What Are Swedish Fish?

Swedish Fish aren’t an exotic pet or cuisine. Instead, they’re more likely to be found at a local cinema snack bar. These fish-shaped confectioneries are a classic for U.S. candy culture, but what exactly are they?

Swedish Fish are starch jelly candies specifically developed for the U.S. and Canadian markets.

They’re best known for their red variation that some say tastes like a type of berry. Other flavors include orange, lemon-lime, and pineapple.

This article delves into the taste and lists some of the varieties of Swedish Fish available.

Some of the history behind the iconic sweet is also discussed here.

Also, see How Are Swedish Fish Made? to learn more.

What Do Swedish Fish Taste Like?

Swedish Fish are similar to gummy bears but use starch instead of gelatin. They mostly taste fruity, not too sweet, and somewhat sour. 

This particular candy includes a variety of colors and flavors. Still, the jelly is best known for its original vibrant “red” flavor.

While people have compared the red taste to fruit punch or cherry, many others have said that the red Swedish Fish is actually lingonberry-flavored.

However, this has never been officially confirmed or verified.

Lingonberry is also known as cowberry, foxberry, or rock cranberry. [1]

This European red berry grows in tundras and boreal regions. It’s known for its sour, tart, and slightly sweet flavor

In Scandinavia, lingonberries are commonly made into other products like jams, preserves, and syrups.

For those unfamiliar with lingonberries, they are somewhat similar in taste to cranberries and are related to blueberries.

In general, the taste of Swedish Fish is often described as not too sweet, lemony, or sour, and with an artificial fruit flavor.

The most common flavors of Swedish Fish and their associated colors are as follows:

  • Orange – Orange
  • Yellow – Lemon Lime
  • Green – Pineapple

Swedish Fish used to have a purple grape flavor, but it was discontinued in 2006. [2]

Ingredients of Swedish Fish

From the package, the ingredients of Swedish Fish are as follows: [3]

  • Sugar
  • Invert Sugar
  • Corn Syrup
  • Modified Corn Starch
  • Contains less than 2% of Citric Acid
  • White Mineral Oil
  • Natural and Artificial Flavor
  • Red 40
  • Yellow 6
  • Yellow 5
  • Blue 1
  • Carnauba Wax

Starch Is Used Instead of Gelatin

Swedish Fish may remind some people of gummy bears, gummy worms, or other candies of the gummy variety.

However, Swedish Fish are from a family of sweets different from regular gummies.

Regular gummies are usually made with gelatin. This ingredient is derived from boiling animal products, making the gummies non-vegan. However, Swedish Fish are classified as “wine gummies.”

Not to worry, that’s just a candy industry term. There isn’t any wine or alcohol in Swedish Fish. “Wine gummy” is a term used to refer to gummies that use starches instead of gelatin.

The starches make Swedish Fish a little firmer than the squishier gummy bears. Furthermore, since all the above mentioned ingredients are synthetic or plant-based, this sweet treat is suitable for vegans.

Not All Swedish Fish Are Vegan-Friendly

However, it’s important to note that most Swedish Fish are manufactured in two major factories.

One in Ontario, Canada, and another in Turkey. [4]

The Turkey factory, in particular, produces Swedish Fish coated with beeswax instead of plant-based carnauba wax.

This ingredient replacement makes these Swedish Fish unsuitable for vegans.

If you’re a vegan unsure about the pack of gummies you’re about to purchase, double-check the ingredients listed on the packaging.

Swedish Fish Contains a Lot of Sugar

Though most Swedish Fish can be considered vegan-friendly, like many sweets, they pack quite a lot of sugar.

From the list of ingredients you can find on a pack of Swedish Fish, the first three are all different types of sugars. 

You can find more nutrition facts about Swedish Fish on EWG.com. [5]

The nonprofit website scores foods based on Nutrition, Ingredient Concerns, and the Degree of Processing.

Also, see Do Scandinavians Eat a Lot of Fish? to learn more.

History of the Swedish Fish

Before the Swedish Fish came swimming to the shores of the United States, they were produced, as the name suggests, in Sweden.

They were manufactured by a confectionery company called Malaco. [2]

Many say that the company chose the fish shape for their candy to pay tribute to Sweden’s large fishing industry.

Swedish Fish were developed mainly for the American market.

However, similar gummies were already popular in the Scandinavian country and sold as pick and mix before the company decided to expand its market to North America in the late 1950s.

To do this, Malaco partnered with Cadbury. By the ’60s and ’70s, Swedish Fish became an iconic part of the United States’ candy culture.

The Swedish Fish brand was eventually acquired by Cadbury Adams, then later Mondelez.

The latter is the same company that produces Oreos, which might explain the appearance of Swedish Fish-flavored Oreos back in 2016.

That wasn’t the only product with the Swedish Fish flavor. Rita’s Italian Ice served a red Swedish Fish-flavored Italian ice back in 2009.

A gum company owned by Mondelez Global, Trident, also produced a Swedish Fish flavored product marketed as a “Berry+Lemon” flavor.

Swedish Fish can still be easily found in local grocery stores and are a common sight in cinema snack bars.

However, those hoping to try the Malaco Swedish Fish will have to do a little more digging.

Malaco still produces Swedish Fish gummies, marketed in Sweden as pastellfiskar, which translates to “pale-colored fish.” They’re a bit harder to find outside of Sweden, though. 

Other Swedish Fish Products

Though the most common or standard Swedish fish colors are those mentioned previously, you can occasionally find other Swedish Fish products.

  • Tropical Fruit: These Swedish Fish come in pale yellow, pale orange, magenta, and purple colors. These are pina colada, passion fruit, tropical island, and beachy punch flavors.
  • Fish Tails: These are a variety of Swedish Fish that come in two-in-one flavored Fish. These are raspberry-strawberry, watermelon-pineapple, and raspberry-mango.
  • Salmiak: Salmiak is a Swedish Fish flavor you can only find in Sweden. This is a unique salty black licorice flavor.

Other Swedish fish flavors are also available in Sweden, like elderflower, sour blueberry, and sweet ginger.

Also, see Why Don’t Scandinavians Feed Guests? to learn more.

[1] Source
[2] Source
[3] Source
[4] Source
[5] Source

Christian Christensen

Christian started Scandinavia Facts to explore his family heritage, raise awareness of one of his academic interests as a professor, and civilly promote the region. Please see the About page for details.

Related Questions

error: This content is copyrighted.