Why are people so obsessed with Swedish candy right now?

TikTok’s sweet latest infatuation is a world of pure imagination: Swedish candy.

The trend may have come in on the sugary coattails of last year’s “candy salad” mania, in which content creators layered or mixed several different shiny candy-coated and gummy yummies in treat bowls or clear glass jars. Some of the most popular have a relaxing ASMR aspect (autonomous sensory meridian response), with waves of mesmerizing shapes and colors pouring into the containers.

The low-carb craze is cooling a little, too, while the demand for allergen-friendly, vegan and more natural ingredients is heating up, and Swedish candy is just the golden ticket.

There’s an emphasis on real sugar instead of corn syrup, plant-derived colorings, and gummies that get their bounce from air bubbles and glucose instead of gelatin. Most are gluten-free. They come in discs and diamonds, skulls and squids, hearts, buttons, twists and ropes. Fruit flavors are the most common, but there’s also cola, elderflower, caramel and licorice.

Bulk bags of a single candy are available, but the real appeal is the pick-and-mix assortments, in which buyers can customize their bag from scores of options, or choose from kaleidoscopic varietal blends of sweet, sour, gummy, chocolate, sugar-free and more. (Licorice-haters may want to choose carefully, and licorice-lovers may want to try Scandinavian salted licorice with caution.) Those distinctive printed bags are especially important for maintaining one of the textures a lot of newly-devoted Americans are most enamored with: an airy, foam-like marshmallow/taffy hybrid.

Online retailers like Sweetish Candy and Sockerbit are notifying customers to expect shipping delays, and New York City’s BonBon storefront suddenly has a line of customers out the door and down the street.

TODAY.com caught up with BonBon’s official Director of Fun, Leo Schaltz (yes, that is his real title), to talk about the current Swedish candy smorgasbord explosion. He says that he and two other fellow Swedes, Robert Persson and Selim Adira, founded BonBon about six years ago and “it originated out of sheer love for our candy from our home country, and all the nostalgia that goes with that.” Since the 1950s, there’s been a tradition in Sweden of indulging in candy, but with some structure to avoid overindulging; lördagsgodis means “Saturday sweets,” and it’s common for families to go out to pick a fun mix of candies to have on that day.

Swedish Candy (BonBon)
Swedish Candy (BonBon)

“Swedish candy is a quality product, gluten-free, vegan, better-tasting,” says Schaltz. “We saw there was space in the market for it, because it’s a little bit of an upscale candy, but it’s affordable.”

“We obviously wanted to extend that to the U.S.,” he continues, and after opening for both online and brick-and-mortar sales, and even developing their own specialty Swedish Fish, “life has been fun ever since!”

Swedish Candy (BonBon)
Swedish Candy (BonBon)

BonBon has a candy-until-midnight, seven-days-a-week schedule and handles increased DoorDash and Uber Eats deliveries at mealtimes, but the recent demand uptick has meant hiring more employees to fill online orders, too: They’ve gone from handling about 50 at a time to over 1,000, overnight.

“We had to airlift candy from Sweden because we ran out!” laughs Schaltz.

Schaltz says that another part of the rapid expansion may be a post-pandemic enthusiasm for experiences that were off-limits for a while.

“Safety and sanitary precautions (like scoops and sanitizing sprays) are something we always did, but people are just in general eager to do things we couldn’t do during COVID,” he explains.

For a while, many sweet shops sold by window or curbside pickup only, BonBon included, and now that we can go in and see for ourselves the rows upon rows of choices, and talk to a candy sommelier to help us pick things we’ll like, the pull is irresistible.

Wait — candy sommelier?

Yes, BonBon really does have helpers in crisp aprons, ready to talk over your preferences, whether you want nostalgia or novelty, whether you want smooth or crunchy — and whether you like banana or not.

Swedish Candy (BonBon)
Swedish Candy (BonBon)

“One of my favorites is the Bubs banana caramel marshmallow candy,” Shaltz tells TODAY, describing the process of talking to customers about trying one side of the candy disk and then the other, as a way of feeling things out. Some people like it, and some people don’t. A trained candy connoisseur can help guide your experience to find new favorites and old friends.

“Our top-selling mixes are the sour and the sweet. We really pay attention to making them a proper mixed bag, and call it ‘tickling your taste buds and challenging your jaw.’”

They also catch your eye — and your imagination. A few bites of a sour cola skull or a strawberry-vanilla Rambo twist, and you’ll be singing along with another Swedish export, ABBA:

If you change your mind/ I’m the first in line/ Honey, I’m still (gluten) free/ Take a chance on me.

This article was originally published on TODAY.com