Candies and chocolates that proudly proclaim themselves to be “no sugar added” intrigue me. Even though I’d had plenty of childhood run-ins with Sorbee hard candies from the neighbourhood health food store, I’d largely forgotten about the parallel world of sweets that avoid regular sugar in favour of alternative sweeteners (other than soda, that is). Until I ran into a bunch of alternative-sweetener sweets in a U.S. pharmacy aisle, I was under the impression that not much had changed in a couple decades. Boy howdy, was I wrong.
I’m seeing more of these “no sugar added” products in Canada these days, and I love sampling them, at least partly because I enjoy keeping tabs on what food scientists are coming up with. In 2013, some sugar-free or no-sugar-added candies are surprisingly OK, presumably prompting only a tiny bit of “something ain’t right” reaction from typical taste buds.
To be clear, it’s not the difference between Coke and Diet Coke. It’s a little more like Coke vs. Coke Zero. Or maybe it’s more like the difference between Sarah Palin and Tina Fey playing Sarah Palin. Do you know what I’m getting at? It’s an imitation, but it’s becoming harder to tell it apart from the original.
Russell Stover has a fairly large selection of these products, and the Strawberry Cream flavour seemed appealing.
The Pitch: “NO SUGAR ADDED.” “Handcrafted in Small Batches.” “Covered in chocolaty candy.” “Contains maltitol syrup, maltitol and sucralose.” “Diabetics: This product may be useful in your diet on the advice of a physician.” And most awesome of all, in a small chunk of text at the bottom of the back of the package: “Excessive consumption may cause a laxative effect.” Please, for the record, can someone tell me how much “excessive” consumption is, so as to avoid this laxative effect? That’s a pretty goddamned important missing detail, Russell Stover.
The Look: I really, really hate big bags of things that are nearly empty. This is the case here, where what looks like a sizable bag of candy only contains a handful of candies. A see-through window low in the bag helps in this illusion, as does the fact that each candy is individually wrapped in bulky foil plastic, puffing up the space with extra wrapping bulk.
The Quantity: I don’t want to get all grumpy about this, but really: there are only 6 candies in this bag. They are not large candies. Each one is hardly the size of a chocolate from a box of drugstore chocolates.
The Taste: Off-putting. The chocolate equivalent of the Uncanny Valley. Clearly not a regular chocolate – the texture is off, and the fat feels dead and shortening-like on the tongue. The filling is also wrong, with a waxy, grainy texture, and an unnaturally sweet taste. Chemical notes shout louder than anything else, and there’s a strange artificial cream cheese character to it that weirds me out. Yuck.
RATINGS AND DETAILS
Cost: $2.69 for an 85 gram bag at London Drugs. I’ve seen them for more elsewhere.
Value for cash money: Not great. Terrible once the taste is factored in.
Nutrition?: Per 3 pieces (43 grams): 170 calories, 11 grams of fat, 80 mg of sodium, 0 grams of fibre, 2 grams of protein. Also of note: 0 grams of sugars, but 25 grams of sugar alcohol.
The verdict: Hugely disappointing. Not nearly as good as a real strawberry cream from a box of cheap chocolates. If it’s your only option due to health reasons, maybe it’s all you’ve got. But as a replacement for regular chocolate, it’s nasty. Thank god there are only six in the package.