In a previous survey of dollar-store delights, The Onion A.V. Club discovered what off-brand confectioners have known for decades: Food coloring is cheaper than food content, and brightly colored, sweetened lard can be molded into many interesting shapes for the delectation of the very-cheap-food crowd. Canvassing dollar stores for the best of the worst possible bargain-basement foodstuffs, The Onion A.V. Club found a preponderance of dollar desserts, and took them all home to taste-test them so no one else would have to.
Kidos Fruit-Filled Cookies (Blueberry)
Some colors just don't appear in nature, or appear so infrequently that they're almost magical. Generally speaking, when they do surface, they're not edible. The blueberry variety of Kidos Fruit-Filled Cookies–or at least the artist's rendering on the packaging–promises a biscuit bursting with a gelatinous electric-blue substance that could only have been created in a laboratory.
Scariest-sounding ingredient: "Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate."
Worth the price? No. The real thing does little justice to the cartoon version: There's no gooey burst of blueberry flavor, mostly just a shell that tastes like modeling clay.
Thin Mints? Delicious. The problem? Too thin. The solution? Thick Mints, a Peppermint Patty-like candy that caters to those who prefer grayish goop to cookies or chocolate. The thin chocolate shell of Thick Mints can scarcely contain the minty chemical ooze within. "Fuzzy math" note: The nutrition label considers a serving size to be three mints, but even though they come 12 to a box, the label cites the servings per container as "about four."
Scariest-sounding ingredient: "Invertase."
Worth the price? Hard to say. They taste all right, but their ultimate value depends on whether the box can produce the full four servings.
Mrs. Smith's FlipIt Cake
"The delicious up-side down delight!" proclaims the exclamation-point-intensive packaging for Mrs. Smith's Chocolate Caramel FlipIt Cake. This "topsy-turvy taste temptation" is a wet, cakey brownie lying face-down in congealed caramel in a plastic tub; "just nuke and flip," and it pops out as a caramel-covered cake, "ready to enjoy!" The enthusiasm on the packaging ("It's Hip to Flip!") makes the actual process fairly anticlimactic, especially since the cake returns to its original congealed form about 20 seconds after the flipping process is complete.
Scariest-sounding ingredient: "Sodium Aluminum Phosphate."
Worth the price? Possibly as a rite of passage for adolescents. Anyone who can get past the packaging (which makes Mrs. Smith's FlipIt Cake look like a cow pie coated in warm beef gravy) and survive the cake's massive fat and sodium content deserves to be considered an adult in any modern society.
Assorted Fruit Headline
That uppity bastard Lemonhead is used to having the spotlight and shelf space to himself, but he didn't climb to the top of the sour-ish, spherical candy heap without the help of less fortunate flavors like Orangehead, Cherryhead, Grapehead, and poor little Applehead, who never even got his own packaging. In the oddly named Fruit Headline, the siblings—it's obvious, because they all have the same smile—mingle in a waxy-sweet cornucopia. Lemonhead has gotten the last laugh, though: He's still in the bigger stores, while his comrades got remaindered.
Scariest-sounding ingredient: "Limonene."
Worth the price? Close call. For a quick and fruity sugar injection, Fruit Headline might do the trick. But it's easy to see why it might place a distant second to the far-superior Runts.
Cocodise and MeToo
Two generic candy bars from our good friends at Ülker, Cocodise and MeToo are knockoffs of Mounds and Three Musketeers, respectively. MeToo wins points for its enthusiastic name, which communicates "I can copy this recipe and sell the same candy as a major manufacturer!," and for its packaging's revolting picture of a chocolate-covered nougat brick. Cocodise is simply "desiccated coconut" covered in chocolate.
Scariest-sounding ingredient: "Nature Identical Flavor."
Worth the price? At 10 mini-bars for a dollar, both Cocodise and MeToo are cheap and edible replacements for the candy bars they're emulating. Just don't let the lawyers at Mars and Hershey catch you eating them.
Nik-L-Nip Mini Drinks
Is it a beverage, a candy, or a decoration? It's the curiously named Nik-L-Nip, miniature-bottle-shaped wax containers whose contents (a total of half an ounce of fluid, spread over five bottles and five colors) can only be taken in after chewing through something inedible. "Bite 'em, Drink 'em, Chew 'em," exhorts the packaging, though that seems like an awful lot of work for three teaspoons of what tastes like pre-frozen Otter Pops.
Scariest-sounding ingredient: "Refined wax."
Worth the price? The health-conscious would pay any price for good nutrition, and Nik-L-Nip is made with real fruit juice—one percent white grape juice from concentrate, to be exact. Let's see: One percent of half an ounce... Better buy a few!
The Incredible Hulk Candy Sticks
X-Men Candy Sticks
How best to add some pizzazz to colorless, chalk-like sticks of hard sugar? Pop them in a box adorned with costumed superheroes. Aside from the pictures on the cover, there's no real difference between The Incredible Hulk Candy Sticks and X-Men Candy Sticks. (Both taste faintly of banana.) But then, those who would actually buy this product are more likely to seal it in an airtight bag for later eBay resale than to eat it.
Scariest-sounding ingredient: The ingredients are listed in French as well as English. "Sirop de glucose" and "arômes artificiels" sound pleasant rather than scary.
Worth the price? Each box has eight two-inch-long sticks, and the boxes are 10 for a dollar. Go nuts, fanboys.
Kat Kat Tat
Roughly resembling candy bars in shape and packaging, Kat Kat Tat consists of flaky, cardboard-like dough coated in sugar and wrapped around an odiferous filling. They come in six-packs containing two of each of the three varieties: strawberry, vanilla, and either hazelnut or cocoa—the package description is inconsistent, and the product itself doesn't suggest any conclusions. The strawberry filling looks and smells like well-chewed Fruit Rollups, the vanilla filling looks and smells like stale Play-Doh, and the hazelnut-or-maybe-cocoa filling looks like cheap chocolate and smells like plastic. All three versions combine the joy of dry, splintery pastry with the joy of chewy, indigestible glop.
Scariest-sounding ingredient: "Acidulant."
Worth the price? Only to those wishing to severely punish rowdy neighborhood children at Halloween.
Creme Filled Red Velvet Bingles
Remember the urban legend about the ritzy hotel's $500 recipe for Red Velvet Cake, and how one crafty woman risked litigation by publishing the ingredients for everyone to copy? Well, here's the trickle-down: four-for-a-dollar Creme Filled Red Velvet Bingles. The name alone is thoroughly delightful, though the snack itself resembles Twinkies soaked in blood.
Scariest-sounding ingredient: "Colored with pigments of annato."
Worth the price? Disturbing reddish color aside, these are actually pretty good: moist and sweet, with just the right amount of "creme." Snap them up before the lawsuits ensue.
The egg-shaped box (and the fact that it's stocked alongside Easter candy) implies that the confection known only as "Barbie" is intended to be a holiday treat, even though the compressed sugar goodies inside bear no connection to egg-hiding bunnies, let alone Jesus. Given that they're shaped like flowers and butterflies, the package's promise that the box is "filled with artificially flavored Barbie candy shapes" must mean that the candy tastes like Barbie, since it sure isn't shaped like her. And how does Barbie taste? Like perfume.
Scariest-sounding ingredient: "Modified starch."
Worth the price? If you dump out the candy and use the box to store costume jewelry or doll accessories, maybe.
Caco Chocolate Sandwich Cookies
These quarter-sized versions of Oreos—crispy chocolate cookies with sugared-lard white filling—are both familiar and tasty. Unfortunately, the good people at Bud's Best Cookies apparently couldn't afford anything so upscale as "cocoa," and had to settle for "caco," a prefix that means "bad." The product's tagline, "Little Cookie, Big Taste," appears on the package next to a creepy caricature of (presumably) Bud, who might as well be wearing a T-shirt reading "Little Body, Big Head."
Scariest-sounding ingredient: "May contain traces of milk, eggs, peanuts and treenuts." Leaving aside the issue of cookies that contain, at absolute best, "traces" of milk and egg, the quantum peanuts and "treenuts" are disturbing in a cookie with no noticeable nut content whatsoever.
Worth the price? Yes. For "Bad Chocolate"-brand cookies, these are surprisingly edible.