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Chili M&M's? CNET taste-tests three twee new flavors

Who knew M&Ms could be so polarizing? CNET tries three new varieties currently being crowdsourced by candy maker Mars.

It's hard for any CNETer to resist the urge to review things, so when my fellow editor Caitlin Petrakovitz and I came across three new flavors of peanut M&M's on Monday at a store near the office, we knew we had to bring them back to headquarters for some mouths-on product tests.

Candy maker Mars first announced the new Coffee Nut, Honey Nut and Chili Nut flavors last fall, but they hit stores only this month. Once Caitlin and I saw the new candies in person, we knew we (and our junk-food-loving CNET colleagues) had to try them out.

The flavors are part of a promo that lets you vote for your favorite flavor, and Mars will start mass-producing the winner. Does this crowdsourced approach to snacks sound familiar? Lays has done the same thing for new chip flavors over the last few years.

M&Ms, which is celebrating its 75th birthday this year, has been on a roll with new flavors lately. You may have seen bags of Hot Chocolate M&M's in stores over the holidays or Strawberry Shortcake M&M's around Valentine's Day this year. And who could forget the comeback of the much-loved Crispy M&Ms? Those returned in 2015.

Here's our official test taste of the new flavors, probably available at a store near you.

James Martin/CNET

Coffee Nut

The clear winner was Coffee Nut, which uses coffee and other natural flavors. It is, of course, not a stretch to combine coffee and chocolate (and Mars has done it before). Throw in the slight peanut flavor and it comes across as a mild yet sweet latte. We could eat these by the handful and not get sick of them. Even with our real morning coffee.

Honey Nut

Like a caramelized M&M, Honey Nut was a bit cloying. It's the only one of the bunch that prominently reads "artificial flavor" on the package, and that comes through in the taste test. M&Ms are sweet enough without needing an additional sweet honey flavor, and most of us here at CNET could only stomach a few at most. Maybe, as with Honey Nut Cheerios, some milk could balance out the sweetness.

Chili Nut

Wait, what? A sweet-savory flavor from M&Ms? Yep, the tiny candies are branching away from Birthday Cake and Hot Chocolate tastes into something more sophisticated. With their darker red and orange colors, this is the flavor you serve your friends after dinner to show off your refined palette (only when you're out of Andes Mints of course).

At first bite, these taste exactly like peanut M&M's, so much so we thought we'd been tricked. Then, at the very end, a mild heat pops up that's far less spicy than a drop of Tabasco, but spicier than, well, a regular M&M. It's a slow burn on the sides and back of your tongue thanks to the chili extract.

These were polarizing; some loved them, some didn't feel the heat at all and others just didn't like the spicy-sweet attempt.

Have you had a chance to test the new flavors? Let us know in the comments section what you think.