Swedes love candy. A study by the Swedish Board of Agriculture found that Swedes eat the most candy per capita in the world — around 35 pounds per person per year. That’s a lot of sweets! But as members of the Babbel team discovered the hard way, Swedish candy isn’t all sweet (more on that later).
Our expert tour guide on this confectionary journey: Elin Asklöv, a Swede who works on Babbel’s team of language experts. She answered all of our questions about Swedish candy, including whether people in Sweden actually eat Swedish Fish. As it turns out, they do! But they just call them fish (or, to be more specific, pastellfiskar, “pale-colored fish”).
Elin also filled us in on another fun fact about Swedish candy: “When growing up, you can only have candy on Saturdays,” she explained. “There’s a term for it, lördagsgodis, which translates to ‘Saturday candy’.”
The story goes that in the 1940s, patients at a Swedish mental hospital were forced to eat 24 pieces of caramel candy a day for three years in a cruel study to determine the negative effects of candy on public health. Obviously, the results were not good, so the Swedish government recommended that candy be consumed in moderation — only once a week, on Saturdays. Swedish families have stuck with that tradition to this day.
When you watch the video above, you’ll quickly realize (as we did) that Swedish candy is quite different from American candy. Our employees tasted four types of common Swedish candy, with Elin standing by to give some cultural context (and to laugh at our reactions).
Sweet, Sour And Shocking Swedish Candy
Djungelvrål (“Jungle Scream”)
As the old saying goes, first is the worst. In the video, we started with djungelvrål, which translates to “jungle scream.” It’s aptly named, as some of us actually did scream when we tasted this small black candy, which packs a surprisingly strong punch … of salt. This salty taste is called salmiak, which is a salty licorice made of ammonium chloride. According to Elin, salmiak candy is very popular in Sweden and across northern Europe, but it’s definitely an acquired taste. “No one is born and has it and thinks it’s great, but people get really addicted,” she said.
Sura Skiftnycklar (“Sour Wrenches”)
The next candy we tried was much more enjoyable, at least to an American palate. Elin said these wrench-shaped treats are one of the sourest types of Swedish candy, but in comparison to some American candy (think Warheads), they’re only moderately sour. Sura skiftnycklar are pretty tasty. They’re a little like Sour Patch Kids, but shaped like wrenches instead of happy children.
Consuming this hard sucking candy was a wild ride from start to finish. The outside shell is sour, then underneath it’s sweet. The very center is filled with salmiak powder for a healthy dose of salt. According to Elin, “the anticipation of when it’s going to break is part of the experience.”
I, for one, did not enjoy this salmiak surprise, but apparently there is a subgenre of Swedish candy that is hard on the outside and has salmiak or sour powder in the middle. When it comes to kryptonit, Superman and I are on the same page.
Ferraribilar (“Ferrari Cars”)
The last Swedish candy we tried was relatively inoffensive. As the name suggests, ferraribilar are shaped like Ferraris. They’re sweet, red and very difficult to chew. “Non-Swedes often think they’re stale, but they’re supposed to be really hard and chewy,” Elin explained.
It should be noted that Swedes also eat their fair share of chocolate candy, but that wouldn’t have been as interesting.