Swedes may be known as a wholesome bunch but that doesn’t stop them from also being some of the world’s biggest sugar gluttons – or the biggest if you believe the book by Thomas Hedlund and André Persson, entitled “Sweets for the People”, which suggests that Sweden is home to the world’s top consumers of candy.
According to figures published by the Swedish Board of Agriculture, the average Swede binges on 16 kilograms of candy every year (35 pounds). Compared with the 1970s and 1980s, when these figures stood at around nine to ten kilos per person and year, Swedes appear to have increased their candy consumption by a whopping 60 per cent.
But most Swedes, particularly the younger ones, don’t eat candy on weekdays. Swedish parents prevent children from eating too much by adapting a rule they themselves learned as children; you only eat candy on Saturdays, so called “Lördagsgodis”.
Pick and mix, the most popular Swedish candy of all
So what caused this massive increase in candy consumption? Hedlund and Persson suggests that the launch of a colourful, visible, and accessibly priced new phenomenon – namely pick and mix, or bulk candy – in Swedish stores in the mid-1980s was a major deciding factor.
Pay a visit to any Swedish supermarket and you will quickly understand why this sweet sensation became such an instant hit. With its huge array of eye-catching bright colours – from hard candy to soft candy, jellies to foams, liquorice, toffee and chocolate – it is impossible to pass the pick and mix section without being mesmerised by it. Moreover, the huge variety means you’re never more than a few scoops away from a bag that’s guaranteed to delight every palate.
The contents of any two bags of pick and mix can vary enormously but there are some sure favourites that are unlikely to be overlooked by your run-of-the-mill Swede. These include salty liquorice Swedish fish, Bubs’ iconically designed raspberry liquorice skulls, and individually wrapped cream toffees, from Kolafabriken.
Healthy candy on the rise
However, Swedes are one of the most healthiest people in the world. This has been confirmed by the results of a study by Norwegian Orkla Foods which found that Swedes – even more so than their Danish, Norwegian and Finnish neighbours – have changed their eating habits and eat more healthily now than they used to.
In this age of healthy lifestyles and personal wellbeing, most innovative confectionery producers are looking for new ways to keep their consumers happy. From organic, flavoured dark chocolate from Malmö Chokladfabrik, to a wide range of organic, Fairtrade-labelled products such as nuts, juices and snack bars from Smiling, as well as Nick’s wheat-free, gluten-free, no-added-sugar chocolate, Sweden has plenty of sweet treats to suit even the strictest of diets.
Candy around the world
Swedes may have the world’s sweetest teeth but they are not alone in their love of candy. Americans and Brits are also renowned for their confectionary game, and their ability to gulp down considerable amounts of sweets for Halloween, as well as chocolate eggs and bunnies at Easter, and chocolate advent calendars at Christmas.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the average American consumes just under 10 kilograms, or 22 pounds of candy over the course of a year. And every year, close to seven million metric tons of sugar, sweeteners and candy are imported annually to satisfy the sweet-toothed cravings across the country.
Earlier this year, The National Retail Federation in the USA partnered with Prosper Insights & Analytics to poll close to 7,000 consumers about their Halloween shopping habits. Results showed that U.S. shoppers would likely blow as much as USD 9 billion on sweet treats in the 2018 season, just shy of the record of USD 9.1 billion set in 2017.