Swedish Fish From Scandinavia

Excerpt from Ari’s Top 5 enews 

Super tasty artisan confectionery

Sweden just formally joined NATO. These artisan Swedish gummies are for sale at the Deli! The presence of the gummies is probably less important to world peace than the new membership in NATO, but for any of you reading this who have a high affinity for gummies, they are still meaningful in the day-to-day world we live in. Fortunately, we don’t have to choose—you and I can go with the gummies, and the NATO generals can begin the work of incorporating Sweden into the organization. (And by the way, NATO has quietly been using a consensus decision-making process since its founding in 1949).

When we first started stocking these artisan Swedish fish, they were new to the American candy scene. Now the word is out. Recently, the Wall Street Journal wrote:

Kolsvart, a small maker of gummy candies in Malmö, Sweden, gets specific with its Swedish fish taxonomy, offering sour blueberry Piggvar (shaped like turbot), sour raspberry Röding (arctic char) and elderflower Gäddan (pike). These chewy sweets derive their jewel hues from grape-skin extract, carrot concentrate and turmeric, and happen to be vegan and gluten-free. A portion of the proceeds from the Piggvar and Gäddan benefits the Swedish Anglers Association, which promotes clean waters and healthy fish populations.

The high-quality confections from Kolsvart are a great artisan way to get your sweets fix. Kolsvart is a small, craft-focused firm started by a few friends in the southwestern Swedish town of Malmo about five or six years ago. They had a café and found themselves in one of the periods of uncertainty, not clear on where they were going next (Yes, they might have wanted to write a vision!). They wanted to offer traditional Swedish licorice at the café, but they couldn’t find anything at the quality level they were committed to serving. Solution? The same one we had with the Bakehouse—open a business so you can make your own. Co-founder Nils Tenje explains: “What we saw was expensive products with dull packaging, and we believed that we could do it better ourselves.” One day Nils’ partner, Axel Roos (sounds a lot like Axel Rose), surprised him with a batch of Axel’s own superb licorice. It was so good that they instantly set up the new business!

Not only does Kolsvart make the candy in the shape of fish, but they support Rena Mälaren, a volunteer organization dedicated to cleaning Lake Mälaren (which is Sweden’s largest lake) from toxic waste. Right now we have all the flavors that the Wall Street Journal wrote about above, plus sour raspberry, and several lovely licorices. The elderflower is a favorite of long-time Candy Store manager Allison Schraf. It’s Tammie’s favorite as well (aside from farming heirloom tomatoes and peppers, she’s quietly a long-time fan of gummies). Kolsvart’s Smoked Salty Licorice Fish is one of my favorites. The candy equivalent of smoked fish, they’re black licorice “fish,” cold-smoked over Swedish alder wood. They have that same sort of smoky, unfamiliar at first, but ultimately kind of catchy, sort of sense one gets when drinking Lapsang Souchong tea or a great Scotch whiskey. Wild. Intense. Smoky. Not for everyone, but uniquely compelling for those who get into them! A bit of umami excellence from southern Sweden. You can also try eating one of the fruit gummies in tandem with the salted licorice. As the Kolsvart crew write, “Opposites attract—the juicy sweetness of raspberries perfectly complements the bold saltiness of licorice, making for a flavor experience that’s truly out of this world!”

All of the Kolsvart candies are delicious, with a terrific balance of tart and slightly sweet. I never think of this kind of candy as actually reflecting the true flavor of the fruit, but these have changed the lens I look through. They’re terrific. Dice and toss on fruit salad! Or on gelato. Or just eat by the handful, straight from the sack. I’ll add here, too, that from a design standpoint, the Kolsvart candy bags are as exceptional and artisanal as the hand-crafted candy inside! Lovely light kraft paper packages, that, like their raspberry Swedish fish, are almost, but not quite, translucent.

They’re the perfect candy for the summer heat because they won’t melt as you carry them from the car! And they taste so great that, I’ll forecast, you’ll be eating them long after the days start getting shorter! I’ll mention, too, that Sweden seems to have a candy culture beyond anything I’ve ever imagined. Sweden—not France, not Belgium, not Britain—is #1! Swedes eat about 35 pounds per person every year. By contrast, Americans consume a mere 22 pounds. That means that the average Swede eats over half a pound of candy every week. If you’re inspired to help close that gap in an artisan way, swing by and score a few bags of the Kolsvart offerings. If you have a gummy lover like Tammie in your life, a half dozen bags of these might be even better than bringing home a bouquet of flowers.