Description. Ever since that ill-advised promotion 25 years ago during which the Mars Corp. asked America to vote on which color M would replace the staid but reliable beige, the M&M has become progressively more antic in its desire to be all candies to all people. Specialty colors, pretzel fillings, uncomfortable advertising campaigns that ask us not only to anthropomorphize these tiny edibles, but also to infer that they are sexually active — there is the whiff of desperation.
The candy-corn/white-chocolate M&M pairs that whiff with a much stronger literal one, of candied orange peel rolled in Nerds. Each M is between a classic and a peanut M in size; the colors follow the stripes of a classic kernel of candy corn.
Packaging/Branding. Standard for the M&M family. Our AV technician failed to capture an in-focus shot of the package, but the front features the red M dressed in a candy-corn “costume” and looking too drunk to care what foolishness his overlords have forced him to promote this time. He may also be staggering under the weight of the 35% RDA of sat fats the single-serving package contains.
Description. A visual hybrid of a classic Entenmann’s chocolate-chip cookie and the cinnamon roll promised by the name, the CRC is distinguished primarily by the intensity of its odor. Dr. Barkenbush furnished the samples in two Ziploc bags, themselves within a USPS Priority Mail box sealed with packing tape; the cookies still managed to suffuse the lab’s entryway with the jackhammer scent of Cinnabon (a co-brander of this cookie venture).
Each cookie is festooned with pointedly random stripes of caramel — or so it appeared through eyes made watery by ersatz-pecan fumes.
Description. Apparently, a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich is a titanic effort to construct. How else to explain the proliferation of products meant to cut one’s build time? (The hideous brand names — Goober; Koogle — defy any attempt at rationalization.)
Thus, the PB ‘n J Sandwich Cracker, featuring all the carcinogenic preservatives of the Toast-Chee et al., but none of the illusion of freshness or good taste. Unattractive, stale, and employing the cheapest fake-grape formulation available, the PB ‘n J Sandwich Cracker is an insult to snacking, and to the rules of punctuation.
Packaging/Branding. It is telling that the words “artificially flavored” are rendered nearly the size of the customary noxious branding troll and his ill-fitting footwear at the bottom of the cracker sleeve. It is also telling, if hardly surprising, that Keebler fails to understand the correct punctuation of a contraction, posting only one apostrophe before the “n” (the word “and,” shortened on both sides, requires two apostrophes, one on each side).
Description. Dr. Blankenship won a research grant to study the revolting snacks of China, and while he was in Shanghai, he discovered the Frito-Lay corporation’s darkest secret. Thin, brittle, and oily, the cheese lobster chip looks just like a regular Lay’s, which is terrible news for the unobservant snacker.
Packaging/Branding. Though much of the text is in Chinese, the package promises English speakers a “classic great taste.” Despite extensive interviews, however, Dr. Blankenship could not find anyone who felt this flavor was “classic,” or even part of God’s plan.
The branding image is unnerving: next to a splay of potato chips, a lobster lies belly-up on a bed of lettuce. The creature has been sliced open, spilling lobster bits everywhere, and a floating gravy boat pours melted cheese on its carcass. Claws raised in the air, the mutilated lobster seems to beg for its life as it drowns in a dairy waterfall.
Flavor Profile. The flavors come in waves. There is an explosion of spray cheese, followed by a nauseating blend of lobster and “seafood musk.” The musky taste lingers for at least 10 seconds after swallowing, suggesting the snacker has ingested the entire seafood counter at an unsanitary grocery store.
Habitat. Chinese convenience stores; the backpacks of desperate travelers; boardroom presentations of PETA members who are “trying to make a point.”
Field Notes. All of the ingredients are in Chinese, so we may never know what makes these flavors possible.
Revulsion Scale: 10
Description. Better known for the Mallo Cup, the Boyer Corp. didn’t have a completely terrible idea with the Butterscotch Smoothie, which aims to do for the peanut-butter/scotch pairing what Reese’s did for PB and chocolate.
Whether the pairing succeeds culinarily is almost beside the point, so distasteful is the visual presentation. All the butterscotch hues in the world — beige; caramel; camel — and the Boyer brain-trust selected a mid-aughts-Michael-Kors orange to coat the Smoothie. On top of that, the coating has chunks of peanut (we…hope) mixed into it. Add a crimped paper wrapper, and the whole affair looks like a vomit muffin.
Packaging/Branding. We would strongly suggest retooling the product to match up more closely with what appears on the package, as those Smoothies look reasonably attractive (not to mention, well, smooth). As it is, the label misrepresents everything about the product: the color; the texture; the proportions (and quality) of peanut butter to cup/coating.
Description. A burnt-orange tube, dusted with pollen intended to evoke coconut, the Chick-O-Stick has nothing to do with chicken, although the color is reminiscent of buffalo-wing sauce.
The cross-sectioned Stick, a shiny moon-rock-y affair that resembles a ’70s-sci-fi set-design element, has nothing to do with anything found in nature — except possibly feces (the manner in which the peanut flecks are disported…enough said, we trust).
Packaging/Branding. The font and package shapes recall mid-century diner culture. Meanwhile, the company logo’s star and the product name’s label share the same nuclear-meltdown orange as the Stick, and the transparent cellophane makes no attempt to hide or even lessen the visual impact of the homely snack within — a zen attitude our testers almost admire.
Description. Of the myriad fake fruit flavors available in today’s miraculous world of food science, fake cherry is not universally considered the most revolting. That dubious distinction belongs to fake banana. But for every diehard fan of the chocolate-covered cherry, three others would rather eat chopped glass than consort with such a nauseating treat.
Those people — and Dr. Bunting is most decidedly one of them — would storm the barricades of the Brach’s corporation to beg for a second chance in a one-pound bag, however, should the choice come down to the chocolate-covered cherry or the Twin Bing. The chocolate-covered cherry has a simplicity to it, at least, and a decent foundational concept, and while applying enzyme paste to a fruit in order that it may begin to digest itself on the shelf is repellent, it is a garden of soothing sensations compared with the needlessly complex, disgustingly shaped, frighteningly hued, confusingly conceived, and unreservedly foul Twin Bing.
Description. In theory, fruit-flavored hard candy with a soft chocolate center. In practice, less so. “Hard,” to begin, does not seem like a forceful enough adjective to describe the resistance of the exterior. In the package, the straws looked like differentiated pieces, but thanks to melt/de-melt/re-melt in transit, they presented as an unarticulated boulder of confetti-colored candy, necessitating the slamming of said massif onto the lab floor in the manner prescribed for orange Toblerone.
CFSes fall unfortunate prey to the Jelly Donut Hole Instability Principle, which states that, while certain holes will furnish only a small sad smear of jam, others carry a large reservoir that splurts onto the shirtfront. Similarly, chocolate is unevenly allocated among the straws: many contain none at all, most a mere hint, and others a disconcerting splorch of cake-frosting-esque cocoa paste.
The problem proceeds from the concept. The idea of filling a fruit shell with chocolate is understandable, but the size of each straw cannot allow for sufficient chocolate — and the CFS is, in the end, a neither-fish-nor-fowl combo snack, intended to capture two or more demographics and pleasing none. The chocolate lover will reject the faux-colate filling as insufficient; nor will it satisfy the “depressing past-the-sell-by senior-living-horehound” purist — should such a consumer 1) exist or 2) have enough original dental work remaining to pursue his/her avocation.