A month or so ago our dog and house sitter noticed I always have a mason jar full of Swedish Fish on my kitchen counter. He came in one day and said “I bought you some and didn’t even realize they came in different colors!” He, like many, assumed the popular red version is all there is but they also come in green, yellow, and orange. He also assumed the different colors tasted the same. I immediately said “No way! The yellows are lemon; the greens are lime, etc., etc.” End of story.
On the way to see a local musical production, friends and I were having lunch when one of them said she recently heard that gummy bears may be different colors but not necessarily different flavors. What? Blasphemy! This gummy candy lover couldn’t believe her ears and neither could the rest of the crowd. You see, we love our gummies so much that one of these sweet friends always brings sweet little snack bags of sweet gummy candies to enjoy during the show.
I personally love all gummy candy. Swedish Fish. Gummy Bears. Dots. Jujy Fruits. Fruit Slices. Spice Gum Drops. Jelly Beans…but only the original ones…not Jelly Bellies. I love jelly candies so much I give them up for Lent every year. So, you can imagine the horror and curiosity levels when I heard their flavors might be poser flavors!
Apparently it’s all related to how color affects not only moods and productivity, but also what flavor we think we taste. An orange gummy candy? Well of course its flavor is orange. Purple? Hello, grape. But what about red? It could be a number of flavors but most commonly cherry, strawberry, or maybe watermelon. The same goes for drinks and other flavored items. An orange drink tastes like orange. A purple lollipop is grape flavored. But could a green gummy be cherry flavored or even the same flavor as a purple one? That’s the story. That’s the mystery. And I’m on it fellow gummy gurus.
Scientists and researchers are also on it and are analyzing how our five senses affect each other. Our eyes see yellow so our tongue tastes lemon. But, one researcher told Ashlie Stevens of WFPL in Louisville, Kentucky that he gave students a row of clear beverages that had fruit flavoring in them and asked them to differentiate the flavors. No problem, they aced the test. But, when he added food coloring to those drinks that didn’t match the flavor, he found they said the orange drink tasted like orange even though the flavoring may have been grape. The color of their beverage totally impacted what flavor they thought they were drinking. So have gummy candy manufacturers been doing this all along?
Apparently Skittles has, as the little round candies have different fragrances and different colors, but they all taste the same. Skittles execs admit this though so they really aren’t hiding anything. On the other hand, Haribo gummy bears, the leader in the world of gummy bears, promise their product has five flavors: lemon, orange, pineapple, raspberry, and strawberry. And Haribo should know. The German company made the first gummy candy in 1922 and currently operates 15 factories that produce more than 100 million gummy bears every day. But, if you venture away from more “high-end” and name brand gummy candies, you’ll discover that you get what you pay for, as less different colored candies in less expensive versions often all taste the same, regardless of color.
Okay, but what about my beloved Swedish Fish? Say it ain’t so Malaco! Developed by the Swedish candy producer Malaco in the late 1950s for the U.S. market, Swedish Fish company execs swear the flavor of their fish-shaped gummies vary by color. I think they do, but if given a blindfolded test, I’m not sure I could tell the yellow from the green.
Funny you should ask because John and I did such a test in a lab known as my kitchen and my friends and I did one as we sat waiting for the play to start. Granted, neither of these consisted of professional hypothesis testing, but they were fun and a bit conclusive. John had me blindly taste Swedish Fish (twist my arm!), sometime different colors; sometimes the same color in a row. We concluded that the flavors of Swedish Fish vary by color but I couldn’t necessarily taste lemon with the yellow, lime with the green, etc. They all tasted different but how they tasted didn’t scream their corresponding color. So there’s that.
For the Haribo and Lifesavers blind taste test in another lab called a theatre, I closed my eyes and ate one gummy bear. Then another. Then another. The first two tasted similar but the third one was different. I did the same with the Lifesaver Gummies in the bag. We decided that the gummy Lifesavers definitely have different flavors although you can’t always pinpoint exactly what flavor it is but that the flavor variation of the gummy bears was much more subtle.
One candy whose flavor is often debated is the red Swedish Fish. Some say it’s cherry, others call out raspberry, and still many think it’s fruit punch or black currant. One popular theory is that they taste very similar to lingonberries, which are used in Nordic and Baltic cuisines. No one knows for sure and no one is telling. We do know for sure that the flavor of a red Swedish Fish, whatever it may be, is unique and specific only to it and that it’s texture is a bit different than the others. You might also be interested in learning that each Swedish Fish candy has “Swedish” on it and that they are vegan and 100 percent animal cruelty-free. I knew I loved them!
So I leave you knowing a little bit about how our five senses intermix when it comes to taste and that Haribo, Swedish Fish, and Lifesaver Gummies all have different colors with different flavors. I can also personally attest that fruit slice candies and spice gum drops all have different flavors, as do Jelly Beans. None of it is scientific on my part, but it was sure fun conducting the tests. Just to be sure, you might want to test some yourself and while you do, have a gummy for me. Sweet!