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Product Review – Goo Goo Cluster Peanut Butter flavor – “The original southern confection with real milk chocolate”

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I bought this product at the same time as this one which I reviewed recently. It was something I hadn’t seen before, and I figured that I couldn’t go wrong with a cluster of peanut butter and chocolate

The Standard Candy Company has been around for over 100 years, and the GooGoo cluster was invented in 1912, in Nashville.  Although the peanut butter variant wasn’t created until 1991, this line of candy can be seen as a true southern classic because it was the world’s first ever combination candy bar.

Flavor

This candy has three parts: a layer of thick peanut butter, whole peanuts placed here and there above the layer, and a sweet, nutty icing surrounding the two and creamily filling in the spaces between. As you might expect, the combination of chocolate and peanut butter is very similar to Reese’s Peanut Butter cups, though the texture of the crunchy peanuts and icing make the overall taste experience very different. The bumpy, irregular shape gives a little surprise to each bite as you try to guess how many peanuts you’ll gobble up.

I thoroughly enjoyed this delicious treat, but things ended a bit too quick for my liking because the size is small for the amount of calories (230) and sugar packed within (to be fair, I was biased because I had read the calorie count before taking my first bite). I had to stop myself from eating a second, and then a third. The package is also a bit oversized for the volume of the three clusters inside (individually wrapped), but what company doesn’t do this? It’s better than some chip products where, after settling, half of the bag is empty air.

This product also isn’t very filling, at least considering the amount of calories. That’s probably because the amount of whole peanuts is relatively small and there is a large ratio of sugar to other ingredients. Compare to Clif Crunch Peanut Butter bar, which contains only 190 calories and feels two to three times as filling. A product like that, designed more to nourish than as a sweet treat, also takes longer to eat.

Nutrition/Ingredients

The more I discuss calorie and sugar content, the more I feel it is becoming less relevant, especially for those who eat candy once in a while. I may omit the discussion of nutrition metrics completely in the future and focus just on ingredients, but for the short term I’ll continue to at least report the basic figures.

A single serving (43 grams) contains 230 calories and 17 grams of sugars. These values are pretty standard for this type of candy, though the calories from fat is somewhat high (140). Protein per serving is 6 grams. There isn’t much else unique about the nutritional profile.

The ingredients are all pretty typical, and reasonably healthy with no artificial flavorings or colorings. The unique thing about this is it actually contains eight ingredients derived from nuts (or the nuts themselves), including peanuts, almonds, pecans, walnuts, cashews, and hazelnuts. Most of these are used in relatively small proportions (except peanuts which are listed as the most prominent ingredient), but with all the potential health benefits of nuts this gives me a good feeling.

I’m starting to tolerate natural flavor more as it’s been in so many products I’ve reviewed lately, but I still wish it would be one of the last ingredients or eliminated completely. Here it is used in a higher proportion than many of the other nuts or nut-based ingredients.

Sugar is the second most prominent ingredient, but for a candy (especially a classic one) this is to be expected.

Full ingredient list: Peanut Butter (Dry Roasted Peanuts, Dextrose, Hydrogenated Cottonseed, Rapeseed Oil and Salt), Sugar, Peanuts, Dextrose, Cocoa butter, Fractionless Palm Kernel Oil, Chocolate Liquor, Whole Milk Powder,  Soy Lechitin, Cocoa (processed with Alkali), Whey Powder, Nonfat Dry Milk, Salt, Cornstarch, Natural Flavor,  Peanut Flour, Soy Protein Isolate, Wheat Starch, Almond Flour, Pecans, Walnuts, Cashews, Hazelnuts.

Price/Availability

I got this 3-pack carton at the Nashville airport for $6.99, but you can get this online directly at the company’s website for $4.25. They also sell this product in 12- and 72-pack cartons, for a significant savings on unit price.

Using their online store locator, a quick search shows that there only a handful of places in South Florida which carry this, mostly Cracker Barrel Old Country Stores. I take this limited availability as a good thing – it gives the product a feeling of being special and fits with its image of being a southern classic candy.

Ratings:   Flavor: 8.5    Nutrition/Ingredients: 8.0   Price: 8.0    Overall: 8.2

Summary

Apart from its small size (which pained me all the more because of the great taste), I have little to complain about this product with it’s unique texture and generally healthy ingredients. Highly recommended for fans of peanut butter and chocolate, this item also has historical significance tied to Nashville, Tennessee.

References

http://www.googoo.com/

https://www.googoo.com/online-store/candy/peanut-butter-3-pack-carton/

https://sweetsreporter.com/2013/11/01/product-review-clif-crunch-peanut-butter-granola-bar/

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Product Review: Justin’s Maple Almond Butter Spread

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Introduction

I’m a heavy consumer of Justin’s Chocolate Hazelnut Butter (which I reviewed here), but regardless of how healthy and tasty it is I need a break from it from time to time. I decided to try another product in this series, an Almond Butter sweetened with natural maple sugar.

Flavor

I hope you’ll pardon the cheesy turn of phrase, but I’m nuts about nuts. Essentially seeds from a plant which grow in a hard shell, these amazing creations of nature are one of the few things that have a rich, savory flavor in their unprocessed natural form.

Start with a paste made from dry roasted almonds and add maple sugar for an extra touch of sweetness, palm fruit oil for increased spreadability, and round off the taste with a pinch of salt, and you get a spread made in heaven.

I’m not going to attempt to explain the intricate flavors contained with almonds, but this product will surely appeal to anyone who likes peanut butter or eating raw almonds.

There is a surprising sweetness for the actual amount of sugar present. This is because maple syrup primarily consists of sucrose, whose sweetness lies between fructose and gluctose, and as a result is approximately twice as sweet as table sugar.

My only minor complaint is the ratio of oil is a bit high. When I spread a blob of this on my bread with a knife, sometimes it overflows onto my plate and this messiness isn’t desirable.

Nutrition/Ingredients

A single serving (two tablespoons) of this thick spread contains 200 calories and 17 grams of fat. As I mentioned in my hazelnut butter review, the problem with spreads is that its hard to meter how much you eat. If you’re not careful you can wolf down 1000 calories or more in a span of minutes. For those concerned about their weight it’s best to eat this in very small doses, but everyone else shouldn’t feel any guilt when eating this. With minimally processed natural ingredients, if you going to go overboard with calories and fat this is probably the safest way to do it.

There is a minimal 3 grams of sugars per serving, less than half found in Justin’s chocolate spreads. Interestingly, the “classic” version of this paste, containing no added sugar, contains nearly the same amount of sugars at 2 grams. If you find the maple overtones bother you, feel free to try the classic version. I’ve had it and its even stronger almond taste is superb.

There is 6 grams per serving which is a good amount, especially considering that you are likely to consume multiple servings in a single sitting. This is natural protein from the nuts themselves, not something added artificially.

Both almonds and maple sugar are packet with nutrients. Almonds contain Vitamin E, manganese, copper, Vitamin B2, among others, and are considered to be very heart-healthy. Maple sugar contains a large amount of manganese, zinc, and also contains substances called polyphenols that may help control blood sugar levels. It’s estimated glycemic load is less than that of table sugar and only slightly more than honey, though diabetics still need to be careful when eating it.

Palm fruit oil, a less popular form of oil, has its own set of potential health benefits including cancer prevention, immune system strengthening, and reducing heart disease.

Full ingredients list: Dry Roasted Almonds, Maple Sugar, Organic Palm Fruit Oil, Sea Salt.

Price/Availability

Like most of Justin’s products, this sells for around $10.00 per a 454 gram jar. When compared to everyday peanut butter this is quite expensive, but its competitive to other almond butters.  After all, this product is mostly made of almonds, which have a unit price roughly double that of peanuts. Justin’s peanut butter goes for a roughly proportional price ($6.00).

I usually buy this at Whole Foods but its also started appearing at Target and other stores recently. Its also available from the producer directly via their website, and packs of 6 are sold for a slight discount. Justin’s nut butters are also sold in single serving packs.

Ratings:   Flavor: 8.5   Nutrition/Ingredients:9    Price:7.0    Overall: 8.2

Summary

With a rich taste and packed with nutrients, I’m apt to call this the perfect snack food – if it weren’t for the high calorie and fat content. I consider this, along with the other products in Justin’s lineup,  to be the best available spreads judging from taste and nutrition content.

References

http://www.justins.com/products.php

http://www.thenutbox.com/Nuts-s/1.htm

http://greenlitebites.com/2010/11/11/sweetener-comparisons-honey-agave-molasses-sugar-maple-syrup/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nut_(fruit)

http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=20

http://www.sugar-and-sweetener-guide.com/glycemic-index-for-sweeteners.html

http://diabeteshealth.com/read/2011/05/24/7158/maple-syrup-a-sweet-surprise/

http://www.doctoroz.com/videos/why-you-should-give-red-palm-oil-try

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Somersaults Dutch Cocoa (crunchy nuggets baked with sunflower seeds & toasted grains)

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Introduction

This time we’ll focus on a healthy snack food which I recently discovered. Unlike many of the others I’ve reported on so far, it stands pretty well nutritionally on its own. Being in cookie form makes it easy nibble in the middle of work, in bed, or anytime the munchies strike.

Another thing I like about this product is the manufacturer is focused exclusively on making sunflower seed based snacks, and only has five products to date.

Flavor

As soon as I pulled one of these cookies from the pack with my thumb and pointer finger, I was surprised by it’s tiny size and odd appearance – the manufacturer clearly favors substance over style. Popping it into my mouth, it’s firmness was another surprise, not quite tough enough to achieve ‘rock’ status, but definitely harder than I expected. However after a few bite-sized chunks, I quickly got used to the crunchy texture and began enjoying the process of breaking each cookie into smaller and smaller fragments in my mouth. This is another product where the texture takes importance over the flavor.

The flavor itself is quite mild, a mixture of chocolate and nuttiness well blended together, accompanied by a light sweetness. I wouldn’t say there is much of a sunflower seed taste, though as far as I remember sunflower seeds are more about the texture of the seed and saltiness than any particular taste that stands out.

Ingredients / Nutrition

One serving of 14 pieces (30 g, or roughly 1/6th of a 6 ounce pack) contains 140 calories which is reasonable given how filling these little nuggets are. Sugar is also on the low side, with only 4 grams per serving. This is around half that in Justin’s Chocolate Hazelnut butter, which is already low in sugar. Sodium is also low at 140 mg (6% DV), and there is a good amount of fiber – 3 grams which translates to 12% of daily recommended value. There is a modest amount of protein as well, with 6 grams per serving.

Sunflower seeds contain a wide variety of nutrients including amino acids, Vitamin E (10% DV), and cholesterol lowering phytosterols. They also are top rank in the nuts & seeds category, based on Whole Food’s ANDI score, which measures nutrient density (“Aggregate Nutrient Density Index”). In case you’re curious, sesame seeds are #2 which coincidentally are also present in these cookies.

There are 13 ingredients, with the top five as follows: sunflower seeds, wheat flour, sugar, organic evaporated cane juice, and cocoa powder. A key point here is that sunflower seeds are #1 on the list – these are not something thrown in just to add a appearance of healthiness, they are the most prevalent ingredient. Cocoa as the fifth ingredient is also a nice bonus.

My only major gripe is the presence of “natural flavors” in the ingredient list (as #11, but still). As mentioned in other reports, I am uncomfortable with this since I don’t know exactly what I am eating, only that it’s “natural”. It could be made from tree bark for all I know. I’ve sent a request to Somersaults Snack Company for more information about what “natural flavors” contains, will update this post when I receive a response. This ingredient does contain the text “(milk)” next to it, but It’s not clear if that means only milk is included or if milk is just one of the things used.

Update: I received a response from Somersaults regarding their natural flavors. I’ll excerpt part of their response, unedited:

The natural flavors in our Dutch Cocoa are: butter and brownie. So while there isn’t explicit butter or brownie ingredients inside the product, natural derivatives used to make these products can be found in Somersaults. 

Price and Availability

These are available directly from the producer’s website in .5 oz , 2 oz, or 6 oz bags. The current prices for these are very reasonable at $0.71, $1.70, and $3.59, respectively. You can also buy in bulk for a discount. Supporting direct sale in a variety of sizes like this is pretty impressive, and the first time I’ve seen this for a product. There is even an option on the site to sign up for recurring delivery and save an extra 10%!

I purchased my 6 ounce bag from Whole Foods Market for around the same price as above.

Ratings

Flavor: 7.0

Ingredients/Nutrition: 8.5

Price: 8.0

Overall: 7.8

Summary

Dutch Cocoa Somersaults are a sunflower seed-based snack with a mild flavor and can fill you up pretty easily with their natural ingredients. Great for anytime you hunger for some nutrition but don’t have time for a proper meal.

References

http://www.somersaultsnackco.com/?event=enjoy.cocoa

http://shop.somersaultsnackco.com/Dutch-Cocoa/p/SOM-DCOCOA

http://www.somersaultsnackco.com/?event=enjoy.powerofseeds

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sunflower_seed#Nutritional_value

http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/healthy-eating/health-starts-here/resources-and-tools/top-ten-andi-scores#nuts-and-seeds