Candy Bar Smackdown
Forget cars, and put Detroit out of your mind: “The Big Three” are Hershey, Mars and Nestlé.
To give the other guys a chance for glory, we’ve pitted the righteous Rocky Road, a product of the Annabelle Candy Company since 1950, against the venerable Valomilk candy cups, made by the century-old, family-owned Sifers Candy Company.
This exercise matters because these are products of a time before the interstate freeway system made candy—and everything else—easily transported around the country. Regional production meant each town had its own bakery, brewery… and candy company.
The good news: sweets are a recession-proof industry. Even in hard times, customers can usually scrape together a few coins for a candy bar.
Both of our contestant candy bars are made from chocolate and marshmallow. Both are long-time regional favorites with loyal followings. Neither is produced by a publicly-owned conglomerate.
Let the games begin!
Round 1 – Package Prettiness
You can’t help but judge a candy bar by its cover.
Summary: The easy-to-spot metallic red makes Rocky Road simple to make a grab for. But because the point is to recreate the experience of walking to the town candy shop and eating sweets off dishes with paper lace doilies, we’ll have to go with the olde shoppe look.
Round 2 – Packaging Function and Ease
If the candy is smashed, will it taste as good?
Summary: Rocky Road has nothing more than that red foil wrapper, but was relatively unscathed. Despite a little slip of cardboard, many of our Valomilk test samples were leaking marshmallow goo. And the Valomilk is tricky to open. [Editor's note: Packages of Valomilk at the store were intact; only those that arrived at the NewsPlink laboratory via a third party were damaged.]
Winner: Rocky Road
Round 3 – Sex Appeal
Does it look good enough to eat?
Summary: In perfect condition, both candies look mighty fine. Especially with the choco scent wafting towards the nostrils.
Round 4 – Mouth experience
Taste and texture both count, especially if you’re not keen on candy that sticks to your teeth.
Summary: Both have that moment of fabulousness that comes when the chocolate shell snaps apart under gentle pressure from your teeth. Valomilk’s marshmallow insides run over the tongue immediately. By contrast, the heft of the Rocky Road’s fluff allow the teeth the joy of punching through the pillowy filling.
While this is a highly personal and intimate decision, we feel that the semi-liquid marshmallow “milk” in the Valomilk creates the sense of just a bit too much sweetness. The air-filled Rocky Road doesn’t scorch the tongue with sugariness.
Winner: Rocky Road
Round 5 – Extra credits
To Rocky Road, for saving other little-known candy bars from extinction, like the Big Hunk, Look!, and Abba-Zaba.
To Valomilk, for the charm of its owner, Russell Sifers, 61, who sits behind the desk and answers the phone himself. “They tell me I make the pitchman for Motel 6 sound frantic,” he chuckles. “And being portly—I corrected my teenaged granddaughter, who called me ‘fat’—is one of the occupational hazards of the business. What can you do? But if the president of a candy company is skinny, you figure there’s probably something wrong.” He limits himself to no more than one Valomilk cup a day, and to two on Friday.
To Rocky Road, for removing the preservatives from one of their candy bars, and admitting that Rocky Road does have some hydrogenated fats.
To Valomilk, for using the same basic ingredients. We start to worry when the semi-liquid marshmallow hardens slightly on the plate, but hey, we’re talking real egg whites here.
To Rocky Road, for being run by the third generation of the founding family, with a potential for a fourth. And for gallantly calling Valomilk a “friendly competitor.”
To Valomilk, for being in the fifth generation of family. And calling Susan Karl of Annabelle “a good friend.”
Buy ‘em both when, and if, you see them. We’ll try for a more dramatic smackdown next time.
Photography by Andrew McDonald, except for Sifers Company photos, which are provided by the Russell Sifers Candy Company.