What Is The Actual Flavor Of Swedish Fish?

Call it the Gatorade syndrome: Some colors seem to have a predesignated flavor. This is particularly true in the realm of candy, where pieces dyed yellow and orange are destined to taste like citrus, and those that are purple inevitably of grape. Red things should taste of cherry or, at its most ambiguous, fruit punch. But this color-coded flavor system doesn't hold true for Swedish Fish. 

A cult candy that first arrived in America in the 1950s, Swedish Fish has long set itself apart from your typical gummy candy. For one thing, Swedish Fish isn't even technically a gummy, as it doesn't use gelatin. Instead, it's made of a type of wine gum, which has a texture more akin to a sticky gum drop than a bouncy gummy worm. More intriguing still is the classic red candy's tart berry taste (at once familiar and foreign), which has stumped millions of fans for years. But one needs only to look to the candy's country of origin — yes, Sweden — to discover what this red swimmer is meant to taste like.  It's the Scandinavian berry of choice, the lingonberry

The sweet taste of Lingonberry

The Swedish company that created the candy, Malaco, has never released an official statement on what the actual flavor of the red fish is. So, sweet sleuths have turned into the most beloved berry in Scandinavia. 

The lingonberry reminds many of cranberries, as they both have a tart and tangy flavor. However, the lingonberry has a more nuanced taste, calling to mind cherry, pomegranate, and strawberry notes (hence the confusion many tasters have when first trying Swedish fish). It most commonly grows in Scandinavia but can also be found in the Pacific Northwest of the U.S. Still, unless you've recently been to an IKEA cafeteria where lingonberry sauce is served often, this berry flavor is not very common in the U.S.  

It should be noted that we're talking about artificial flavorings, which can drastically stray from their fresh variant. Often, the resulting flavor is something entirely brand new (looking at your blue raspberry), and for some, that means that Swedish Fish can't be exactly called lingonberry flavored but rather lingonberry-inspired. No matter what your tastebuds tell you, it's a safe bet that the je ne sais quoi flavor of that iconic Swedish candy takes its tasty cues from an equally iconic Swedish berry.