Are Swedish Fish Really from Sweden? The Origins of Some Bulk Candy Favorites

Some candies have been part of our society for so long that it’s hard to imagine a time without them. But there was an age before Swedish Fish arrived on our shores, before Sour Patch Kids tickled – and tested – our taste buds.

Read on to learn the history of some bulk candy favorites.

Do Swedish Fish actually come from Sweden?

Gummy Fish

Yes! Swedish Fish first arrived in America in the 1950s courtesy of a candy company called Malaco, which is based in Sweden.

“At the time, Malaco was looking to expand into North America with its varieties of starch and licorice-based candies,” writes Mental Floss in their history of the sweet. “The fish-shaped candies—called ‘Swedish Fish’ because, well, they were Swedish and the fishing industry in Sweden was very large—were developed specifically for the U.S. and Canadian markets and proved almost immediately popular.”

They remain a popular wholesale candy favorite today, although they’re no longer owned and distributed by Malaco in the U.S. (That job goes to the candy maker Cadbury Adams.)

However, Malaco still distributes Swedish Fish in Sweden, where the candies are known as pastellfiskar, or “pale-colored fish.” In addition to the classic sweet version, you can also sample the salmiak variety, a salty black licorice flavor.

Sour Patch Kids weren’t always kids

Sour Patch Kids

The candy that we now know as Sour Patch Kids were created in Canada in the late 1970s by a company called Jaret International.

Back then, they were known as “Mars Men” (if you look closely, you can see that they resemble aliens more than actual kids) as part of a Star Wars/Close Encounters era UFO sighting craze.

But by the time Mars Men moved south, Americans had gotten caught up in a new craze: Cabbage Patch Kids dolls. Jaret could see which way the wind was blowing and changed the name of the candy to reflect this fad.

The original “kid” on the Sour Patch Kids packaging was modeled after Scott Galatolie, the son of Frank Galatolie, who originally created Mars Men.

Rock Candy: Recommended by Henry IV

Rock Candy

There are fewer candies simpler than rock candy. It’s essentially sugar crystals boiled in water. And it’s been around for a long, long time, much longer than the other wholesale candy offerings on this list.

There are historical records that indicate rock candy was used as a sore throat remedy nearly 2,000 years ago. There are references to rock candy in the works of Turkish poet Rumi, and Shakespeare mentions it in his play Henry IV.

In the late 1800s and early 20th century, people would mix rock candy with rye whiskey. The resulting concoction – known as Rock and Rye – began as a popular alcoholic beverage but over time morphed into a cold remedy.

Companies would bottle this candy/whiskey mixture and sell it as medicine, thus letting them avoid the disapproval of the anti-liquor temperance movement and paying taxes on alcohol. 

Circus peanuts: America’s most divisive candy?

“Break out a bag anywhere and you’ll get a debate going.”

Circus Peanute

That’s Beth Kimmerle, author of Candy: A Sweet History, talking about circus peanuts. They’ve become a candy with no middle ground. People either love them or hate them.

They’re soft and marshmallowy, but much chewier that an actual marshmallow. And they’re orange in color, but not orange flavored. The taste is closer to that of a banana.

Just as mysterious is their origin.

“No one knows how circus peanuts got their shape and name or how long they’ve been around,” wrote John Sewer of the Associated Press in 2006.  “One theory is that they originated with the traveling circuses where vendors sold salted peanuts and candy. By all accounts, circus peanuts date to the 1800s when they were a seasonal treat and one of the original penny candies.”

Do your wholesale candy customers have a taste for circus peanuts? Skip’s Candies has them in stock, along with all the candies we’ve mentioned here today: rock candy, Swedish Fish, Sour Patch Kids and some of their sour cousins and more. Contact us today to learn more about these and all of our delicious offerings.