REVIEW: White Chocolate Toasty Vanilla M&M’s

Vanilla has a PR problem. Not just a flavor, vanilla is often used as a pejorative adjective meaning “ordinary, conventional, or plain.” Something referred to as “vanilla” can be unadventurous, bland, or boring. After all it has done for us, does vanilla deserve such disrespect?

Maybe due to the word’s connection, I can’t think of many candies that prominently advertise vanilla as a major flavor. Enter M&M’s to make the ordinary special with White Chocolate Toasty Vanilla M&M’s, this year’s seasonal offering from the brand. When I discovered the product, I had questions: Is a vanilla M&M just a white chocolate M&M wearing a different label? What makes it toasty? What is the M&M on the package drinking, and where can I get one?

If the cure for boredom is curiosity, tasting the White Chocolate Toasty M&M’s may cure your assumption that vanilla is a dull flavor. Unlike some white chocolate, the M&M’s core is not merely sweet and definitely not cloying. There is real vanilla flavor that enjoys a certain degree of complexity, similar to the taste of vanilla bean ice cream.

However, that comparison isn’t perfect because of the M&M’s added “toastiness.” To me, this comes through as a subtle hint of cinnamon. (For inquiring minds, the ingredients list offers only “natural and artificial flavors,” with no mention of vanilla or any kind of spice.) When I opened the bag, the aroma reminded me of Cinnamon Toast Crunch, but the flavor wasn’t nearly as heavy on spice. Think leftover cinnamilk – if you love to douse your cereal, that is – with an added hit of vanilla, or even a subtly-spiced horchata. Together, the flavors melt into a rich, creamy concoction that probably tastes similar to whatever Green M&M is drinking on the package. The only unsolved mystery of this seasonal treat: will she share her recipe?

If you use seasonal M&M’s for your holiday treats, please note that these M&M’s are on the large side and colored white, beige, and brown. The candy shell shades may not have a standard holiday or winter color scheme, but they will remind you to double-check your toaster dial at breakfast tomorrow.

Even if you typically bypass vanilla for bolder flavors, don’t mistake White Chocolate Toasty Vanilla M&M’s for boring or ordinary. The depth of vanilla flavor, enhanced by a hint of toasty warm spice, tastes like coziness wrapped in a candy shell, proving one thing: It’s okay to be vanilla, but it’s even better to be toasty vanilla.

Purchased Price: $3.00
Size: 2.47 oz (70 g) Share Size bag
Purchased at: Sheetz
Rating: 8 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (per half pack/35 g) 170 calories, 9 grams of fat, 5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, less than 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 30 milligrams of sodium, 24 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 23 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein.

REVIEW: Sour Patch Kids Apple Harvest

In August, I feverishly go from store to store, trying to find new Halloween/fall products to review for this site. I know all the grocery stores near my home and my places of employment.

Oddly enough, I couldn’t find these Sour Patch Kids Apple Harvest at any of the usual stores. Instead, after a random tip in my Facebook feed, I finally found them at Michael’s, of all places.

New candy seems out of place at a craft store. But this particular candy also seems out of place with the Sour Patch Kids moniker.

These apple-shaped pieces come in three flavors: cranberry apple (red), apple cider (tan), and caramel apple (green).

The most startling thing to me is that these are nowhere near as sour as regular Sour Patch Kids. They’re mildly sour, but not very much. They also are not nearly as colorful as regular SPK. I wondered if they might have used natural colors, but nope, there on the ingredients list are Yellow 5, Red 40, and Blue 1. And I do think they’re softer than regular SPK, so there’s less of a jaw workout.

As for the flavors, cranberry apple really does taste like cranberry. There’s a mild bitterness that you might expect in cranberry sauce, but the apple makes it less pronounced. Apple cider tastes most authentic and has the most noticeable apple flavor. And caramel apple has a strong caramel flavor, albeit an artificial one.

Look, I really want to love these. They feel like a more sophisticated version of SPK. And yet, they just aren’t as good. They fit with the apple-scented potpourri or candles you might find at a craft store. They need to be more sour. As is, they’re just a generic apple candy.

These are called Sour Patch Kids, but they are neither Sour nor Kids. That leaves us with Patch. But that doesn’t work either because apples grow in orchards, not patches.

I feel like Michael’s is an expensive place to buy candy. If you want to try these, wait until they make their way to a cheaper store. They’re just not worth Michael’s prices.

Purchased Price: $5.99
Size: 10 oz bag
Purchased at: Michael’s
Rating: 6 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (9 pieces) 120 calories, 0 grams of fat, 25 milligrams of sodium, 29 grams of carbohydrates, 25 grams of sugar (including 25 grams of added sugar), and 0 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Snickers Butterscotch Scoop

One scoop or two? One square or two?

For Snickers fans this summer, these questions are practically one and the same. After the reappearance of its Rockin’ Nut Road flavor, Snickers has released a new candy inspired by the ice cream parlor: Butterscotch Scoop, a limited edition flavor exclusive to Walmart stores.

Snickers Butterscotch Scoop consists of peanuts, caramel, and butterscotch-flavored nougat enrobed in a milk chocolate coating. It is available as a single-size pack, which includes twin confectionary squares, or a stand-up pouch with fun size bars.

As someone who will choose butterscotch for her sundae topping nine times out of ten, I was thrilled to see Snickers honor this underrated sweet. Outside of ice cream, pudding, and the candy dishes of the elderly, butterscotch is a goldmine of unfulfilled junk food potential. Additionally, as someone whose local ice cream shops do not offer butterscotch at least seven times out of ten, I feared that my experience with this Snickers would remind me of these failed searches, which inevitably end with the bitter taste of melted hope dripping on my sneakers.

The unwrapped Snickers smelled exactly like an ice cream parlor, that buttery vanilla scent eliciting visions of waffle cones and sprinkles. As much as I love the familiar formula of a Snickers bar, I only had eyes and taste buds in that moment for the butterscotch-flavored nougat. The star of the bar didn’t disappoint. It tasted like the butterscotch of my dashed summer ice cream stand dreams, a perfect medley of brown sugar and butter flavors. Contrary to my expectations, the nougat wasn’t sweeter than what you’d find in a standard Snickers. Avoiding the syrupy sweetness sometimes associated with butterscotch contributes to the bar’s success.

The milk chocolate, peanuts, and caramel are obviously treasures in their own right, and we know we cannot love Snickers without loving them. I do think the Snickers Butterscotch Scoop would have benefited from fewer or smaller peanut pieces. Although their crunch is wonderful, the peanuts sometimes overpowered the butterscotch flavor. Peanut lovers may disagree here, but those who do are probably lucky enough to live near ice cream parlors that do not deprive them of butterscotch. I examined two bars (with two squares per bar, that’s four squares total, for anyone who is still in summer school), and each piece had a similar ratio of fillings. I’d be interested to know if the fun size bars are structured the same way, or if they privilege the nougat.

Despite this minor gripe, my answer to the question posed at the beginning of this review is, “Two, please!” Snickers Butterscotch Scoop is a deliciously buttery sweet twist on the original bar. This fan will banish butterscotch hard candies from her candy dish indefinitely for another scoop of Snickers.

Purchased Price: $1.24
Size: 1.41 oz (40 g) bar
Purchased at: Walmart (store exclusive)
Rating: 8 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: 200 calories, 10 grams of fat, 3.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, less than 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 100 milligrams of sodium, 26 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 22 grams of sugar (including 20 grams of added sugar), and 4 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Campfire Smores M&M’s

Many Halloween and/or campfire stories talk about something coming back from the dead. And that’s what we have here with these new Campfire Smores M&M’s.

There was a s’mores variety back in 2016, but that one had a crispy center.

This 2023 edition, on the other hand, has a milk chocolate center with a layer of white chocolate. The s’mores aspect comes from artificial flavoring. Oh, and now the folks at Mars (not to be confused with the folks on Mars) have dropped the apostrophe in smores, and they have decided that smores are for fall/Halloween instead of summer.

(In fairness, though, I’m reviewing these in July, so the summer connection still applies. There was even a pool toy on the Walmart display of Halloween M&M’s.)

At first, I wondered why the crunchy texture that evoked graham crackers was dropped. But after tasting the M&M’s, I’m not even mad. It turns out this back-from-the-dead flavor is not scary after all! They really do taste like smores. The chocolate comes from chocolate, obviously, but I also taste graham. I’m not sure if I detect marshmallow, but then again, marshmallows don’t even have much of a flavor. Texture-wise, it seems the M&M’s are going for the gooey part of the smore rather than the crunchy part, as evidenced by the gooey chocolate in the “Smores” branding.

I also enjoy the orange, black, and white color scheme, which screams Halloween, more than the orange, purple, and green “Ghoul’s Mix” of the standard flavors. The colors also evoke those of a smore, provided you use bright-orange graham crackers. (Make it happen, Honey Maid!)

In past years here at TIB, I have reviewed other Halloween M&M’s of dubious relevance — Cookies and Screeem and Creepy Cocoa Crisp. I like these better than the CaS, but not as much as the CCC.

Oh, and I compared the prices and sizes for the previous seasonal M&Ms. In 2017 and 2019, they were $3.19 for an 8-ounce bag. In 2023, they’re $3.96 for a 7.44-ounce bag.

Shrinkflation is the real monster in this scary story.

Purchased Price: $3.96
Size: 7.44 oz. bag
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 8 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (28 grams/about 16 pieces) 140 calories, 6 grams of fat, 4 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, less than 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 25 milligrams of sodium, 20 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of dietary fiber, 18 grams of sugar including 17 grams added sugar, and 1 gram of protein.

Click here to read our previous M&M’s reviews.

REVIEW: Mystery Flavor Fruit Roll-Ups

General Mills is rebranding its fruit snacks to suit the modern era of lunchbox-toting kids and teens, but in the case of these Mystery Flavor Fruit Roll-Ups, it feels like it went with such a ’90s vibe that it’s targeting the parents and not the offspring. This pack leans entirely on a “weird green guys from outer space” theme that I can’t imagine resonating with today’s kids. But what do I know? The packaging is metallic, and I’ll be damned if weird alien cartoons and shiny things don’t intrigue me.

The pack includes two flavors, Mystery and Solar Melon. I was briefly disappointed that half of these were melon because it gives you fewer chances to guess the mystery flavor. If you’re not familiar with Fruit Roll-Ups, I would describe the flavor of all of them as “This is definitely a Fruit Roll-Up,” but if you can tell the difference between a berry one and whatever the Tie-Dye is, you’re a better person than me. Fruit Roll-Ups are a snack to be eaten as quickly as possible because if they’re fresh, they’re so sticky that you can barely get the plastic off before they collapse in your hand. Definitely do not put them on a plate to photograph like I did. The time from thinking you might give it a taste test to the time you’ve determined that you’d better just shove it all in your mouth before you never get it unstuck from you again is about 8 seconds.

Trying the Mystery flavor, I couldn’t get beyond that it just tasted like I expected a Fruit Roll-Up to taste. Delicious, but overall…normal. Maybe this whole alien theme was a ruse? Maybe space tastes like Fruit Roll-Ups? I didn’t have a clue. Luckily part of this rebranding is a focus on trying to interact beyond the eating of the snack, so General Mills wants you to visit its website, where you can vote on what the flavor is.

Thank Area 51, we have some parameters!

Faced with the choices of Cosmic Citrus Swirl, Stellar Strawberry Peach, Galactic Grape, and Mango Martian, things started to make sense, and I felt pretty confident choosing Strawberry Peach. The strawberry is the classic and dominant flavor, but there’s a little more there, and it will remind you of Peach Rings.

To its credit, the unmysterious Solar Melon is a perfect shade of alien-green and a welcome addition to the box. It manages to taste like a blend of fruits with a melon focus but not in an overly artificial way like many watermelon candies.

The sheets are printed with tongue tattoos in various alien, UFO, and space designs. Because eating a Fruit Roll-Up inherently involves playing with your food, I went ahead and applied a UFO-XING sign to my tongue. It worked like a charm, and by that I mean it left my tongue with an unintelligible giant blue blob on it. You can thank me later for not including that photo. It might not be the most original attempt at a mystery flavor, but eating these is a fun and tasty way to spend two minutes, and who knows, you might win a galactic fanny pack before you’re beamed back up to the mothership.

Purchased Price: $2.29
Size: 10-count box of 0.5 oz rolls
Purchased at: Mariano’s
Rating: 8 out of 10 (Mystery Flavor), 7 out of 10 (Solar Melon)
Nutrition Facts: (1 roll) 50 calories, 1 gram of total fat, 0.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 50 milligrams of sodium, 12 grams of total carbohydrates, 7 grams of sugar (including 7 grams of added sugar), and 0 grams of protein.