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Inhalable Chocolate And 9 Other Weird Foods We Ate At Sweets And Snacks Expo 2012

By Anthony Todd in Food on May 9, 2012 3:00PM

It's become a yearly tradition for me to visit the Sweets and Snacks Expo, the enormous candy industry trade show at McCormick Place. Every year I'm overwhelmed by the neon, sugary, Wonka's Chocolate Factory-style glow of the place, and every year I leave with the same thought: "They think we want to eat this stuff?"

They don't allow cameras in the Expo anymore, so any product that I couldn't take away with me, you don't get to see. That means you don't get to see "The Original Butt Tape," a bubble gum dispensed out of the back of a plastic farm animal, or the icky new snack food named "Hi, I'm Skinny Sticks." Sadly, you also don't get to see the tasty new white chocolate candy corn M&Ms being released this Halloween. I ate two cups of those. I also sampled the new Vosges "Wild Ophelia" brand, and it was decadently tasty.

This year, to mix it up, I decided to do some taste testing after the Expo. Rather than just mocking good and bad products, this year we actually had to taste them. And by we, I mean myself and my intrepid roommate, who gets all the candy leftovers each year. It was time for her to pay some dues. Not all of these products are necessarily brand new, but they were all new to us. The photos in the gallery are numbered in the captions so you can follow along.

1) Zips Dill Pickle-Flavored Caffeinated Sunflower Seeds

The energy-candy crazy from last year has subsided a little, but this product just goes too far. Caffeinated seeds? Just take caffeine pills mixed with salt!

Anthony: "I've never eaten a sunflower seed in the shell. What do you do?"
Roommate: "Are you even from this country?"

To their credit, the seeds did (sort of) taste like dill pickles. But that still doesn't mean we need caffeinated seeds in our lives.

2) Aeroshot Inhalable Chocolate

At first, I was kind of excited by this product - it's sounded like a nifty gimmick. It's a plastic tube filled with zero-calorie inhalable chocolate dust, or "aerodynamic powder," as it says on the package. Unfortunately, it didn't work so well in practice.

A: "It looks like something from a spy movie."
R: "Like you're going to jam it into my neck and I'll just pass out on the floor."
A: "I feel like a drug addict in a science fiction movie sucking on a plastic tube to get my chocolate fix."

It turns out that inhaling chocolate dust can be really, really hard on the lungs - lots of hacking coughs ensued. Once we got the sucking right, we realized that we were just inhaling cocoa powder, which was unsatisfying; it's like we smelled chocolate inside our heads, but still hadn't eaten any. Even worse, the same company makes a green apple energy shot version that made me feel like I'd infused a bad appletini straight into my brain stem.

3) Trail's Best Bacon Jerky

I was a bit suspicious of this product, since bacon is such a trendy ingredient. Plus, bacon is already a cured meat, so further drying it into jerky seemed a bit strange. But we tasted it anyway.

A: "It just tastes like dry, chewy bacon. But, I guess that IS bacon jerky, isn't it?"
R: "Cooked bacon isn't really that many stages away from jerky. It's kind of like a dog treat."

This one isn't terrible, just unremarkable. Get your bacon fix somewhere else.

4) Skittles Riddles

This is the latest attempt to re-market an existing candy to make us buy more of it. In Skittles Riddles, the colors don't match the flavors - everything is randomized. Sounds like fun, right? Actually, it kind of made our heads hurt.

A: "I feel like you could achieve the same effect by eating regular Skittles with your eyes closed. [Takes a bite of a blue one, that turned out to be green apple] I feel like my head is exploding. This is so wrong!"
R: "You look like your head is going to implode. [Takes a bite]"
A: "What flavor is that?"
R: "Window Cleaner. Which I guess is lemon. Let's try this one. Oooh, punch!"
A: "Punch isn't a fruit!"

Here's the thing. Without the color associations, they all taste like... Skittles. Not all of the flavors are unique enough to shine through without more to go on than their sugary blandness. I give this one a fail for adults, but it'll entertain kids for a good ten minutes.

5) Nutella & Go

This is amazing. Finally, we have a dignified excuse to eat Nutella, and we don't even have to use a spoon. This treat packages small sweet cookies and Nutella together in adjoining compartments. It's kind of like eating butter on a stick, but that didn't stop us from wolfing it down so fast that we had nothing meaningful to say about it.

6) Juicy Drop Taffy

This candy falls in the "pointless gimmick" category. The idea is that you take individually wrapped pieces of blue taffy, and write on them with a plastic pen that dispenses blue gel. Why? We're not sure.

A: "It looks like a piece of Crayola modeling clay. And now i'm going to write on it with something that looks like a bleach pen. I don't want to train our kids to do this!"
R: "Your mouth is really really blue. It bothers me that you're eating this."
A: [Writes on the taffy] "Why did I do this? Now it looks and tastes the same, but it's slippery on top."
R: "It looks like you just ate a Smurf. Or maybe just sucked on one for a while."

This candy is a total waste of time, despite our weakness for artificial blue-raspberry flavoring.

7-8) Peeps Crispy Rice Marshmallow Treat

Peeps has apparently decided to try to produce a product that is for eating, rather than just for use in art projects. Unfortunately, they failed.

R: "Wow, that is unattractive."
A: "It looks like your cat had something really strange to eat and threw it up. I know it's supposed to look like a chick, but only if the chick had been caught in a combine."
R: "It tastes like marshmallows...Ew. Those little sugar crunchy things are revolting. They're going to be caught in my teeth for the next nine hours. They are inhibiting my rice crispy treat experience."

Unless you can figure out how to make a sculpture out of these, we'd suggest avoiding them. Just buy a rice krispie treat.

After that, my roommate uttered this immortal phrase: "After today, I'm giving up junk food forever." We had to stop tasting.

9) 7 Days Soft Cream-Filled Croissant

It's like a Twinkie for yuppies! It's not that the idea of a cream-filled packaged pasty is inherently all that disgusting, it's the fact that this one package contains 60% of your daily allowance of saturated fat. Plus, I don't get the "7 days" name - is that how long it stays fresh outside of the package?

10) Hannah's Pickled Egg

I am sure that pickled eggs can be a genuine home-made taste treat. But the idea of an individually-wrapped, shelf-stable egg disgusted my roommate so much that she made me throw it away. Also, it has a strange sexy pig mascot that I just can't get behind. On the plus side, it bounces like a super ball, so at least it's good for something.

11) Eat Whatever

This breath-freshening system is used by Angelina Jolie! Or so the salespeople claimed. This is the most elaborate device ever to get fresher breath. First, you pop a green pill out of one package and swallow it. Then, you pop a mint out of the other package and suck on that. Eventually, when the pill dissolves an hour later and coats your stomach with parsley oil, you have fresh breath. Don't get the two mixed up, and don't take this while pregnant. We're going to stick with chewing gum and brushing our teeth.

There are more, both good and bad. We were big fans of this year's new Jelly Belly flavor series (Snapple!) as well as their new mix-your-own beans vending machine, produced by a Chicago company. The stupid marketing synergy award goes to the maker of Angry Birds Fruit Chews, which don't taste bad but are silly nonetheless.

Two products tied for the "You should have sent this name to a focus group first" award. First, a gourmet truffle called Nutffles - just say it out loud. Second, the new product from Wonka. It sports the confusing (but inoffensive) name "Kazoozles," but the licorice hybrid has an unfortunate subtitle: "It's Delickoricious." Yeah.

For my previous Candy Expo exploits, check out our 2011, 2010 and 2009 visits.