Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Kool-Aid Memories

Oh how I love Kool-Aid...

For many years I've been a pop culture fanboy. And one of the things I've always really responded to is advertizing, especially 'pop' advertizing. The kind of advertizing that hits on that sweet spot of playful, fun, and cool geekery. Along with that came an appreciation for good design work. If you've watched my video reviews of candy then you know that I ALWAYS talk about the wrappers. That's because candy wrappers are important. They should convey what the potential buyer is about to get into, and if not maintaining a theme in the design, candy should always at least have a sense of what tone it wants us to take from it. If your wrapper isn't fun, then I don't expect the candy or the experience to be fun.

And that is one of the reasons I love Kool-Aid. The product hits squarely into that sweet spot of pop advertizing, especially considering the nostalgia I associate with the late 80s - early 90s Kool-Aid Man commercials. They we're honestly a great example of creating a tone and feel for a product. It clearly resonated with kids too, Kool-Aid was massively popular back in the 80s.

Its unfortunate to see how far the product has fallen.... but I'd rather not dwell on that.

A few years ago I was reading one of my favorite blogs at the time X-Entertainment, and I came across his review for... I think it must have been Purplesaurus Rex, and I was hooked. Matt at X-E spent a time over a year or so reviewing a ton of Kool-Aid flavors. it was really a treat, and one of the first time I got a bit obsessive with a blog. In fact that is one of the reasons I started this very blog here.

Kool-Aid is awesome. It has real power with kids, and I still love it to this day. One of the many things I love about Kool-Aid is the graphic design work. The packages and variations are very cool. I like the colors, and the evolving elements over time, but I especially love the Kool-Aid man himself. He graces most of the Kool-Aid packages and is possibly the best food mascot design ever.

So with that, lets have a look at my collection of Kool-Aid packets.

While these ones look old they are actally only from around 2009. I picked them up in Canada (hence the french). This shows off the current roster of flavors up in the great white north: Strawberry, Grape, Tropical Punch, Ice Blue, Cherry, Orange, Lemon-Lime, and Strawberry-Kiwi. At least this was the current roster the last time I was up there and checked. At least here in the States the market after 2010 has seen a steep decline in  kool-aid variety. I will say about these packages though that I love the fact that right off the bat you know this is kool-aid. That face is all you need. Pretty impressive considering how the rest of their mascots body draws your attention. Oh Yeah!

Until a little while ago this was the roster of standard flavors available in the US. Grape, Tropical Punch, Black Cherry, Orange, Pink Lemonade, Cherry, Lemon- Lime, Lemonade, and Strawberry. These were, and are the standard packet designs you'll see around stores here. That said since around 2010 most stores seem to have switched and ONLY offer Tropical Punch, Lemonade, and Cherry. Sometimes if you're going for a larger size, say the tub of kool-aid, powder you'll find Grape or Ornage but mostly its just those very depressing three flavors. And I'm not saying Tropical Punch, Cherry, or Lemonade are bad, in fact they're all good. But my real favorites were always Black Cherry or STrawberry. Neither of which are readily available anymore :(

I definitely like elements of the design work on these packages though. Kool-aid man is in his dapper yellow coat, holding out your drink of choice. You get to check out some of the fruit above the logo, and it generally conveys what it should. I like how excited the kool-aid man is; he's actually spilling some of hismself outin his haste to serve you a tasty beverage. My only gripe is that I would love to see the Kool-aid man's body actually be the color of the flavor. Oh I know that was only saved for very special occasions in a few ads but I was always impressed to see them shake things up a bit.

Moving on, these ones above are some of the older packets I've got. just kool-aid man chilling out beside some gigantic fruits. I don;t understand why they wouldn't have put all that text on the back of the packaging, but they didn't and while what we're left with is a classic, it also features a pretty small version of the kool-aid man.

Now lets give it up for the Island Twists.

Gotta love that ja-fakin accent! Well I don't recall ever having those originals but these are the older Island Twists I've got in my collection.

Seriously these are some of the best creations known to man. I am a big fan of the Island Twists in general and I was happy to see so many different flavors out there for a time. Almost all of them are great, and everyone is totally drinkable. My favorite of the bunch is probably Slammin' Strawberry Kiwi, but Soaring Strawberry Lemonade, and even the innocuous Berry Blue are great.

Interestingly Soaring STrawberry Lemonade and Roarin Rasberry Cranberry we're already Mountain Twists!??! I know they wen't from the Mountains to the Islands, but let me tell you, they are just that good! Actually I find this a bit confusing, but I suppose thats just how it goes in the crazy world of kool-aid.

And talk about your different packaging. This "Solar" Strawberry Starfruit is actually my absolute favorite kool-aid flavor that I own. I mean just look at it! THE KOOL-AID MAN IS IN A FRIGGIN SPACESUIT!!! how awesome is that? its amazing! yeah... just chilling out in space. leaning away against this awesome strawberry and starfruit asteroid. and is he standing on the earth?! wtf is going on here! greatest packaging ever. I will blast-off thank you very much.

btw - how many Americans have every even had a starfruit? especially in 1990???

Ok, so here's a look at some more modern Island Twists.Very busy packaging. I'm not sure why but I always expect the Soarin' Strawberry Lemonade to highlight the Strawberry. With the package being yellow like that I keep thinking its all lemon. The rainbows are a nice touch on all of the packages though. And I especially like the blue raspberries.

Did you know there's magic in the air...These two above are some more Kool-aid packets I picked up in Canada. The basic idea here is you get it and the powder is one color but it turns a different color once the water is added and its mixed. Then on top of that it might taste like a different flavor than its colored. David Blaine eat your heart out...

The Americans got in on the magic action as well with these two. Actually there were three in the line but I only ever found two. Both here and witht he Canadian ones you've also got a secret one. I Don't know about that though... what if your kid ends up hating the flavor?

For the life of me I can't remember what the actual flavor of this Switchin' Secret flavor is but I'm sure its awesome :)

Just wanted to take a break for another awesome ad. Sharkleberry, alongside Purplesarus Rex were possibly the coolest side characters you could ever have. Seeing them pal around with the Kool-Aid man was just awesome. Also one was a shark and the other a dinosaur. thats pretty awesome on its own. Still great company. ok back to the pics...

Kool-aid has taken more than a few twists and turns over the years. These Ice Cool branded ones are a good example of how the people behind kool-aid really did s good job innovating flavors. As far as I recall these were characterized by the addition of peppermint, making them "cool". I believe the lemon ice ones were far better than the arctic green apple but both were pretty fun. And the drinks were both colored clear, always a neat trick.

Here the kool-aid man has ditched the yellow jacket in favor of a lab coat. These are some seriously great graphics. Check out how excited he looks to be concocting these brews. I'm not sure how mad he really seems but I LOVE the lightning bolt through the logo.

Woah, very Jekyll and Hyde there in that ad. Pretty cool stuff :)

Just like the Ice Cool branded kool-aids, these invisibles share the clear liquid quality. Watermelon Kiwi is great and all, but this is really one of the only places I've ever seen to get straight Raspberry flavor kool-aid. Why they felt the need to go invisible on us with it is anyone's guess but I'm glad they did.

Finally I've got two random ones. The tangerine looks like ti could easily fit in wit hthe older style Island Twists, and I really like how they did the bordering on the packet. The Pineapple I believe is imported from Mexico. I'm a collector, but never to the point where I bought anything online, I found this Pineapple in a store myself just like all the rest. I like the Mexican packet design, if only because that is one seriously big glass of kool-aid in the background.

And here's the whole shebang, I stopped collecting sometime in 2010 after they officially discontinued the points program. Tha's a whole other topic that maybe I'll get into in another post though. Suffice it to say I was extremely bummed out that they stopped that, and now that kool-aid is down to only a few flavors tucked away shamefully underneath the Crystal Light its almost an embarrassment.

Think about how awesome kool-aid really was back in the day, a huge jug of kool-aid smashed through the wall shouting Oh Yeah! I mean that's pretty flippin amazing. And look at all these graphics! they are awesome. Oh I get it, I understand that people can't possibly intake that much sugar and feel ok with themselves anymore, it's a different world now. It just makes me sad... no more Sharkleberry Fin, no more Grape Houdini, no more Purplesarus Rex, no more Kool-Aid man. At least not for me.

In the end of course I still love Kool-Aid. I always will, but its a pale shadow of what it once was and that's sad. So instead of that, why not focus on the good. The joy that it brought to us all. Kool-Aid was a great brand. and even when I wasn't drinking it, it made me happy. That's a powerful brand, a powerful mascot. And for that I will always love and respect it.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Jolly Rancher Fruit Chews - video review

Today we've got a brand new candy under review for you, it's the Jolly Rancher Fruit Chews.

Yeah... not so great. For more on this please check in with the written review, or all of our reviews, not surprisingly over on the Reviews Page.

Jolly Rancher Fruit Chews review

Today's review comes via request, I'm having a look at the new Jolly Rancher Fruit Chews.

Since this blog is still a relatively new entity I haven't gotten too many requests yet, but as always, I am definitely open to suggestions. Please let me know if you want to see anything special here on the blog, or on YouTube by dropping me a line at walkingthecandyaisle@gmail.com.

Just to peel back the curtain a little more for a quick minute as well, sometimes I do these reviews on the blog before doing the video reviews, sometimes afterwards, and sometimes concurrently. In this case I'm writing the blog after the fact but I've only just realized that I forgot to take any photos of the stupid stupid stupid packing debacle.... for more on that please reference the video. Did I say it was stupid? Ok, sidebar done.

One little preface before I get into the review properly, I have a real bias going in here. I am not, nor have I ever been a big fan of Jolly Rancher candies. I don't like the texture of their traditional hard candies. Its too hard, then breaks apart weirld in your mouth, oftentimes into dangerous shards, and is too damn sticky. Also it gets in your teeth in a super annoying way. I also don't like the flavors, they seem... artificial. They are certainly strong, but not in the same fruity way that Starburst or Skittles are. Jolly Rancher just totally taste wrong to me and always have. I know people love them but I am simply not one of those people. I honestly am trying to give these new Fruit CHews a fair shake, but I am not the target audience.

Ok, as for these Fruit Chews. To start with I am impressed. The packaging is great. I've always loved Jolly Rancher's sense of style. The art design from the ground up is great. Its got a logo that pops and is memorable, good strong colors, fun design. And I have to say in this specific case I love the cigarette style packaging. There's a tear strip on the back and then it opens exactly as a pack of smokes does. only inside its got a handful of individually wrapped fruit chews. I also am a fan of the fact that these are individually wrapped candies. I much prefer something like this that I can share, or eat slowly than your average theater candy box full of loose open candy.

I am disappointing in the mix though.Fruit chews come in four flavors: Cherry, Watermelon, Green Apple, and Blue Raspberry. In my box however I only got one Watermelon, and one Blue Raspberry. Whats up with that?! Even though I think its lame I can kind of forgive a 100 flavor bag of Jelly Bellies for being a bit short on its flavor mix, but this is pretty inexcusable. Getting a good mix should be easy here.

Ok, onto its candy time.... If I an get it open. Sure some of them seem to open alright, but my god, WTF happened in the video review? If you haven't watched it, you probably should, Of the three Fruit Chews I've eaten in my life, and yes just to let you know I've only ever had three. 2 for the video review and then one for this review, I had a hell of a time getting two of the packages off. A hell of a time. The fact that two out of three gave me trouble is pretty distressing. These should have been fine... Bad job Jolly Rancher.

As for the candy once you do get it open, well it's pretty much what you'd expect. its kind of like a big piece of Hubba Bubba gum. Only big a day glow green. The texture is tacky and only a little pliable. When you bite into it though you understand why. This is one of those candies that starts harder and then quickly goes soft in your mouth. What else it does though is get sticky pretty much right away. This candy will get stuck in your teeth. Badly. That is annoying.

The flavors as well are very intense in a familiar Jolly Rancher way. If you like the classic Jolly Rancher flavors, then you are in luck, the Fruit Chew definitely captures that spirit. But to me as I said above, thats always been too intense, in a way that i don't like. Its frankly hard to articulate why I'm really not feeling this candy, but suffice it to say I am not.

Are you the kind of person that likes Jolly Rancher usually? If you are then I think you'll like these new Fruit Chews. I'll give that I do prefer these to the regular Jolly Rancher candy, but not by much. Its not that its terrible, its just totally not for me and I know it. I am going to pass on these and unless you are a real Jolly Rancher fan I think you should too.

Walking the Candy Aisle rates Jolly Rancher Fruit Chews - 2 / 5

Jolly Rancher are made by Hershey's. For more on them please check out http://www.hersheys.com/jolly-rancher.aspx/ Also note that these fruit chews come in a Tropical variety, and they also just launched the Crunch 'N  Chew line alongside these Fruit Chews. If you like these then they may be of interest to you :) Stay tuned for next time when hopefully I'll find something I like a bit more...

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Olympic fever anyone?

Did you catch it? If so, please don't spread it around... Why exactly are the Olympics so often likened to a disease???

On the eve of the London 2012 games I thought I'd share a little bit of chocolaty golden glory from the good folks at Cadbury. Now this is a medal I'd definitely want to win!

Yes, that is in fact a Cadbury chocolate gold medal and egg. I believe this item came out around Easter time in the UK. Although why exactly the egg is paired with a medal is a bit foggy. The packaging does little to explain much of anything here.

How much explanation do you really need though. Chocolate gold medal = awesome.

And chocolate golden egg.... well even if it is hollow, Its still pretty cool.

Oh and yes, Spider-Man would definitely win gold. GO OLYMPICS!!1!!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Laffy Taffy review

Ok, so this review may be coming out a bit backwards in line with the video review, but at the end of the day, as long as the info's getting out there it probably doesn't matter too much. For now why not kick back, relax, and enjoy this review of Laffy Taffy.

I have two kinds of Laffy Taffy with me here today: Sour Apple and Strawberry, and while I know I normally only try to do  reviews for one flavor of candy at a time. This one seemed like there could be at least a few generalizations made.

 Laffy Taffy is a fairly unique product. While most people will have had some local salt-water taffy at some point in their lives (perhaps your local county fair?) There aren't too many nationally packaged taffies on the market. In fact I can only think of this one.

Will it stand up to county fair / artisan comparisons? No probably not, but this sure is interesting.

Laffy Taffy, and indeed all Wonka candy has a lightheartedness to it that I love. The design work on the packaging, the advertizing, everything about the way they imprint their candy makes it seem genuinely like a lot of fun. I was happy to see Laffy Taffy incorporated into the Wonka brand (after Nestle launched it) because this is such a different candy it fits well into the oddball universe of Willy Wonka.

Speaking of irreverent fun, Laffy Taffys all have jokes actually written on the packaging. Sure Bazooka Joe may do it as well, but this is pretty fun. The jokes are not great, but since they're (at least theoretically) submitted by customers they are fresher than the average joke you'd find in a Bazooka Joe, or a box of Cracker Jacks.

 Honestly "Owlgebra" is kind of awesome.

As for the candy, I have to dock Laffy Taffy on the ease of opening. If you watch the video review you'll see a sad state of affairs trying to get through what should be a simple wrapper. I know it doesn't happen everytime, I get that, but it did happen this time, and unfortunately during a review.

The candy itself is slightly tacky to the touch, but its bursting with smell and the colors, especially on the Sour Apple Taffy, totally pop.

Biting into the candy is very different than you might get biting into your local artisan taffy. This feels processed, and sugary. but not in a  really bad way. In fact I honestly like how manufactured this feels. Laffy Taffy has intense flavors and that's a good thing, but it comes at a cost. You'll need to give the candy a good chew or two to get the full effect. This won't be melting in your mouth. My recommendation if you really want to get the most out of it... put a whole piece in your mouth at once. The you get a very full mouth of tastes in a slightly complicated but enjoyably chewy situation. And not to get gross here, but this is the kind of candy that while eating you'll find a lot of salivating over. Its necessarily a very wet eating experience.

The taffy can get caught in your teeth, and probably will. That's unfortunate as well because the flavors are really pretty decent. I'm not a huge Sour Apple fan but I actually thought this was good.The gumminess and pull of the taffy is close to bubble gum (rather than say like caramel).

In spite of my few gripes I want to be clear, Laffy Taffy is really good. It's interesting and different, the flavors a strong, and I've found through experience that even flavors I don't like in other contexts (like banana) can work well in Laffy Taffy form.

Walking the Candy Aisle rates Laffy Taffy - 4 / 5

You should definitely check this out if you have not before. For the video review of Laffy Taffy you can look below this post, or check out all of the reviews over on the Reviews page.

Laffy Taffy is a Wonka candy, and made by Nestlé, please check them out online at http://www.wonka.com/

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Laffy Taffy - video review

Review time!

So you may be asking yourself what gives. A review posted yesterday, but no video. Well there was some unfortunate technical difficulties on the video for the Crunch Thin Mints and I ended up with half a video file :(

So to make it up to you I'm posting another new video. This one for Laffy Taffy. I'll send up the written review for this one soon. Thanks for understanding everyone.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Crunch Thin Mints review

I've written a bit about them before, but now we've finally got one for review on Walking the Candy Aisle, let's check in with Nestlé's Crunch Thin Mints bar.

Wait Crunch Thin Mints you say?! Yes, these are the very same Girl Scout / Nestlé superfriends cookie bars that we've been hearing about. They are only here for a limited time so if you are even at all curious about this one you'll have to act fast. These chocolate bars will reportedly only be around through the summer of 2012 and be gone after Labor Day. Since I know there is a lot of interest right off the bat I'll say you can find out more, including where to track these bars down, on the Nestlé Facebook page.

What I can't find out, and really what interests me is the circumstances around how this came to be. Sure I've read the official press release, and watched the commercials, but I'd love to get some insight into what sort of deal was struck behind closed doors on this one. What sort of a split each group is taking on the bars, and why exactly the girl scot cookies were paired with Nestlé's Crunch bar in the first place. Surely Nestlé has the capacity to make a Thin Mint chocolate bar without the Crunch influence or branding... Its all very interesting.

Lets move into this review then, shall we? The packaging is a bit busy, but I suppose they do have a lot to convey. They need to make sure the Girl Scouts info is prominently displayed. For my money that's the obvious draw here. I mean people know what a Crunch bar tastes like... this is novelty pure and simple.

We've got another case of two small bars in a single wrapper here, but at least thematically I'm ok with it on this one since if it were a cookie you've have lots in a package. And seeing how popular these are I've no doubt many people buying this bar will end up sharing it.

The chocolate itself smells decent, and a little minty. As you can see in the picture there are the trademark Crunch crispies bulging up through the top, but otherwise this chocolate bar is pretty unassuming. So I'm eager to get to the good part.

Biting into the bar is an unexpected experience. Although I definitely like thin mints, as far as I remember they don't taste like this. Sorry strike that, they taste very similar to this, they don't feel anything like this at all. So heres the breakdown. On the top you've got dark chocolate and crispies, thats followed by a layer of mint chocolate goo. That is the part that tastes like a thin mint. Maybe a bit gooier, but its flavor is spot on. The problem comes next though. If this is supposed to replicate the Thin Mint experience in a chocolate bar form it doesn't succeed. The wafers here are precisely that, wafers and not even remotely cookie-like. Thin mints are thin and perhaps a bit wafery, but not like this. The wafer here reminds me of those cheap off brand Chinese wafers you'd get in a huge pack from an Asian grocery store. good filling, cheap wafers.

And while I can't say it really detracts from the experience to have Crunch bar elements foisted upon me, like these crispies, I'm left scratching my head. Other than to make money why does this exist? And more importantly, why did they make it this way?

To be clear this isn't a bad chocolate bar, its just not very representative of what its purporting to be. I'm prety sure I'd like a thicker cookie like experience instead of the wafers found here, but I'm not turned off by it. And the bar really does taste like a Thin Mint.

I suppose I'm a bit mixed on this one in the end. For the sake of novelty, and because I honestly believe the Girl Scots are a great cause I have to say if you have any interest in this, please go pick one up before they're gone.For me, well I think I've had enough.

Walking the Candy Aisle rates Crunch Thin Mints - 3 / 5

For more on these Crunch bar, Girl Scout cookie mash ups, please check out the Nestlé Facebook page.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

A Chewy Dessert

So I know I've talked about this before on the blog, but have you guys actually checked out these Extra Dessert Delights gums? They come in  a variety of flavors that you'd honestly only expect Willy Wonka to put into a gum.

And now I've just seen a new flavor at the checkout:

Yes I do love a good rootbeer float, so this is pretty cool. I noticed at the same time I saw the rootbeer float gum though that the mint ice cream and apple pie flavors were on clearance at Target. Does that mean Target is getting rid of them? Are these flavors in trouble?

I picked up a pacl of the mint chip ice cream and am currently chewing away at it. Now I'm not huge gum fan, but it seems ok. Maybe ont something I'd want all the time, but its certainly interesting.

I guess my take on it is that tis a really good effort to try something new, I hope it finds its market. There's something about this idea that at least should grab you for the sake of novelty.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Mike & Ike Original Fruits - video review

Its review time again. Today I've got a classic for you, its Mike & Ike original fruits.

Definitely worth checking out! For more, feel free to check out the written review, or all of the reviews here on the Reviews Page.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Mike & Ike Original Fruits review

Time for another review my lovelies, and today we're looking at Mike & Ike Original Fruits

Personal history be known, while I never had anything against Mike and Ike original per say, I almost never got it. Unless it ended up in my bag at Halloween I just avoided it. Any why you may ask? well, I blame it all on Hot Tamales. The Just Born candy company only makes a few candies and most of them follow the same basic format as Mike & Ike original here. Hot Tamales are like this, but all cinnamon, and all amazing. So for me these original flavor candies never really came into play.

Looking at them though I really don't have anything against them. I like the packaging. Its green with the candy popping out. I like the colors, and the logo design. And on the back there is even a little quote of the Just Born company slogan, which I love: "A Great candy isn't made... It's Just Born" totally adorable.
I don't normally alk about price, but I have to here, this box of candy cost only 25 cents. And I have to give the Just Born team serious props for that. Think about what candy ou can get for a quarter, and you'r basically relegated to the lower tier candy machines... this is a solid move and they should be applauded for it. Sure its not a big box, but it's big enough to give me that satisfying candy box rattle, and I know I'm getting something cleanly packaged rather than ... who knows what, I might get from a candy machine.

The candy comes in 5 flavors: from left to right below: Orange, Strawberry, Lime, Lemon, and Cherry. You can always tell a candy that has been around the block if they've got a cherry in their lineup and don't apologize for it. That's just old school.

Biting into the candy is good as well, the flavor is strong but not overpowering or too mild, its not jelly belly strong, but definitely strong enough. And there's a... comforting element to the flavors, these all feel like classics. The texture is just ok. its got a lot of gumminess to it, and a lot of chewiness.You're going to find this candy getting stuck in your teeth a bit. There's an ever so slight satisfying pull to the candy that never strays into gummy worm territory. But with that the flavors are very strong.  especially think the lime and lemon flavors are great. Despite the unnerving fact that these candies look like weird psychedelic pills that really manage to taste pretty good.

It's not something I think I'd seek out, but I'm glad I had them again.

Walking the Candy Aisle rates Mike & Ike Original Fruits - 4 / 5

Mike & Ike is a product of the Just Born company, find out more about them at http://www.justborn.com/

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Rolo minis?

Wait a second... is someone trying to pull a fast one on me here. Wasn't Rolo already mini???

YUP, just to clarify. Rolo is not an especially large candy to begin with. What gives here? And I also hope the irony of a king size bag of minis is not lost on you....

Monday, July 9, 2012

Jelly Belly Ice Shaver in the aisle

So I was perusing my local Target this weekend and what should I see but more Jelly Belly! In fact it was the Jelly Belly ice shaver. for those days when you just can get enough jelly belly, now you can enjoy them in snow cone form.

Sorry for the picture quality here, I had my kid on my shoulders while trying to take these pics.

OK seriously, who's going for the manual when you can have the deluxe electric version?!

Possibly even more exciting than the machine though is the syrup. Oh man, can't you just imagine how sricky sweet these must be. I mean that pure concentrated Jelly Belly flavor! Thats a pretty intense proposition. I remember one time I drank a big bottle of this of Mikes Hard Lemonade before I realized that it was a concentrate.... yes pretty stupid i know but I was also VERY drunk by that point. These would, I'm sure, be amazing on my corn flakes...

 They come in "Very Cherry". "Grape Soda", "Green Apple", "Berry Blue".... AND:

Probably the best idea ever. Why aren't all snow cones cotton candy flavored???

I'd definitely like to see a buttered popcorn syrup too, but for now this will do. Here's a link to where you can get these babies online.