A little while ago I wrote a little “point of interest” article on Canadian candy. Whenever I do something like that, I inevitably get hate mail from people who think I need to focus only on very serious topics. It appears that a few people out there like my site so much that they’ll send me nasty emails when I don’t deliver what they want. I don’t get it. Anyway, I wanted to offer a follow-up to that article today (even if it means more emails). As you recall, I sent a package of distinctly Canadian treats to a few readers of this site and 2 of them have now sent through their thoughts.
The first box went to a family in Texas and here is what they have to say:
I received the goods on Monday, and my four children (ages 15, 15, 12, and 10) and wife and I all shared them the next day.
The Canadian foods included-
- Aero bar
- Cadbury Caramilk
- Mars bar
- Nestle Coffee Crisp bar
- Cadbury Crispy Crunch bar
- Nestle Smarties
- Mackintosh’s Toffee
- Hostess Hickory Sticks
- Lays Ketchup Potato Chips
As Tim suggested, none of these are regularly available in this part of the US; the Turtles do show up here during Easter and Valentine’s holidays in boxed candy. And because we are in the Texas Panhandle, we are not likely to see much Canadian candy that accidentally blows across the border. So these items were mostly all new to us.
My favorite was the Coffee Crisp bar. I thought it was fantastic. Three of my four children and wife also regarded it as their favorite. It was the clear winner. It had the consistency of a Kit Kat bar, with a mild coffee flavor. In my opinion, it would sell well in the US. My family would certainly buy it. Starbuck’s Coffee ought to start stocking it…it would sell very well there, I think.
The next favorite for most of us was the Crispy Crunch bar. It reminded all of us of a Butterfinger bar; very similar texture and flavor. If not for the competition from the Butterfinger bar, it too would be popular in the US.
We also liked the Mars bar. It was more of a generic caramel/nougat type bar, but everyone liked the flavor and texture. I’m not sure it has enough market niche to be a big seller here, but we liked it well enough.
My youngest son liked the Aero bar the best. The older kids and my wife both disliked the flavor of the chocolate in that one. I thought it was OK, but not great. It is hard to describe the texture…just a kind of airy chocolate. I don’t think it would be a big seller here, with the popularity of the Nestle’s Crunch bar.
The Smarties were indeed very different from the candy of the same name in the US. The closest thing I can compare them with is generic (store brand) M&Ms. (I know M&Ms is a trade name, but it has become ubiquitous with candy-coated bite-size pieces, and I don’t know a better way to describe them…good market position for M&M/Mars, I suppose.) They were marked as all-natural color, but I’m wary. Part of the taste strongly reminded me of some of the artificially-colored candies we used to get when I was a kid. The one distinct flavor still available here is the coloring on the red Spree candies…the red Smarties had the same (bitter to me) taste. I’m sure it was the same type of coloring.
The Turtles were very similar to the candy of the same name we get around here at Easter and Valentines, but with less pecans. We all found it passable, but not ‘to-die-for’ good.
None of us cared for the Caramilk bar or the Mackintosh’s Toffee. For some reason, the flavor of both did not agree with what we expected from chocolate/caramel or toffee. I have to think that if See’s Candy (out of Los Angeles) started selling Toffee in Canada, the Mackintosh folks would go out of business fairly quickly. Their product just isn’t what we think of as Toffee in the US. I wonder if the consistency (much softer than toffee sold here) has something to do with the fact that it might often be eaten in a frozen state up in Canada, if kept in a pocket outdoors in the winter. You’d be much less likely to break a tooth on it than on frozen traditional US toffee, which at zero degrees F would be about the same Brinnell hardness as brass.
As for the savory treats, everyone liked both the Hickory Sticks and the Ketchup-flavored Lays Potato Chips. Having been to South Africa, the Lays chips reminded all of us of the same item we had over there. They were similar to BBQ potato chips, but with a real, identifiable ketchup flavor instead of BBQ sauce. Since most of my kids eat ketchup on their french fries, they equated the taste of the Lays chips to that…which of course, they like. The Hickory Sticks were downright yummy, and really satisfied the salt craving. I would definitely buy them as a snack if they were available here. I’ve seen something very similar on occasion here, called Shoestring Potatoes. But I don’t find a snack of that nature very often.
On a point of interest, I noticed that Canada handles nutrition information differently than the US (and maybe for the better). The bags of chips were both larger than single serving size in the US. The same king-size bag in the US lists nutrition information by serving, so the panel will say (for example) there are three servings in the bag, and each serving has (say) 10g fat, and so on. The Canadian bag was considered a serving, and had all 31g of fat listed on the nutrition panel. (The Hickory Sticks had close to 40g fat.) Kind of scary, but more realistic for a consumer, as most people who buy a two- or three-serving bag will eat the whole thing, and think they just ate 10g of fat. No wonder we are overweight in this country!
The second box went to Colorado. And here is what those people had to say:
First the positive,
Hostess Hickory Sticks–Wow! These are far better than any American barbecue chips, as well as the bland potato straws we had a decade or so ago. I can’t understand why we don’t have Hickory Sticks here. I would eat lots of them every day.
Aero bar–Great! I’ve never had anything like this, a rich chocolate bar with bubbles. This would be a hit anywhere. I don’t believe there is anything on the American market that is similar.
Coffee Crisp–This one is reminiscent of a KitKat bar, only with richer, creamier, chocolate, a larger cookie center, and a bit of a coffee flavor. I would choose this bar over a KitKat.
Crispy Crunch–Another winner! This one is most comparable to the American Butterfinger, but the chocolate on the Crispy Crunch is richer and creamier (I’m seeing a trend re. the actual chocolate coating of American/Canadian candy bars).
Smarties–These are better than M&Ms to which they are most similar, and the differences are that the Smarties have richer chocolate and a less irritating candy coating.
The one even match, Mars bar. I wanted to find an American Mars bar to see if that would be a good comparison. The Canadian Mars is probably most similar to the American Milky Way. I couldn’t taste as much difference in the chocolate on this one, and the caramel and nougat all seemed similar, but I didn’t actually have a Milky Way to eat at the same time.
Now for the negative,
Turtles–almost exactly like American turtles, but not quite as sweet. Neither my chef/candy maker father-in-law nor I would buy these again.
Caramilk–I have to qualify this by saying I’m not a big fan of caramel. The Caramilk reminds me of an American Marathon bar from 35 years ago, only not as chewy (the Marathon bar would actually make your jaw hurt from all the work it took to eat it). Neither of my in-laws were impressed either.
Macintosh’s Creamy Toffee–basically a little caramel chew similar to a piece of a Sugar Daddy, or something that I think is/was called Mary Jane’s. Out of four people that tried them, I don’t think any of us finished one.
And finally, what must be the worst Canadian snack of all:
Lay’s Ketchup Potato Chips–I passed these around at our small group and even our token Canadian declined to try them. The brave girl that did said “I feel like I’m eating solidified ketchup”. Not one of the several people that tasted these liked them even a little.
There you have it. I’m glad for the opportunity to get outside of my ethnocentric(?) opinions about American snacks/candy. I don’t even feel like a traitor. If you need me to give a second opinion, especially on Hickory Sticks or Coffee Crisp, I will be happy to assist you.