itsu Chocolate Edamame

Here’s another snack we found on the bottom shelf of the Sainsbury’s ‘impulse buy’ section near the till. We chose these because of the weird AF packaging – a bikini-clad woman’s bum? Really?

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Lottie: “I like how they put the window over the ball but not over her arse.”

Snack: itsu chocolate edamame 35g

Bought at: Sainsbury’s local 

Price: approx. £1.20

Also available from: OcadoWaitrose

On closer inspection, it appears itsu, the company behind these chocolate coated edamame beans, is actually the official partner of the Volleyball England Beach Tour, and, looking at their website, much of their packaging features photographs of volleyball players. But maybe they should have put, say, a banner across the front of the box, rather than a tiny logo on the side, so that people don’t just think they’re being weird and trying to sell ‘healthy’ snacks with scantily-clad ladies?

Looking into itsu further, it turns out they were founded 20 years ago by one of the people behind Pret A Manger, and currently have 70 stores, but we’ve never heard of them before. Then again, Sheffield only got its first branch of Pret last year, so we’re not exactly in a Mecca of trendy brands here.

itsu seem to be very health focussed, and bill this product as high in fibre and a healthier alternative to chocolate-coated peanuts, but they actually have more fat per 100g than a kitkat. And they’re stupidly expensive.

Despite having put effort into a slick website, there’s a typo in the first sentence of their ‘about us’ section, and, EVEN WORSE, they use the motto “eat beautiful”:

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Lottie: screams “That doesn’t make grammatical sense!”

Down to the eating: we’re expecting these to be a lot like chocolate coated nuts or coffee beans, but less delicious, and we’re not wrong.

On opening the inner packet (and do they really need a cardboard box as well?) the beans do look temptingly dark and glossy. Biting in, the chocolate has a good flavour, and it’s a nice thick coating of it. The roasted edamame interior is crunchy, and very faintly nutty/salty, but to be honest it isn’t doing much.

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Shiny.

They’re perfectly pleasant to eat, and we polished off the rest of the (small) packet easily enough, but what is the point? We’d rather have some chocolate almonds or peanuts, but even if you’re looking for a healthier snack, you’d be better off with a few squares of some better dark chocolate. Purely based on the product, we give these:

4/10

But, particularly given the high price for such a small product, and how much the packaging offends us on a really primal level, we’re going to reduce the score to:

2/10

Polly Puffar Sea Salt

Here’s another snack we picked up on our trip to Stockholm – Polly Puffar Sea Salt.

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Lovely sea imagery in the background there.

Snack: Cloetta Polly Puffar Sea Salt 150g

Bought at: 7-Eleven in Stockholm

Price: £2ish

I grabbed these at 7-Eleven because I have been completely taken in by the trend for salted caramel and salted chocolate. Also, our friends Bella and Cyd gave us a bag of regular Polly a while back which we enjoyed. The regular Polly are sort of chewy, sort of marshmallowy things coated in chocolate (the manufacturer’s website says “delightfully chewy foam drops”), but Polly Puffar are rather different.

The Puffar are “salty corn puffs covered with milk chocolate”. Oddly, the front of the packet is entirely in English (except for the word ‘puffar’), which makes sense as these are sold in several countries – no point repackaging them I suppose. However there is absolutely no English on the back of the packet. Puzzling.

Moving on to the Puffar themselves: they are rather unfortunate looking. That’s wishful thinking on the packaging. Imagine someone gave some Niknaks a not-very-smooth chocolate coating and you’ve pretty much got the idea. They look like the droppings of a small woodland creature. Lottie also likened them to Jumanji playing pieces. Take a look for yourselves:

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Hmmm.

Thankfully they made up for their lacklustre appearance by being incredibly moreish. On first bite, we both think we’ve eaten something like this before – but what? We can’t quite place it.

The closest comparison we came up with is a giant Crispy M&M, minus the sugar shell, and with a bit of salt. Texturally, the innards are similar to Niknaks, Monster Munch, Golden Nuggets cereal, and other forms of extruded puffed corn (I like the word ‘extruded’). I think the middle is just salty, with all the sweetness coming from the chocolate coating. They’re very light and easy to eat, rather like Maltesers.

Basically, I think if you like Maltesers and other forms of crispy things coated in chocolate, and you also like the salty-sweet combination, then you’ll find these slip down far too easily. 

8/10

Mallow and Marsh Raspberry Marshmallow Bar

I’ve seen these swanky marshmallow bars in the shops before, but always felt that I couldn’t justify spending £1.35 on a fancy marshmallow. But this one was reduced! It’s not near its best before date, so I suspect (and the dust on the wrapper was a big hint) that most Sheffielders – even those frequenting Sainsbury’s, where I bought this – feel the same way I do about over-priced, supposedly fancy snacks.

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Snack: Mallow and Marsh Raspberry Marshmallow Bar Coated in 70% Dark Chocolate

     Bought at: Sainsbury’s Local

     Price: Normally £1.35, but reduced to £1.00

Available at: Mallow and MarshSainsbury’s

First of all: the name is just lacking in imagination. It’s like entry-level “How to make your product sound vaguely artisan and hipstery”. To be fair, these do seem to be made by a small company rather than a multinational conglomerate.

Another point in its disfavour: it has a couple of “friendly” messages in speech bubbles on it. It’s self-consciously quirky and it annoys me. One of them is even written from the bar’s point of view. I hate it.

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*TYPOGRAPHY KLAXON*

 

Even worse: they printed the weight and best before information in COMIC SANS.

FFS.

You go to all that effort to design reasonably tasteful packaging and then you go and ruin it.

Now, I’m a sucker for all things raspberry-and-chocolate, so I’m hoping for good things…

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Taking an artistic first bite is hard.

Sadly, the marshmallow fails to deliver with only a hint of raspberry flavour. It’s also a bit too airy for my taste – or rather the bubbles are a bit too large. It’s nice, but not actually nicer than a bog standard marshmallow (a pink one, obvs, they’re the best).

The chocolate is good – it’s nice dark stuff, with just the right amount of sweetness. The thin layer might not look it, but it’s the perfect amount to pair with the marshmallow.

All in all, if these were cheaper, I’d be all for it, but at the current price point, I won’t     be bothering. Sad.

     5/10

Eggnog Flavoured Milk Drink

This review comes to you via the import section at our local Tesco. This ‘premium’ eggnog-flavoured milk drink was with the Polish products, even though it is Jamaican and there is a Jamaican section one aisle over. Is eggnog-flavoured milk inexplicably popular in Poland? Do the staff at Tesco have no idea what they are doing? We may never know.

We picked this up because neither of us has ever tried eggnog, and we are both intrigued and horrified by the idea of an egg-based drink. Having tried this product, I’m not sure we’re any closer to knowing what eggnog really tastes like.

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A: ‘Should we give it a name?’     B: ‘Why bother when the description sounds so delicious!’

     Drink: Serge Island Premium Eggnog 240ml

     Bought at: Tesco

     Price: 75p

     Available at: TescoAmazon

Looking at the ingredients list is a little disconcerting. Mmmm, ‘egg solids’! Mmmmm, ‘artificial cognac brandy flavour’! Mmmm, ‘approved flavours and stabilizers’! It also contains a tiny bit of ‘White Over Proof Rum'(!!!!), and some ‘egg yellow colouring’ that prompts a stern warning on the side of the carton:

“Warning: Colourings E102 (Yellow5) and E110 (Yellow6) may have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children”

Reassuring.

We decided to refrigerate our eggnog, though it is in fact shelf-stable, because it just feels a bit weird to drink something milky at room temperature. Too many reminders of primary school milk breaks. Chilling was definitely a good idea, both for psychological reasons and to reduce the impact of the flavour, because this stuff was just weird.

On first sip, this drink is quite pleasant. Smooth, sweet and creamy, pretty much what you would hope for from a supermarket milkshake. The odd bit comes shortly afterwards, when the flavour hits you and you wonder if eggnog can really taste faintly of bubblegum. Well, that was Lottie’s analysis of the taste – I thought it was more like it was a distant cousin of a banana milkshake. A particularly artificial cousin of a banana milkshake.

Lottie: “Whatever eggnog tastes of, I can’t imagine it is this”

We did finish the carton, and the flavour isn’t completely horrendous, but I would go a long way to avoid drinking another of these in future. However, we did think this product might be actually quite nice in another flavour. Unfortunately, the only other Serge Island drink that Tesco stock is Peanut Punch Flavoured Milk Drink. Fortunately for you, we bought a carton of that too, and we’ll let you know how that turns out.

If this were another flavour, it would be pretty good. As it stands: not recommended.

3/10

Katsu Curry Sticky Rice Chips

M&S seem to be at the forefront of snacking innovation these days – a quick trip down the savoury-things-wot-come-in-bags aisle yielded several promising new treats. We have high hopes for our first foray – Katsu Curry Sticky Rice Chips. *exciteclaps*

“What is a sticky rice chip when it’s at home?!” I hear you cry! It’s a tortilla chip with some rice in it. Sorry.

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Look, they’re gluten free too! They do contain honey though – “Not suitable for children under 12 months” – so bad luck if you were hoping to feed these to your discerning toddler.

Snack: M&S Katsu Curry Sticky Rice Chips 150g

Bought at: M&S

Price: £1.50

Available from: M&S – in-store only, AFAIK

They are diamond-shaped (ooh) with red and green speckles of chilli and herbs. They even smell fancy!

“Like proper food.” – Lottie.

On first whiff you can tell that these have actual real spices in, and not just mysterious ‘flavourings’. They smell like a homemade curry, and, diving right in, they actually taste like one too! I’m not sure I’d immediately peg it as katsu curry, but it’s certainly a curry of some sort, and it’s tasty. There’s just the right amount of heat for me – warming but not overwhelming.

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High-quality speckles.

Texture-wise, they’re pretty much a standard tortilla chip, with perhaps a little more of a rice-y crispness. You actually can taste the rice a little, which obvs goes pretty well with the whole curry experience.

We polished these off pretty quickly (the packet claims to serve six which – lol), and rather enjoyed them, but they are definitely crisps to serve to guests you’d like to impress a little. Guests who you’re hoping think you are actual adults and not people who sit around discussing the finer points of crisps on a regular basis. Lottie declares them tasty but “not like super-salty junk chips, which is what I’m after to be honest”.

So the final verdict: very nice, but these are pretending-to-be-sophisticated crisps, not pushing-them-in-your-face-in-your-pyjamas crisps. We’re totally trying the other two flavours though.

7/10