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Candy Review: Necco Mighty Malts

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Mighty Malts

When you think about it, the malted milk ball is an unlikely candy. There are so many flavors in the world which simply cry out to be made into chews or suckers, or to be dipped in chocolate for the happiness of sweet-tooths everywhere. Fruit, vanilla, coffee, caramel… even unmalted, sweetened milk and its richer cousin, cream are obvious contenders. The powdered mixture of milk, wheat and malted barley, originally marketed as late-nineteenth-century baby food, would seem less so.

Yet when I first tried malted milk balls so many years ago at a nearby bulk candy shop, I didn’t find anything strange about them, or think too much about what “malted milk” actually was. I just knew they were darned tasty. That’s probably why the chocolate-coated nuggets have remained popular, despite their unusual basis, for the better part of century.

The most popular name brands of malt balls are Hershey’s Whoppers in the U.S., and Mars, Inc.’s Maltesers in the U.K. I’d always assumed these to be the only brand name representatives of Maltball-kind. On a recent expedition which took me deep into the heart of the CVS candy aisle, though, I discovered a third competitor. An extra-large milk carton of a container bearing the name “Mighty Malts” stared me down from the very top shelf, where – as we know – all the best candies still waiting for their moments in the spotlight are kept.

Further investigation revealed these “Mighty Malts” to be a much nicer bargain than chief competitor Whoppers. For $0.99, Whoppers offers a small milk carton container, similar to what you might have gotten along with your school lunch as a kid. The cutesy carton contains three and a half servings chocolate-coated malty yumminess. For the same price, Mighty Malts provides a three-fourths pound container worthy of its name. I also noticed that Mighty Malts are a product of the Necco company – purveyors of those notoriously polarizing Conversation Hearts. As a fan of the fruity, cheesy-romantic-saying-imprinted sugar tablets, I saw this as a positive.

I’d had Whoppers, as well as some of the Sweet Factory’s malt balls, within a relatively recent time period, so I felt decently equipped to review this latest discovery. Driving home gave me plenty of time to contemplate the making of a perfect malt ball. I recalled that those from the bulk bins had always been my favorite. Whoppers had always struck me as cheaper and a tad overly sweet, but still pretty satisfying – especially the Reese’s peanut butter variety.

A great malted milk ball, I determined, has to have either a real chocolate shell or one that tastes and feels extremely close. The shell should be thick enough to have its own character, melting and giving away slowly before the malted, milky innards are revealed. The malted milk itself should be sweet, with flavors of both dairy and grain. If sucked after the chocolate has gone, the malt should bubble and fizz as it transmutes into a goopy mass atop your tongue. A great malt ball should always come with its own happy afterglow (though you’ll probably want to eat more for maximum effect).

Necco’s Entry started out on a positive note. There’s a nice, thick shell which tastes chocolaty, though the packaging reveals that it contains no cocoa solids. Its texture is off… the shell doesn’t melt, so much as scrape off in your mouth. The mix is viscous and granular, and in that respect it reminds me more of peanut butter than chocolate. That being said, it’s not a bad shell. I like the flavor and thickness.

Mighty Malts’ insides are mighty all right… regrettably far mightier than I prefer. The malted milk in these balls takes far too long to dissolve. As you hold a Mighty Malt on your tongue, it doesn’t bubble or pop. It takes nearly a minute just to crumble! When the ball is all gone, the leftover goo isn’t like thickened syrup, as it is with Whoppers. Instead, it’s gritty and hard to remove from your teeth. Yet the taste is pretty decent. Nothing extraordinary, but for the cost, I didn’t expect anything too spectacular.

So, where do Mighty Malts fall on the malt ball spectrum? In all honesty, I’d place them below any other sort of Malt Ball I’ve sampled. These balls are thoroughly “okay.” Mighty Malts are serviceable cheap candy, especially when you consider their origin with a company whose specialty is conversation hearts. I suppose $0.99 for three-quarters of a pound is a good deal on anything barring yogurt-coated shreds of woolen blanket, but next time I want a malt ball I’m investing in Whoppers. As loathe as I am to admit it, sometimes higher quality comes with those few extra cents.

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