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It's a Marshmallow (and Sour Patch Kids and KitKat and Reese's) World in the Winter
On 2021's new Christmas candy and The Tuts's "Christmas Is in the Air"
2021’s Christmas Candy
See all that candy in that photo above? I ate it. ALL OF IT. For you! So I could help you decide which new holiday candy to stuff in your stocking and which ones to toss in the trash.
The last time I did a candy round-up like this was for Halloween, the holiday when candy companies try to get as freaky and experimental as they can without losing money. They make candy that oozes, bleeds, and tastes like literal garbage. They make candy that hurts you with how sour it is.
If Halloween candy entices with the threat of curious discomfort, Christmas candy wants to pour you a cup of hot chocolate, wrap you in a Pendleton blanket, and tell you everything is going to be OK. Here you won’t find anything too outlandish or extreme — many of these new (and new-ish) holiday candies play it safe with flavors that have stood the test of time. Gingerbread, peanut brittle, chocolate, and sugar cookie. Maybe it’s their way of saying “Sorry!” for making you try all their extremely sour, rotten, turkey-flavored bullshit in October?
Reese’s Peanut Brittle Peanut Butter Cups
Reese’s has been throwing a lot of stuff at the wall lately. In 2021 alone they’ve introduced Big Cups stuffed with pretzels and potato chips, a new candy bar called Crunchy Peanut (which is a dense peanut butter lover’s dream despite the absurdly utilitarian name), and even a line of refrigerated dessert cups.
Of all their latest innovations, these Peanut Brittle Peanut Butter Cups — “peanut brittle flavored creme” filled with crunchy peanut butter — are my favorite. They don’t crunch the same way peanut brittle does — and I do love peanut brittle’s crunch — but the caramelized sugar flavor is definitely there. I would very much like a chocolate cookie or brownie with some of these chopped up and mixed in before baking. Please and thank you.
My advice? Get the bag of miniatures. The Big Cup had a little too much (and too dry) peanut butter filling but the mini’s PB-to-creme ratio is perfect.
KitKat Gingerbread Cookie Miniatures
Gingerbread is great but gingerbread’s flavor balance is very easy to fuck up — some sweets lean too heavily on the spices, others don’t lean in far enough. KitKat has nailed it with these new minis. At first bite, there is a vague maple taste, but I think that’s just the molasses notes hitting before the spices so when you try one — please do try one! — let the coating melt on your tongue for just a second. It tastes like a bite of soft gingerbread cookie mixed with creamy icing and it’s delightful.
White Chocolate Pretzels Snowball M&Ms & White Chocolate Sugar Cookie M&Ms
Are M&Ms OK? Every bag I’ve bought lately has been riddled with cracked and broken candies and there are often a handful or more of mutants in each batch — two or more candies lumped together, irregular chocolate coating, bumpy and uneven candy shell. I’m not mad, I just wonder if something happened to M&Ms recently. Do they need a break? Are they collapsing under the pressure of Pandemic Christmas 2.0?
Me, too, M&Ms! Take a nap if you need it! We’ll still be here!
That said, the Pretzels Snowballs M&Ms are a crunchy, salty treat — white chocolate without even a grain of salt is one of my worst nightmares — but the Sugar Cookie M&Ms are so potent they would best be used as an ingredient in puppy chow or caramel corn or something. (Or left on the shelf if we’re being honest. I didn’t love them. Seriously, are you OK, M&Ms?)
Welch’s Fruit ‘n Yogurt Snowballs
I bought these as a joke. I thought I was going to rip on idiots who’d put bags of fruit snacks in stockings. I WAS SO WRONG. These weird-looking orbs that in no way resemble a snowball are somehow in my Top 3 of all these candies I tried? They have a very gratifying texture — chewy but not too gummy and not too sticky — and the bright (and real, by the way) strawberry flavor is a welcome palate cleanser after woofing down so many unchecked artificial flavors.
So sorry I doubted you, Welch’s. Please also make these in grape next year. Purple can be a holiday color.
Hershey's Kisses Sugar Cookie & Hershey’s Kisses Hot Cocoa
I don’t love Hershey Kisses? Is that OK to say? It’s low-quality milk chocolate and, in my opinion, Hershey’s has never been very good at creating new flavors.
Both the Sugar Cookie and Hot Cocoa Kisses, which have been out since 2020 and 2018, respectively, are fine. Neither is especially impressive. My first Sugar Cookie Kiss was good enough to convince me to eat another, but after the third, my mouth felt like I took a bite out of a vanilla-scented Lip Smacker. Blech.
Terry’s Chocolate Orange with Popping Candy
As I have said before, I love pretty much any candy that has to be destroyed before eating.
This updated version of Terry’s wack-a-chocolate is dotted with loads of popping candy and I love everything about it.
Fruit Chews Mini Bites
I already wrote my love letter to Fruit Chews Mini Bites here so I’ll spare you the gushing. They’re currently my favorite candy and everyone I share them with falls in love with them, too. The Christmas version of Fruit Chews Minis is just a festive box of cherry and lime candies because red and green and all that. Are the original bags — with orange, lemon, and blue raspberry in the mix — better? Sure. But I still bought six boxes of these despite only having two stockings to fill.
Sour Patch Kids Coal
What weird little black lumps. I mean, it’s candy coal, and coal is basically just a weird little black lump, so well done I guess? These Sour Patch Kids that are not kids at all would be perfect for a cobblestone walkway on your gingerbread house but they taste too good to just, like, waste on a house you’re not gonna eat so proceed with caution. Your cobblestone walkway might have to be a temporary feature.
“Christmas Is in the Air” by The Tuts
This time of year can be… complicated. That’s why I love this song from U.K.’s D.I.Y.-inclined pop-punk band The Tuts. “Christmas Is in the Air” recognizes there are both good and bad aspects of the season. Sure everything is all pretty and shiny when it’s decked out in glittery, bright lights, but there’s so much pressure to get it right, whatever right means.
So if you’re starting to feel the stress of the season, this is the song for you. I have listened to it dozens of times over the past few weeks and it’s very cathartic to turn it up loud and sing out, “All I want for Christmas is a good time!”
Same, The Tuts, same.
Well, to be completely honest I want a good time and good candy so pass me another one of those Peanut Brittle Peanut Butter Cups, will you?
If you like what you hear here, definitely check out the band’s 2016 full-length Update Your Brain, too.
Need more holiday music? Check out December’s Snack and Destroy playlist here!
The winner of December’s Snack Pack is…
Being a part of the Snack and Destroy community doesn’t just mean you get to read about delicious snacks — you get to eat them, too! Every month I pick one paid subscriber at random and send them their very own Snack and Destroy Snack Pack, an assortment of the goodies I am writing about and/or loving that month.
December’s winner is… Heidi G.!
Congrats, Heidi! You’ve won a big ol’ box of all the candies reviewed above as well as a few more holiday sweets! Check your email — I’ve sent you info on how to claim your prize.
Every Snack and Destroy paid subscriber is automatically entered in each month’s drawing — it’s just $6/month or $60/year to subscribe. You also get access to the entire Snack and Destroy archive as well as additional posts, including recipes, interviews, and more.