As the presidential primaries roll on, there's a new election you should all be aware of. In honor of M&M's 75th anniversary, Mars candy is launching a high-stakes "friendly competition" between three new nut flavors. The contestants in this American Idol of candy-coated chocolate are Chili Nut, Honey Nut and Coffee Nut, all variations on classic Peanut M&M's.
It's a genius plan on the company's part, because you have to buy all three packs in order to make a fair judgment. Another element of the birthday celebration is the more retro packaging, which has already helped boost sales. I know, this, because just last week, I impulse-bought a pack based on looks alone.
The three new flavors are available in stores and will be through the end of June. Then in August, the winner will be announced (as will a winner of $100,000 randomly selected from the voting pool), and the victorious flavor will hit the shelf. In true 2016 form, you can even vote by text. And those with strong feelings on the matter will be happy to know they can vote once a day. I wrangled my coworkers into trying the three flavors with me, and here's what we thought.
There's a fleeting window of four blissful seconds during which this is just a tasty bite of chocolate, like so many Peanut M&M's that have come before it. Then, despite being the penultimate listed ingredient, the chile hits you like a Miley-topped wrecking ball. Granted, I'm an infant when it comes to spice tolerance, but I felt like I had to scratch my esophagus to make the tingling feeling go away. That sounds highly unpleasant, but, truthfully, once I knew what was coming, I actually enjoyed it. "Mole M&M's" would have been an equally apt name.
I love the cereal of the same flavor and used to painstakingly chop a pack of fun-size M&Ms into small bits for my bowl each morning, so, technically, yes, I invented this flavor. I consider that my first real knife-work training. They're sweetened with just the right amount of honey, straightforward in taste, and you know they wouldn't lie about campaign objectives. There's a reason why honey-roasted peanuts are a thing, and there's no reason why they shouldn't be enrobed in milk chocolate. This was also the only one that made sense name-wise: A coffee nut is something entirely different, and a chili nut sounds like someone who's wild about spicy stew.
Any hopes of doing this blind or unbiased were squandered by the explosive coffee scent the second I split open the bag. Originally, I thought it would make more sense if there was a hazelnut inside, but the peanut worked surprisingly well. At first, they taste like chocolate-covered espresso beans, which is confusing, because a peanut and an espresso bean are not even marginally related. A coworker thought these tasted like popcorn. There was indeed a buttery aftertaste, which reminded me of the one time I tried Bulletproof Coffee—and the two subsequent days of extreme alertness.
When big brands pull an Extreme Home Makeover on tried-and-true products (again, 75 years in the books so far here), it can be risky or even unnecessary, especially when the original is such a classic. All three of the newbies, however to various extents, seem to be hits and not misses.
Going the direct democracy route, Honey Nut wins the popular vote by nature of offending the least amount of people. Because that's how politics work.
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