This Is Where The Flavor Of Twizzlers Comes From

Twizzlers sit uncomfortably where disdain, love, and heated controversy come together. There's mass disgust for traditional licorice, plus the debate between Red Vines and Twizzlers fans for red, waxy dominance. And honestly, have you ever heard of a kid being thrilled at receiving a pack of Twizzlers for Halloween over, say, a Reese's or a Kit Kat? Me neither. Nonetheless, Twizzlers persist, with their strange, distinctive flavor and plastic-y mouthfeel. We decided to dig into where that flavor comes from.

The first three ingredients in Twizzlers: corn syrup, enriched wheat flour, and sugar (via Hershey's). It's that simple. So when you eat a Twizzler, you're basically just eating sugary bread. The "less than 2%" ingredients, including "artificial flavor" are likely what gives the candy its distinctive, slightly medicinal flavor. It's supposed to be strawberry (or cherry, or any other one of their limited-edition flavors) but whether or not a trace of real strawberry makes it into the final product? Your guess is as good as ours.

The mystery of red Twizzlers flavor

What's definitely not in the classic Twizzlers strawberry flavor is licorice. Although, the precursor candies to Twizzlers did start out using the distinctive and widely hated flavor in the late 1800s, about three brands before Y&S candies, the old company, was bought by Hershey's (via True Confections: A Novel). But Twizzlers does make a black licorice variety, which uses licorice extract (via Hershey's). They've even been sued in 2018 by a man who claimed the black candy gave him heart disease — and as it turns out, too much black licorice has been shown to lead to heart issues, according to an FDA warning (via Today).

But if we dig into common strawberry flavorings, some front-runners appear. Ethyl 3-phenylglycidate, or Aldehyde C-16, is a common artificial aroma chemical and gives foods a "Fruity, strawberry, fermented, honey" smell, which contributes to taste (via Chemistry and Technology of Flavours and Fragrances). Furaneol, with an equally complex chemical name, is another strawberry stand-in. Weirdly enough, besides lending a strawberry taste — it's also used to flavor meats (via Chemistry and Technology of Flavours and Fragrances). We can't say for certain if these chemicals are used in Twizzler's distinctive flavor, but one thing's for sure: the flavor of Twizzlers comes from a chemistry lab and not nature. But you knew that already.