Thursday, January 23, 2020

Solving A Mystery (But not Really)

Airheads Mystery Bites - Five Below
We've got a lot of ground to cover, so let's get down to business. 
I picked these up because I wanted to see if:
a: I could guess what these flavors are
b: If there really is any difference between the white mystery flavors
c: If this is just a colorless version of normal Airheads Bites
Let's grab our comically over-sized magnifying glasses and get to work!

First, let's have a quick refresher course on Mystery Airheads, what flavor are they? 
The answer is both simple, yet, complicated. The general consensus is that, like Dum-Dum's lollipops, Airheads mystery flavors are the leftovers from several flavor runs, essentially mashed together and left un-dyed. So they should vary from piece to piece. This makes a lot of sense to me, especially from a production standpoint, but after a quick Google search, I couldn't find anything confirming this from the company itself. Just this interview where a former employee discusses it's invention, but neglects to give away "trade secrets." 
I swear that, as a kid, all white mystery bars were White Cherry. I think most of the kids I grew up with would say the same, but now, as an adult who has eaten an embarrassing-amount of Airheads (FYI, BJ's Wholesale routinely offers coupons on the BIG boxes), I am pretty sure they're all different. I've had some bars that tasted like my beloved watermelon, or classic cherry, but for the most part, they seem to be fruity mish-mashes of just about everything. 
The article I mentioned earlier, with the former employee, really hammers home the idea that a lot of this could be in our heads. Spoiler alert: the first test run was just a colorless re-packaging of their most popular flavor, and yet, only 5% of the test group got it right. The rest of the guesses were all over the place. Proof that visuals and the power of suggestion can be very influential. Remember when I reviewed the re-released Crystal Pepsi? To me, it tasted just like Pepsi, but clear, which is the whole point. To my fiance, he honestly thought it tasted like a lemon-lime soda. It wasn't until I made him close his eyes and drink again that his brain recognized the flavor. It blew his mind. 
With that in mind, I decided to dump these out on the table, close my eyes, try them one at a time, and see what happens. (Only for 10-bites-worth, because I don't want to type out eating the entire package. Ain't nobody have time for that.)
Here we go! 
First bite, generically fruity. I can't really say it tastes like any one particular flavor more than any other.  
Second bite, I might be crazy, but I think it tastes generically fruity just the same as the first.
Third bite, okay! A little something different this time around, this one is definitely orange, or mostly orange. It has that juicy orange juice flavor that normal orange Airheads bars have. Not my favorite flavor, but distinctly different from the first two which is exciting. 
Fourth, I think we're back to the generically fruity mix from the beginning. Nothing notable here, and if it is different from the first two, it's barely noticeable. 
Five, I think this one is mostly watermelon, which is my favorite, but there is a slightly weird almost Playdough-like aftertaste to it. 
Six, this one reminds me of cherry, but it may be slightly tangier than normal? Maybe cherry and pink lemonade? Or maybe I'm overthinking things here and it's just normal cherry.
Seven, Another sweet generic fruity flavoring.  It's yummy, but indecipherable from the first two. 
Eight, maybe blue raspberry? I'm not too sure. I can't tell if it's different than the last flavor, or if I am getting frustrated because my brain really wants it to taste different. I'm losing it!
Nine, Pretty sure this is normal watermelon. I love watermelon. No weird aftertaste this time around.  
Ten, generic fruit again. Can't say I'm surprised, but at this point I am really wondering if this is all an elaborate marketing ploy reliant on our ability to overthink. 
The mixing of flavors between batches to cut down on costs, and once wasted materials, totally makes sense. But, I wonder...  
Since it's original release, I am certain the demand for Mystery flavors Airhead products has grown beyond their normal remnant-batch amount. I mean, they need enough Mystery materials to feed into their normal bars and these bites as well as their chewing gum line. In order to keep up with that demand, they have to go beyond their normal overage materials, and purposefully start putting things aside for the Mystery lines. Or maybe there really is a distinct recipe and flavor to the majority of Mystery bars, with a few of the original overage mixed-batch formula pieces mixed in for good measure.
Basing entire stand-alone product lines on something left entire to chance just doesn't seem like a practical long-term way to keep up with demand, and if mystery flavors always tasted drastically different, customers may get frustrated that a flavor they loved may never be revisited, or if it is, the odds of them getting a bar from that batch may be low...
I aimed to solve one mystery, and yet, I am left with more questions than when I started. Still, these are a yummy candy, and I am -pretty- certain that there are different flavors in this Mystery mix that are not in the normal Bite I'll consider that a win. Would I re-buy these? Sure, but I'll have to wait for my brain to stop hurting first.  
Fans of these would also like: Mystery Push-Pop (also white), Mystery Fun-Dip, Mystery Bubble-Tape, Mystery Peeps, Mary Kate and Ashley Adventures, "We'll solve any crime, by dinner time."  
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