Sweet tooth: Popular candies around the world

Members of differing cultural backgrounds describe their native candies

Flora Peng and Emily Xia

In 2016, the U.S. ranked no. 1 in the world for total candy retail volume, which means that over 5 million pounds of sweets were consumed throughout the year. With options ranging from Japanese Kit Kats to German Haribo gummies, commercial candy in the U.S. contributed to roughly 13% of adults’ total caloric intakes between 2005 and 2010.



When sophomore Nagisa Yoshida lived in Japan, she would frequent her neighborhood convenience stores, picking out different boxes of brightly colored, individually packaged candies to enjoy. Now, living in the United States, Yoshida likes to buy Japanese candy from Asian supermarkets such as Marukai and occasionally has them shipped to her from Japan.

“I like everything but especially gummy bears and [Meiji] chocolates,” Yoshida said. “In Japan, there are so many different types of candies so in just one type of gummies, there are a whole bunch of flavors, shapes and different kinds of stuff. American candies aren’t that varied.”

For senior Emma Thompson, there is also a different kind of value associated with Japanese candy. She says she takes pride in the high quality, luxury manufacturing of Japanese candy. To Thompson, sharing candy bought in Japan gives her an opportunity to not only provide her friends with a decadent treat, but also share an important aspect of her culture.

“American candies usually just try to be really sweet or kind of sour where you don’t have actual distinct flavors and you wouldn’t be able to [pick] a cherry from a grape,” Thompson said. “In Japan they try and make flavors taste like the actual fruit so peach flavor tastes like actual peach, apple flavor tastes like actual apple. Grape especially doesn’t taste like cough medicine, it just tastes like grapes.”



When asked about the most iconic candies from India, juniors Arvind Jagdish and Manish Malempati hesitate. After a beat of silence, Malempati explains that native candy is not particularly impactful to India’s culture; rather, sweets that involve oil and spices are much more popular.

“There [are] a lot of candies there that are big,” Jagdish said. “But [in general], sweets are always going to be big.”

In India, store shelves are lined with candies that are primarily imported brands from America and European countries. As a result, according to Jagdish and Malempati, sweet desserts are much more memorable, with the syrup-soaked gulab jamun being their personal favorite.

“We have the Hershey’s rip-off, Cadbury, [that’s] sold in Britain but is huge in India,” Malempati said. “Kinder Joy [isn’t] Indian [either], but it’s also huge there. But gulab jamun, it’s amazing.”


Spain & Mexico

A jar of lollipops sits on Spanish teacher Molly Guadiamos’ desk. But these aren’t the regular Dum-Dums found in local grocery stores. As a language teacher, she tries to incorporate elements of Spanish or Mexican culture into almost every aspect of her lesson, down to the sweet treats in her lollipop jar, called Chupa Chups.

Well-known in many other regions of the world, Chupa Chups are fairly similar to American lollipops and often have fruity and creamy flavors. With a quirky name that rolls off the tongue and a strong, flavorful punch, the candies are very popular.

Along with the fruity flavors, like those in Chupa Chups, a common ingredient in Mexican candies are chili peppers, which were once used by the ancient Aztec and Mayan cultures to make medicine and add unique flavors to their cuisine. For example, the popular Mexican candy brand Vera Mango makes mango lollipops coated in salty chili powder.

“[In Mexico,] these are some kinds of things that are typical, sweet and spicy,” Guadiamos said. “In contrast, in Spain they don’t like the spiciness … and their sweets will be more like other European sweets so they don’t have those kinds of unique flavors.”

Rather than using spiciness as its kick, Spanish candy takes generic flavors such as chocolate and vanilla and turns them into richly-sweet candies such as nougat. One such product is turrón, a nut-filled nougat that comes in many flavors and is traditionally consumed at Christmastime.

Being more of a chocolate-lover, Guadiamos prefers more traditional candy flavors, but is always happy to hand out candy to her students to allow them to experience the sweetest side of Spanish and Mexican culture.