Crappy Food Critic #07: Werther’s Originals Soft Caramels

Once in a supermoon, one of the niggling questions of our age awakens from its slumber to haunt us anew: have our children become too soft? For a few days, we all wring our hands and wonder if we are coddling our kids and denying them the gift of manliness by giving them too many participation trophies before life catches up to us once more and we become too busy to worry about it. Who will stand up to this existential kaiju of parental doubt, arising from the seas and terrorizing our waking days and our sleepless nights? WHO, I SAY?!?

Luckily, we have hardy, reliable brands like Werther’s Original. Old people, as we all know, are deathly afraid of change, and Werther’s Originals have long served as a trusty anchor to those in their twilight years. Those accursed millennials may drink their quinoa kale smoothies and take selfies with their bae and talk about frightening, inscrutable things like gay marriage and gender fluidity right in the middle of Thanksgiving dinner, but ah, Werther’s Originals, with their reassuring solidity. They’ll never let the elderly down!

What’s that? Oh no, not you too, Werther’s!

Yes, even Storck’s famous caramel hard candies have traded tradition for pliability. We live in an age of text messages and streaming viral video—who has time to gum even a single hard caramel into a buttery lake of divine nothingness? We’re all living in the fast lane. We can’t afford to waste time sucking on old-fashioned butter pills! The youth are the ones paving the roadways to the future; time to fall in and align ourselves with the quick-chew zeitgeist.

Now when the bag says soft, it means soft. I pressed on the bag a few times and the level of give made me worried that they had done a fair amount of melting. It also didn’t feel like there were a whole lot of them in there (and there aren’t), but for only a dollar they don’t feel like a ripoff.

Each caramel comes packaged in its own tissuey white wrapper featuring an elegant golden middle with a very alluring deep magenta trim. I can’t help but spend a few seconds gazing at it before I open one. The wrapper opens as easily as you’d expect, and the candy, though a bit sticky, comes off the paper without a mess.

Storck was not kidding when they called these caramels soft. Unfortunately, they’re also lacking in a couple of the key qualities that makes Werther’s such an enduring brand. First off, there’s absolutely no resistance to them. These things go way beyond merely chewy. I expected something more akin to a Brach’s caramel, demanding yet tender, but it fell far short of that. They’re so gooey they remind me of Milk Duds, in that I feel like I have to chew on eggshells, so to speak; one false move and I’ll brushing my teeth for an hour trying to get the residue off. But more importantly, they’re missing much of the buttery quality that makes a Werther’s Original as succulent as you know and love. In the rush to de-harden a classic, something got lost in the translation. “Bland” is not quite the word I am looking for, but unless there’s been a recipe change somewhere over the years that I wasn’t aware of, something integral to the essence of the Werther’s Original has gone AWOL.

That right there is the real crime: they simply don’t taste right. Kudos to Storck for trying to mix things up by swinging the pendulum, but they swung it way too hard in the other direction. They just don’t taste the way they should, like they did when I was a kid, when gas was $1.50/gallon and I walked around my neighborhood listening to CDs on my Discman and playing my Game Boy and …. say, is that a gray hair?

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