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Licorice Unveiled: Exploring the History and Unique Flavors!

UPDATED ON FEBRUARY 9, 2024
BY JOSH ROTHSTEIN

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As if America needed another reason to be divided during an election year, today we are going to talk about one of the most divisive candies of all time: licorice and even more specifically, black licorice. We’ve covered some contentious sweets before – candy corn, circus peanuts, even buttered popcorn-flavored jelly beans, but nothing seems to be quite as inherently alienating as black licorice.

I for one happen to be one of those weirdos who has enjoyed black licorice since my childhood. While it’s certainly not my favorite candy of all time or anything like that, I do thoroughly enjoy the earthy, herbal sweet flavor licorice has to offer on occasion.

While I may be in the minority here, I do recognize that most people absolutely loathe the flavor of black licorice. While some have theorized that it may be a genetic disposition, akin to the case with cilantro, the preference for, or aversion to licorice flavor appears to be purely a matter of personal taste.

Some people I have talked to about the subject say they’ve even put forth an effort to like licorice, but it simply never clicks with their taste buds. Perhaps it reminds them of the taste of some herbal medicines they’ve had in the past. Some even say the anise flavor reminds them of NyQuil or Jägermeister. Those aren’t flavors you’d typically expect from a candy!

How does licorice get its distinct flavor?

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Black licorice's flavor comes from the root of the licorice plant, Glycyrrhiza glabra. It's blended with anise oil, giving it that distinct taste that some love and others... well, let's just say they have a totally different opinion on the matter.

Historically, black licorice has roots (pun intended) in ancient civilizations like Greece, Egypt, and China, where it was used for its supposed medicinal properties. Hippocrates, “The Father of Medicine” apparently spoke of licorice quite frequently, purporting its use to ease stomach pain from ulcers and quench thirst. Alexander the Great even gave out rations of licorice extract to his troops to help keep them hydrated on long marches.

But it wasn't until the late 16th century that the licorice root found its way into confectionery items, delighting some and horrifying others ever since. The sweet root had been used in medicinal tinctures and tonics for centuries. But around 1760, a pharmacist from Pontefract, England added sugar water to a cough medicine containing licorice extract to make it more palatable. By the 1800’s, licorice’s popularity had exploded, with confectioners across Europe and the Americas making candies with its distinct flavor.

I can see why people may have an aversion to the flavor of black licorice. But for the people who like it, there are plenty of wonderful products you can enjoy, with more coming out all the time!

Licorice is Making a Huge Comeback!

Although it never really went anywhere, a resurgence of licorice is coming around with new, exciting products being unveiled to fancy the delight of licorice lovers everywhere! Much like the old-fashioned taste of root beer, more and more people seem to be looking for a little taste of history in their moments of sweet indulgence.

Licorice also aligns with people looking for “better-for-you” sweets and snacks. There are many purported health benefits associated with licorice root extract. Apart from its stomach-soothing properties and ability to aid hydration, there is evidence suggesting that licorice can help you combat stress, enhance your natural immunity, improve respiratory health, and maintain oral hygiene by combating bacteria linked to gum disease.

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However, there's a catch to these health benefits: most licorice candy contains sugar. Although licorice is naturally sweet, thanks to the compound glycyrrhizin, which is up to 50 times sweeter than cane sugar, most candies have even more added sugar to enhance their flavor.

Another notable caveat to licorice, is that it can be dangerous to consume large amounts over a prolonged period of time. According to the American Heart Association, excessive consumption of black licorice can lower the body’s potassium levels, which in extreme cases can cause abnormal heart rhythms and congestive heart failure. However, occasional indulgence in a twist or two of licorice is unlikely to cause any harm.

Now that we've covered the responsible side of indulging in licorice, let's dive into the delightful world of innovative licorice products that are sure to tantalize your taste buds! While it's always wise to enjoy licorice in moderation, there's no denying the sheer joy and creativity that goes into crafting these delectable treats.

From classic twists to exotic flavors and intriguing textures, the licorice market is bursting with exciting new options just waiting to be explored! So, without further ado, let's embark on a journey through some of the most irresistible licorice delights that are guaranteed to leave you craving more.

Discover These Absolutely Delightful Licorice Products Perfect for Your Candy Store!

Darrell Lee Soft Australian Licorice

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DARRELL LEA LICORICE PEG BAG - ORIG BLK NON-GMO

For people who really love black licorice, it doesn’t get much better than Darrell Lee’s Soft Australian Licorice – Original Flavor. These delectably soft licorice bites boast a rich and authentic taste that will satisfy any licorice lover's cravings. If you’re looking for a high-quality black licorice, these are as close to gourmet as you can get! Crafted with care, they are vegan-friendly, made without palm oil, non-GMO, and they contain no artificial flavors or colors, so you can enjoy them without any guilt! Experience the perfect blend of chewy texture and bold flavor in every bite of this timeless classic.

Wiley Wallaby Sourrageous Drops

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WILEY WALLABY LICORICE STAND UP PEG BAG - SOURRAGEOUS DROPS

Here’s something exciting and unlike anything you’ve ever tried before in a licorice! Wiley Wallaby’s Sourrageous Drops are candy-coated sour licorice bits that offer the perfect mix of sweet and sour, with a blend of textures and a strong flavor that makes these tiny drops absolutely irresistible!

With three fruity flavors: watermelon, lemon, and green apple, these will have your taste buds dancing with pure, unadulterated joy! These are vegan, fat free, kosher, and they contain no high fructose corn syrup so you can keep enjoying them, time and time again.

Claeys Old Fashioned Licorice Hard Candies

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CLAEYS OLD FASHIONED HARD CANDY PEG BAG-LICORICE DISPLAY

If you’re on the hunt for some truly old-timey charm that will last for a very long time, look no further than Claeys Old Fashioned Hard Candies in Licorice flavor! These hard candies will be a hit with anyone looking to relive the nostalgia of yesteryear. Dating all the way back to 1919, Claeys delightful hard candies are best enjoyed at any time of day, and you can really savor the timeless taste of licorice in every drop!

Gustafs Double Salted Dutch Licorice

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GUSTAFS LICORICE DOUBLE SALTED BULK

Now here’s a licorice for only the true believers. Gustafs Double Salted Dutch Licorice is a unique flavor that is very popular in Europe but hasn’t quite gained the notoriety just yet here in the United States. Seriously, even if you really like black licorice, you may have a hard time getting used to this one. But for those who do love a salted licorice, you absolutely cannot beat these!

Available in a peg bag, or as a bulk candy, Gustafs Double Salted Licorice adds a savory element, that may be polarizing for some even devout licorice enthusiasts. The salt enhances the licorice's natural tanginess and adds a bold, salty kick that intensifies the overall flavor profile. This can create a taste sensation that may be too intense or unexpected for those accustomed to the sweeter varieties of licorice. But they are definitely a “must-try” if you love black licorice!

Red Vines Made Simple Mixed Berry Twists

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RED VINES LICORICE TWIST TRAY - MADE SIMPLE BERRY-NON-GMO

You are sure to delight in the fruity sweetness of Red Vines Made Simple Mixed Berry Twists. These irresistible treats offer a burst of berry flavor in every twist, combining the luscious taste of mixed berries with the classic chewy texture of Red Vines.

Made with real sugar and all natural, high-quality, non-GMO ingredients and with no artificial flavors or colors, these Red Vines provide a “better for you” guilt-free indulgence for red licorice lovers of all ages! Perfect for snacking, sharing, or adding a touch of fruity fun to any occasion, Red Vines Made Simple Mixed Berry Twists are a must-have for those seeking a deliciously simple and satisfying treat.

Now, you may be wondering…

Is Red Licorice Even Licorice at All?

The answer to that question is unfortunately a big fat “no”. While red licorice is similar in shape and texture, it contains none of the traditional licorice root or anise flavoring that is characteristic of traditional black licorice.

Instead, red licorice relies on typically fruity flavoring and bright colors to achieve its vibrant hue and sweet taste. While it may share the same chewy texture and twisted form, red licorice lacks the distinctive essence of true licorice, making it more of a fruity confection than a licorice treat. So, while red licorice may still satisfy a sweet tooth, it technically isn’t really licorice at all.


We hope you've enjoyed exploring our selection of the finest licorice treats! With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, we have an array of over 6,000 meticulously curated confections and culinary delights in our inventory, and we're committed to delivering top-notch products to candy enthusiasts worldwide. Perhaps that’s why many call Redstone Foods “America’s favorite candy distributor!”

At Redstone Foods, we're dedicated to assisting you in discovering your next favorite licorice delights. Whether you prefer the classics or you crave something new and innovative, we're here to guide you on your journey of sweet discovery! Reach out to us today by phone or register for an account online to explore our extensive selection even further. We eagerly await the opportunity to assist you in satisfying all of your customer’s sweet cravings!

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