The Strange Origin Of Blue Raspberry

For us adults, blue raspberry flavoring is most likely a thing of the past, but one that's prone to dredge up some nostalgia. Who doesn't remember slurping blue raspberry ice pops, licking blue raspberry lollipops, and popping blue raspberry gum? Along with the potent blue coloring that was bound to stain tongues and teeth, there was that strong, sweet, artificial fruit taste that's still popular among kids today (via Insider).

But what is blue raspberry, really? We all know that blue raspberries don't actually exist, and that this flavoring tastes anything but natural. As it turns out, blue raspberry is a lab-created artificial flavoring that was first stirred up as a way to market blue food dye — and over the years, it's found its way into everything from Jolly Ranchers hard candy to soft serve ice cream to vodka. Want to learn more about this intense flavoring? Read on.

A way to market blue-colored food

Many of us who have sampled blue raspberry likely associate it with frozen treats, as the flavoring is commonly found in popsicles, Italian ices, and Slurpees. And as it turns out, blue raspberry was first used by ice pop makers as a way to phase out red-colored pops, and introduce blue-colored ones.

According to Insider, ice pops such as Fla-Vor-Ice and Otter Pops were all the rage in the 1970s, commonly available in cherry, strawberry, watermelon, and raspberry flavors — all shades of red and pink, if you'll notice. Since kids had trouble differentiating between the flavors, ice pop companies used varying concentrations of a red dye called Red Dye No. 2 to distinguish each flavor — until 1976, when the FDA dropped a bombshell report implicating the dye for causing tumors in lab rats (per The New York Times). This was not a positive revelation for the ice pop makers, who began looking for ways to reduce their red offerings, and expand their blue ones.

The frozen treats companies turned their attention to a dye called Blue No. 1, which had been labeled as safe by the FDA back in 1969 (per Bon Appétit), and used in a "blue raspberry"-flavored ICEE the following year. Other companies followed ICEE's lead, expanding their range of blue raspberry offerings. Supposedly inspired by a blue-purple berry called Rubus leucodermis, "blue raspberry" is nevertheless totally artificial — but still considered tasty by the under-15 set.