“Witch better have my candy!” has been the siren call between the It’s Nice That and Anyways teams over the last couple of weeks, as we’ve taste-tested and critiqued packaging on the best (and worst) Halloween-themed treats out there to buy in the UK.
While Halloween is yet to be a public holiday here (boooooo), there’s certainly been a growing love for all things spooky around the 31 October over the years. With it, an onslaught of hair-raising treats have started to creep onto our supermarket shelves and who better to let you know what’s worth buying than the It’s Nice That editorial team and the Anyways creative team?
As snack connoisseurs (we keep highly-detailed spreadsheets for all hand-held foodstuffs), this ghoulish review panel has ranked and reviewed ten treats according to branding and taste, covering all sorts of barometers like scare factor, colour and clagginess. We’ve listed them below in reverse order.
So join us as we chow down and get critical – bone appetit witches!
Spooky Mini Rolls
Average Score: 1/5
Taste: Coming in last in the race is Cadbury’s twist on the packed lunch staple, the chocolate mini roll.
The main reason for this exceptionally low mark is its perfumey flavour, supposedly blackberry, which was added to the rolls’ staple cream filling. To best describe the sweet jam, judges made comparisons to granny’s favourite sweets parma violets and cough medicine. One judge also pointed out that the usual buttercream filling was lost in terms of moisture and was actually stiff and claggy. A shame and a waste of taste buds and time.
Branding: For the outerwear of Cadbury’s spooky mini roll, the design team opted for a pun-filled, type-heavy wrapper. This divided the judges more than any other Halloween product this year. The Boo’s and Mwahahaha’s pleased some, and despite not being directly frightening, it did get everyone in the holiday spirit. However, others felt that the the packaging would have worked better with spooky pictures, whereas some actually felt cheated by the mini roll. It was a repackaged existing product, and we fell for it.
Spook Level: Only in the fact that it tastes gross.
Reese’s Peanut Butter Halloween Pumpkins
Average Score: 2 / 5
Taste: The original Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups are loved by all. So much so that sometimes it feels the three cups in one packet aren’t enough. Consequently, you can imagine our delight on hearing that the Halloween version includes a larger surface area – though it means there’s only two in the pack. This allows for a fuller filling of peanut butter within the cup, but also meant the filling’s quality did not match the usual treat as the sweet to salty ratio was totally out. A half-baked effort from Reese’s which the judges felt left a lot to be desired.
Branding: The overall consensus here was that Reece’s were not really committing to the cause. The fact that its branding already matches the halloween colour palette of orange and black meant Reese’s had an opportunity to build upon their strengths, but instead they took the easy route. It was an inspired choice to reshape the cup to resemble a pumpkin, but once again our panel was left deeply disappointed. The quality control was seriously lacking here and looked as though it had melted and reformed into a disfigured blob.
Spook Level: Not even a bump in the night.
Provider: Marks & Spencer
Average Score: 2.75 / 5
Taste: A really great effort from M&S here, with the upmarket food supplier doing its own thing, but the taste was the biggest let down. There was a distinct chemical aftertaste filtered into the original joy of the Percy Pig and judges came to the conclusion that this must have been down to trying to do too much in one packet. Three flavours were mixed in together in varying shapes of the original pig or a halloween special pumpkin and ghoul, the result was an overly saccharine after taste of artificial sweetness.
Branding: The branding on this product was a success. M&S provided fun packaging with facial expressions and colours all updated for the holiday season. But judges found the combination of a pumpkin, a pig and a ghoul together was an odd mix. When have they ever hung out together before? Who invited the pig? M&S could have been cleverer with its shapes here and the final result just doesn’t make sense. Seeing Percy dressed up on the packet was enjoyable though and the judges did enjoy being targeted by some great adverts on Instagram from M&S.
Spook Level: Not scary at all.
Provider: Marks & Spencer
Average Score: 2.8 / 5
Taste: Another stab at gruesome goodies from M&S here, this product was in a similar vein to the earlier and poorly made Spooky Mini Roll and once again, taste was lacking. The sponge was dry and coming from an establishment like M&S judges expected something a little more indulgent due to the amount of chocolate it was seemingly draped in. Possible improvements could be developed from an extra dollop of buttercream, and judges would’ve appreciated something a little more Halloween-y, such as something red and juicy inside, which would have helped with the dry sponge.
Branding: Calling a product Count Colin gives the impression that it would look like a vampire, this doesn’t. It’s definitely still little a mini caterpillar. However, each Colin roll was topped with tiny sugary bats and fangs, which was a feast for the eyes and was the most inventive redesign of treats sampled so far.
Judges would also like it to be noted that these comments were made before we realised that a larger, full-sized Count Colin is available and these are his babies. This raised initial scores for obvious reasons.
Spook Level: To be fair, if you woke up and found this lying on your pillow you probably would shit yourself.
Toffee Terror Whirls
Provider: Mr Kipling
Average Score: 3.25 / 5
Taste: This treat was a delicious take on the Viennese whirl by Mr. Kipling, swapping the jam filling for a toffee one. Some judges felt it was better than the original, others were let down by the crumbly biscuit and the lack of toffee filling. In the words of Paul Hollywood: “The flavours weren’t strong enough and this didn’t allow for the terror to come through”.
Branding: This was a lovely treat but terror? That’s tenuous. The Halloween aspect of this product was really lacking, and was far too loose to rate highly or recommend to a friend. One judge quite rightly pointed out that this is a product far better suited to bonfire night, a time of time year seriously lacking in novelty treats.
Spook Level: Close to nil. Disappointing lack of spook for something claiming to be terrifying.
Trick or Treat mix
Average Score: 3.3 / 5
Taste: Truly the most terrifying treat the judges tired, this Trick or Treat mix from Tiger sees eaters delve into a bag of dismembered jelly sweet body parts. The word repulsive cropped up in many of our panel’s reviews with the act of physically chomping down on a severed foot or bloody nose turning many people off. However those who soldiered on past the jellied open wounds, the taste was surprisingly fruity, with one judge saying on second bite they became quite moreish. If being pretending to be a little candy cannibal is your thing, this is the one for you.
Branding: While the bag the sweets came in was fairly undecorated in true Tiger aesthetics, the contents of the bag peeked though enough meaning your eye was directly drawn to the various body parts suspended in plastic. Nothing more is needed when the product looks this gross, so top marks to Tiger for making even the sweetest sweets leave a sour taste in our mouths.
Spook Level: This one reached equal heights of horror and disdain.
Average Score: 3.5 / 5
Taste: A Ghooost Egg, for those unfamiliar, is essentially a Creme Egg without the yellow yolk. After sampling this Halloween product judges were left confused. Initially, concern rose that we would feel cheated, like there was something missing. But the yolk wasn’t missed at all! Does it even add anything? Like the usual version, you can only really eat one, but this was a blessing considering how many treats we’ve scoffed this month.
Branding: The design of this product massively divided the judging panel. One judge, who was sceptical from the outset, commented that from his understanding ghosts are, mostly commonly, a reincarnation of human form and in turn cannot lay eggs so it doesn’t make sense. After trying the treat the judge also noted that this was the most charlatan of Halloween chocolate treats they had tried in their 29 years of existence. On the other side, other judges enjoyed the surprise of no yolk, the idea of taking something away rather than adding something unnecessary and even gave extra points for the packaging which was a good take on the original and created the smallest treat so far with the biggest visual impact.
Spook Level: Maybe if you were confused about the lack of orange yolk you would get a spook.
Provider: Mr. Kipling
Average Score: 4.5 / 5
Taste: Damn. Mr. Kipling really proved themselves as treat royalty this Halloween with a fiendish and delicious revamp(ire) of its French Fancies. Covered with orange icing and drizzled with “chocolate-flavoured icing”, the flavour was not overpowering (a classic mistake with orange-based treats), and it differed from the original enough to make it tasty in its own right. Fantastic effort here.
Branding: The branding of Fiendish Fancies was its only let down, and made the difference between judges awarding a 4 or 5 mark. The name, undoubtedly, is inspired. The concept was thought through. But was it spooky? Unfortunately not. The illustrations added to the box felt more like an after thought, yet the orange colour is so popping it’s quite the surprise upon opening. Something a little more innovative could have really teetered this over the edge, but its delicious taste does make up for it.
Spook Level: More cute than spook.
Jaffa Cakes Freaky Cake Bars
Average Score: 4.5 / 5
Taste: Now this one got a big thumbs up from everyone, with most heralding the purple sponge that was unveiled after the first bite as an inspired choice! With the classic jaffa taste still a strong feature, it’s a great spine-chilling update of an original, well-loved treat and while the crackled chocolate top was a little disconcerting at first, judges quickly saw past this minor fault.
Branding: Many judges called for Mr Kipling to take note of this cake bar’s packaging, as the imagery used was both surprising and welcome. Gruesome bugs, tentacles, teeth, spider’s webs and some fun little pumpkin guys in a cauldron are all featured and it’s clear McVitie’s has gone full throttle with this one. The unlikely Halloween creature? An octopus of all things, but judges seemed relatively un-phased by this addition. One creative judge said the packaging was so strong she felt like she could’ve commissioned it herself – the highest praise indeed!
Spook Level: Great attention to detail, this was the best effort in terms of achieving the ultimate Halloween look.
Popping Candy Creme Chocolate Eyeballs
Average Score: 6.5 / 5
Taste: The highest scoring treat we tasted, mainly for one judge’s generous score of 11/5 and a clean sweep of perfect scores from everyone else.
Phrases such as “out of this world”, “incredible”, and “quelle surprise” were handed out like candy to the first trick or treaters of the night. A surprise player in the world of novelty treats, Sainsbury’s has really stepped up with their popping candy, creme filled chocolate eyeballs. One judge commented how wonderful it was that the grisly appearance gave way to such a heavenly taste and remarked on how surprisingly rare it is to find Halloween treats filled with popping candy. Others praised the addictive nature of these choccies and said they’d already re-bought this treat several times since tasting.
Branding: Simple yet effective, these eyeballs are foil wrapped with an illustration of a convincing eyeball emblazoned on it. Left to collide in a netted bag, the rattling of chocolate eyeballs is a sound all our judges will never forget.
Spook Level: Fizzy and creamy at the same time, maybe this is what a real eyeball actually tastes like?!
In conclusion, Sainsbury’s took the trophy for this year’s best Halloween treat for its perfect balance of delicious taste, brilliant packaging and high spook factor. Wishing you a sugar-fuelled All Hallows’ Eve! We’re off to brush our teeth.