Thursday, February 02, 2017

Heartbrand Ice Creams, Europe

Update Review, 2016

I've reviewed standard Heartbrand ice cream several times before.  But this is different.

When I was in Lisbon, I found a froyo shop that I kinda fell in love with, called Weeel, for their crazy liquid "rafaweeel" and quality fruit toppings (stay tuned!).  So a few days later, when Ojan and I were strolling through Cascais, I couldn't get ice cream, froyo, and other frozen treats out of my head, particularly when people kept walking by with cones in their hand.  I needed some.

Except, all we could find was gelato.  I wanted soft serve, not hard serve.  Frozen yogurt or ice cream, I didn't care which, but, I wanted soft serve.  Shop after shop had images of frozen delights in cones, but all were hard style gelato.  Gelato, gelato, everywhere.  Eventually, the sun started going down, it got much colder, and I stopped wanting ice cream quite so much.
Cornetto Soft Sign.
And then I saw a sign.  It showed soft serve ... Cornettos?  I didn't understand, but, I was interested.  I thought Cornettos were just pre-packaged frozen desserts, that I've reviewed many times (in Australia and elsewhere in Europe).

The flavors shown on the sign were strawberry, chocolate (chip?), hazelnut, vanilla, and caramel (at least, I think that is what they were?)

I had to go investigate further.
 My Cornetto Machine.
"The My Cornetto dispenser is so simple to use and maintain compared with commercial ice cream machines. Just plug in, insert your bottle and you’re ready to go!"

When I approached, I didn't see a normal soft serve machine.  I saw a plastic thing, that didn't even seem to take electricity, with a pile of cones nearby and a freezer.

And then I saw other customers order ice cream.  The store worker pulled out a plastic cartridge, put it into the machine, pulled the handle, and out came soft serve, directly into a cone.  What??!!

I found out later that the magic dispenser is called a "My Cornetto machine".  It is marketed as far easier to maintain than a traditional soft serve machine, and far more economical.  It seems to exist in a handful of countries, including Australia and New Zealand.

The cartridges look like push pops, and are frozen in a regular freezer, and just pulled out when someone orders an ice cream.  So, still just packaged ice cream.
Cornetto Soft, Caramel.
I quickly stepped up and ordered the caramel one.

When it was ready, the cone was handed over, as was the cartridge.  The server demonstrated that I should lick the remaining ice cream out of it.  No problem, I'm totally the girl who is always in the kitchen licking every spoon, bowl, beater!

Sure, what I was given didn't look like the photos, as the top didn't have a nice peak.  And, well, it clearly wasn't "real" soft serve, instead, it was ice cream extruded through a machine.  But it *was* fairly soft.

It seemed to have vanilla ice cream and caramel ice cream swirled together, and maybe some caramel sauce too?  And chocolate coated crispy things and caramel coated crispies?  I'm really not sure.

I liked it, partially out of novelty.  The caramel was very sweet however, so, I did need to take little breaks while eating it to not get a sweet overload.  I loved the crunchy things, whatever they were.  They kept me addicted, just like cookie dough bits in a pint, that you want to just keep digging for another one.

Certainly an interesting experience, better than just getting a pre-packaged ice cream at a convenience store, and I'd do it again, likely trying another flavor.

Update Review, October 2016

Another year, more travels to European offices with ice cream freezers, and thus, more chances to try Heartbrand ice cream.  As always, I suggest you start with my original review, if you want more background.

Nogger

In our Munich office, they had many fantastic ice cream selections so it took me a while to try the strangely named "Nogger" novelties, as they looked like kinda standard ice cream bars on sticks.  It turns out, the Nogger is the best selling ice cream novelty in Germany, and has been around since 1964.

But finally, I did try it, both the regular and the "choc" versions.  What is a Nogger?  My understanding is that the name "Nogger" comes from "nougat" a key component of the bars.  At one time there was also a "Nogger Black", with a black licorice coating (which sounds pretty interesting to me), but it turned into a racial controversy and was removed from the market.  
Nogger Choc.
Ok, so I let this one get a bit too melty.

That aside, this was a very good ice cream!

The center was "Nugatkremfüllung", er, nougat cream.  Basically, it was like nutella, in a slightly thicker form, still quite soft though.  It was crazy delicious.

Surrounding that was decent vanilla ice cream, needed to balance out all the chocolate and nut flavors.

The shell was milk chocolate studded with crunchy "weißen Nugat" (white nougat) and "Zwiebackstückchen" (biscuit pieces).  The shell had a nice snap to it.

Overall, every element of this bar was pretty good on its own, but it really combined together nicely.  Almost-liquid nutella-like center, creamy ice cream, crunchy, snappy shell?  Awesome.  I'd gladly get another.
Nogger.
After the success of the Nogger Choc, I tried the original Nogger.

It wasn't nearly as good.  The milk chocolate shell with bits of nougat was still good, the vanilla ice cream was still good, but, I didn't care for the center.  It was just ... chocolate ice cream, not particularly creamy.  Meh.  Stick with the Nogger Choc.

Magnum

I've had many Magnum bars in various locations, mostly in Sydney where they are sold under the Streets brand, but also a few last time I was in Germany.  None have been remarkable, but they are a solid choice, and I enjoy trying new flavors.
Pink Raspberry.
"Raspberry Ice cream with raspberry sauce, coated in milk chocolate, and an outer pink coating."

Well, meh.  This as pretty, but, that is about it.

The shell was a thick milk chocolate, coated in shiny pink.  It was really quite lovely, but, a lot of chocolate for the size of the bar.

The ice cream was raspberry flavored, very raspberry, kinda tart.  It was decently creamy, but I didn't care for the flavor.

I never found any raspberry sauce ...

Original Review, May 2014

As I mentioned last week, I was recently on a business trip in Zurich, where my office had ice cream freezers seemingly everywhere, always fully stocked.  As you can imagine, I ate a lot of ice cream in my few days there.

It was there that I discovered Mövenpick, probably the best commercially prepared ice cream I've had.  But I also got to try a slew of novelty ice creams by Heartbrand.

Unilever is a ridiculously huge company (the 3rd largest consumer goods company in the world actually), comprising 400+ brands, a slew of which are ice cream related.  They are the world's largest ice cream manufacturer.  They tend to make mostly the same treats in every country, just with different names for the products, and even for the product lines themselves. You know them in the US as Good Humor.  They even own Ben & Jerry's.  In Zurich, they sell under the Heartbrand name, which is what I got to enjoy on my trip.

Solero

When I first tried these, they reminded me so much of a treat I discovered when I was living in Sydney: the Pine-Lime Splice.  I adored these things.  Creamy vanilla ice cream inside, fruity lime ice outside.   On a hot day, there was nothing like standing outside in the sun, a pine-lime splice in hand, with the icy outer shell getting just soft enough to almost drip down your arm, the ice cream getting perfectly melty ... oh, I loved them so.

So I was a bit shocked when I had my first Solero, as it reminded me of a splice.  But the splice is made by Streets.  These were made by Heartbrand.  How could it be ...

First, Heartbrand is Unilever's largest ice cream line.  And, turns out, one of the slew of companies that Unilever owns is ... Streets!  And in Australia only, they sell Splices.  In other countries, they sell Solero bars.  Same concept, although in totally different flavors.  Well, no wonder these reminded me of my precious Splices!

(Side note: why do we not have any of these in the US?  Or do we, and they just aren't that popular?)

The most impressive part about Soleros (and Splices), is that they are really not that decadent.  ~100  calories each.  Sure, they aren't huge.  They aren't coated in chocolate or candy.  The ice cream inside is low fat.  But, they sure don't taste like you are skimping on anything, and are some of the most satisfying ice cream treats I've ever enjoyed.  And at ~100 calories each, you can have absolutely no guilt about having an ice cream every day.  Or two.  Or three.  Not that I've ever done that, of course ...
Solero Exotic.
"With delicious mango and pineapple pieces, Solero Exotic really is the perfect treat to cool you down in the summer sun"

Just like a Splice, the inside was creamy vanilla ice cream, with a icy "exotic" slush outside.  The slush had a nice mango-y flavor, and I do like the combination of vanilla ice cream and mango slush, but, this was just too sweet.   It appears that Solero bars also have a swirl of sweet sauce inside the ice cream.  The wrapper bragged that it had 30% more sauce.  More than what?  I guess it used to have less?  Perhaps I would have preferred the old version, as this was just way too sweet for me, and I have a sweet tooth.  Even the creamy vanilla ice cream inside couldn't cut the sweet.  Without the extra sauce inside, I might have liked it.
Solero Berry Berry.
"A fruit-lover’s dream. Indulge in the smooth centre and gorgeous fruit sorbet coating with delicious real fruit pieces".

The ice cream, or sortbet I guess, inside was incredibly creamy.  Nice berry flavor.  I don't understand how they can make it so creamy without adding tons of fat.  The quality of the ice cream/sorbet inside is much higher than most novelty ice creams in the US.

I loved the way both layers melted, the ice cream getting even creamier, the icy coating getting soft.  The outside was refreshing, like a popsicle, but balanced nicely by the creamy inside.  This one really reminded me of a Splice, and, although I still prefer a Pine-lime Splice, I enjoyed this quite a bit.

Cornetto

Cornetto is Heartbrand's line of ice cream cones.  Unlike Drumsticks by Nestlé, the cones actually stay crispy and don't get soggy, but, just like Drumsticks, they are made with ice cream that fails to impress.
Cheesecake Glory Cornetto.
"Cheesecake ice cream and strawberry ice cream with a core of raspberry sauce with muffin and chocolate chips".

This sounded amazing: "cheesecake glory"!  How could you go wrong with that.  Plus, the packaging was much nicer than the packaged ice cream cones we get here, as it had a clear top, so you could see all the goodies on top.

Sadly, it looked, and sounded, much better than it was.  The ice cream inside, both the cheesecake and strawberry flavors, were very low quality.  They weren't remotely creamy.

The raspberry sauce was a fun touch, but, was just too sweet.

And the "muffin" bits on top were soggy and off-putting.  Also, why were there muffin pieces on a cheesecake creation?  Shouldn't they have at least been graham cracker crust bits or something?

The only redeeming part of this item is that the cone somehow did magically stay crisp, and didn't get soggy.

I didn't even bother finish this.
Erdbeer Fraise Cornetto.
"Ice cream with vanilla and strawberry sorbet with strawberry sauce, waffle and chocolate glaze. "

The packaging was all in Swiss, so I had no idea what I was getting.  Reading my notes was rather funny, once I looked it up online and found out what I had instead.

I thought the vanilla ice cream was "supposed to be whipped cream", although I noted that it was more like vanilla ice cream than whipped cream.

The strawberry sorbet I correctly identified as sorbet, not ice cream, but I thought it was raspberry.  It was very icy and not smooth.
Side View.
Like the other cone, the only really good part about this was the cone itself, it somehow stayed crispy. And, the chocolate lining of course.  But, still, I wouldn't get another.

Magnum

Magnum bars were introduced to the US in 2011, although I've never had one here.  But when I was in Sydney, Magnum bars were everywhere, although, sold there under the Streets label (but still called Magnum bars).  In Zurich, they are sold under the Heartbrand line.

Magnums come in a slew of flavors.  In Sydney, I tried all the standard ones, generally chocolate coated.
Magnum White.
"Rich vanilla ice cream, smothered in sweet, decadent white chocolate."

This was a fairly standard offering, although, like most Unilever products, it seemed a step above the confections we get in the US.

The ice cream inside was vanilla, it even seemed to have little bits of vanilla bean.  It wasn't amazing, but it was pretty good.  The coating was thick, and very creamy, sweet white chocolate.  White chocolate has a bad reputation, but sometimes you just want something sweet, and this fit the bill.

I don't really see a reason to get another one of these, but I happily finished it.

Kids

Push Up Haribo.
"Creamy ice cream with vanilla flavor and fruity strawberry sauce with a very special feature: Haribo Gold Bears in the solid stem."

Ok, I admit it, I got this one just for fun.  I had zero expectations for it.  But, it had GUMMY BEARS in the stem!  Sure, I dislike Haribo gummy bears in the first place, but come on, how could I not try this?

It was the worst of all the products I tried.  The ice cream was super low quality, not at all creamy, very icy.  The "fruity strawberry sauce" was just sweet.  And, you couldn't even access the gummy bears until you ate all the crappy ice cream.  Serious meh!
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