prints on the front of the board.

Depending on level of squished-ness, the pieces are about  0.75cm thick, and are roughly about 4cm long. They are a good size for a little bite, or you could combine a few for a mix of flavours.

Interestingly, a serving size is four pieces (I ate more than that writing this review). These gummies are a glucose product, and they contain wheat starch. They are made on equipment that also processes products containing milk powder. The pack notes that it includes "up to five lolly varieties. Quantity of each lolly may vary." I love that they used the word lolly!

Gossip: New Cadbury and TNCC products!

Unfortunately I don't have any detailed information, but I heard today from one of my wonderful reps that Cadbury will be putting out a new bar later this year or early next year that is supposedly similar to a Twix (which is owned by Mars). A Twix is a bar (pair of fingers) made of milk chocolate, biscuit and caramel, so it could be interesting to see what Cadbury does with that.

Cadbury also owns The Natural Confectionery Company, and there are two (count 'em, two!) new TNCC gummy varieties due out later this year. This one I don't know any more about, but I will keep on twisting the arm of my Cadbury rep for more gossip as soon as it comes out, I promise!