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The History of Swedish Fish
Image credit: Maddie San Martin

They Really Are from Sweden

Swedish fish are a beloved candy with an iconic status in America. They were introduced to the United States in the 1950s. And yes, they are actually Swedish! They were developed and then introduced to the US market by a Swedish confectionary company called Malaco. But their original manufacturer isn’t the only thing that’s Swedish about these candies! On every gummy, the word “Swedish” is stamped on the side. (The next time you buy a box, take a look and see!) It’s also purposeful that the shape of the candy is a fish, because fishing is a major part of the cultural and economic landscape in Sweden. The introduction of these classic candies to the American market in the 1950s was highly successful and they quickly gained popularity among consumers.

They’re Not Actually Gummies

They are sticky and sweet, but in candy terms, Swedish Fish aren’t actually gummies. Gummy candies, such as gummy bears, have a distinctly rubbery texture that isn’t too sticky. Swedish Fish fall into a confectionary category called wine gums – these candies are chewier, stickier, and less rubbery than gummy bears. Swedish Fish is actually one of the rare varieties of wine gum candy popular in the US; wine gum candies are much more popular in the UK and in other parts of the world.

The Swedish Version Is a Little Different

Swedish Fish do exist in Sweden, but the candies are a little different than their American counterparts. For starters, they’re called pastellfiskar, which translates to "pale-colored fish." Instead of the word “Swedish” printed on the side like in the US, the Swedish candies have the name “Malaco” printed on them. Also, some of the Swedish Fish candies available in Sweden are darker in color than the well-known American red hue. There’s even a special flavor available in Sweden called salmiak, or black salted licorice. It is flavored with ammonium chloride and remains popular in Sweden as well as in other Nordic countries, but never caught on America.

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They Have a Unique Taste

There’s a lot of debate over the flavor of Swedish Fish. A few different companies have been responsible for manufacturing the popular candy over the years, but none of them have ever issued a statement on what exactly the flavor is meant to be. However, based on the gummies’ red color, many people think they’re meant to taste like cherry, strawberry, raspberry, or even fruit punch. Others think Swedish Fish are meant to taste like lingonberry, a berry native to Scandinavia. While the mysterious red flavor is by far the most popular variety of Swedish Fish, the candies also come in assorted flavors and colors in the US. In fact, the assorted flavors box of Swedish Fish was a cult favorite in the 1960s and 1970s! Today you can get Swedish Fish in yellow, green, orange, and even a white, tropical-flavored variety, but sadly, the purple flavor was discontinued in the 2000s.

They've Become a Classic American Candy

Since their introduction to America in the 1950s, Swedish Fish have become a vital part of the American candy landscape and remain popular to this day. They’re a staple of movie theater concession stands and are often given out on Halloween as well. They’re enjoyed by people of all ages and from all walks of life. In fact, since they don’t include gelatin, most varieties of Swedish Fish are vegetarian and vegan-friendly (but just to be sure, always check the packaging!). In 2009, an estimate was made that 7,000 metric tons of Swedish Fish are churned out annually – that’s how popular these beloved classic candies are!

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