M&M’s, Nips, and More in Our Candy-Coated Chocolate-Drop CombatFebruary 13, 2018
Form meets function with candy-coated chocolate confections. Not only are they colorful treats that merge chocolate’s richness with their sugar shells’ crackly appeal; their protective exteriors also let you handle them without the chocolate melting, leaving your hands clean. Coating small foods in sugary shells (“panning”)’s been a long-standing European tradition (usually for nuts, spices, or seeds) which confectioners started applying to drops of chocolate in later centuries to make it easier for the well-heeled ladies of the time to enjoy chocolate without staining their fancy white gloves. By the late 1800’s, UK candy company Rowntree’s released their own take (then deemed “chocolate beans”) which would eventually be known as Smarties. Onward to the 1930’s, Forrest Mars Sr. of American candy company Mars observed how popular Smarties had become with British Soldiers given their mess-free nature, thus inspiring him to bring the idea back home to the States and leading to the creation of M&M’s. It became a global hit. With even more similar brands sprouting over the years, how do they compare?
Note: For consistency, we went with the flagship or default variants of each brand (often of the milk chocolate sort). Though Smarties used to be available in local supermarkets in previous years, we were unable to find them across all grocery stores in the entire timespan of our battle.
M&M’s (Milk Chocolate)
Chocolate: Sweet, candy-like, American-style milk chocolate (think Hershey’s)—with its slight caramel notes—fills each candy shell here. Though nothing fancy, it’s real chocolate in not having other fillers sub for cocoa butter.
Chomped: The shell itself is thin and easy to break into, while the chocolate has a firmness akin to that of chocolate chips used for baking. Together, you get a balanced crunch (the best among the brands listed) that satisfies without being too dense or hard.
Melted: The shell dissolves easily, briefly contributing some sweetness before making way to the chocolate. The chocolate takes some time to melt, being of a firmer consistency, and reveals a rough, slightly gritty mouthfeel as it does so.
Meiji Marble (Chocolate)
Chocolate: The chocolate on each “marble” is a compound chocolate with a mix of palm oil and cacao butter. It bears a peculiar taste closer to watered-down instant coffee than to chocolate, before ending with a perfume-y, berry-like finish that evokes the strawberry portion of Meiji Apollo candies.
Chomped: This Japan-hailing brand’s shell feels sturdier and crunchier than M&M’s, while the chocolate is slightly firm as well. Overall, they make for dragees that are a touch harder and crunchier than M&M’s.
Melted: The shell here dissolves easily as well. The chocolate, on the other hand, reveals a slight waxiness as it melts.
Ricoa Big top
Chocolate: Ricoa’s chocolate feels darker than all other brands. There’s less milkiness, which better allows the cocoa to better propel itself forward. It can feel a tad one-note (think Baker’s brand semi-sweet chocolate) but there are no weird or oily flavors; this is real chocolate made with cacao butter and no cheap substitutes.
Chomped: Not only is the shell firmer and crunchier; so is the chocolate (it’s even firmer than M&M’s). Together they make for one crunchy, rigid bite that can get tiresome to chomp on, but is immensely satisfying in moderate amounts.
Melted: The shell takes longer to dissolve than the two previous brands, as does the chocolate. It rubs against the tongue with the roughness of cocoa while melting.
Nips (Milk Chocolate)
Chocolate: Objectively, Nips’ (compound) milk “chocolate” is the farthest from real chocolate among the brands on the list. It’s made with no cacao butter at all (in its place you’ll find hydrogenated fat) and tastes more of coconut and oil than of cocoa. Much of Nips’ distinctive flavor also comes from carob, a so-called “chocolate substitute” popular among health-food circles which surprisingly makes its way into the ingredient list (as carob powder). Though the carob powder comes after cocoa powder on the ingredient list (meaning there should be more cocoa by volume), its telltale somewhat-earthy taste is more discernible in the final product.
Chomped: Nips’ shell is an especially delicate one, and it shatters at the lightest of bites. The chocolate, meanwhile, takes on a soft, semi-melty consistency at room temperature, making it effortless to chomp into. Together, you get dragees that are more soft and easily-smashable compared to all the others.
Melted: The shell dissolves way too easily here, while the chocolate melts with a strong, waxy feel on the tongue with a touch of powderiness (likely from the milk powder).
Goya Bits (Milk Chocolate)
Chocolate: Compound chocolate—seemingly the chocolate company’s standard milk chocolate, made with vegetable fat and little cacao butter (which only comes up toward the middle of the ingredients list)—fills each Goya “bit”. It’s barely cocoa-y, but heavily milky.
Chomped: When chomped, the sensation is very similar to M&M’s. The shell is delicate but retains a good amount of crispness. The chocolate is a touch softer than M&M’s, but still firmer than that of Nips.
Melted: Goya’s shell dissolves much like M&M’s too. The chocolate melts to a waxy mouthfeel, but it’s still a marked improvement from Nips’.
The Verdict: M&M’s and Ricoa
It’s a tie between M&M’s and Ricoa for us. Some insist that such a candy characterized by its nostalgic, uncomplicated nature demands a sweet, decidedly candy-like milk chocolate, and thus prefer prefer M&M’s. Ricoa, on the other hand, struck the dark chocolate lovers among us with their (relatively) grown-up take on the said candy. Whichever team you’re rooting for, the fact that both these brands use real chocolate puts them at a definite advantage. Melt ’em, crunch ’em, use ’em as make-up (we’re kidding about the last one)—you’ll always be sure that chocolate goodness goes not to your hands, but all to your mouth.