Hard candy is one of the most popular confections in the world, but to be quite frank, it rarely gets the respect it deserves. When the conversation comes around to favorite sweets, it's usually chocolate, cookies, or ice cream that take the crown. Maybe one or two brave souls will mention something more unique like Japanese Mochi or Brazilian Brigadeiros.
I’m always eager to talk about food in a suitable company, but rarely if ever, have I heard anyone give the crown to classic hard candy. And as someone who’s (obviously) very interested in all things food and how people’s relationship with it develops, I can’t stop wondering what the secret of hard candy’s continuous success is, despite few claiming it as a favorite.
For all most people will say that candy is not their favorite dessert; these simple sweets have been around for centuries and continue to develop new and exciting iterations that obviously keep attracting new consumers. Otherwise, the market for it wouldn’t be as large as it is.
There’s something that keeps us all returning to these small colorful treats even if we hardly ever claim them to be a favorite. Is it the comfort of flavors we’re used to? Is it simple convenience? I have no answer, only burning interest.
Have You Given Enough Regard to Hard Candy?
What I do know about hard candy is that it comes in dozens, if not hundreds of flavors, and suspect that’s one of the biggest reasons for its continuous, albeit quiet, success. Everyone with a sweet tooth can find at least one flavor they wholeheartedly enjoy.
However, what true candy connoisseurs will tell you (I know, I asked) is that not all candy flavors are made equal. Subjective taste has little to do with it; it’s more about the statistics of which flavors people enjoy the best vs. which they enjoy the least.
In the article below, we’ve tried to compile sales statistics with anecdotal evidence and our own subjective taste to make Yummy Bazaar’s (likely very subjective) definitive ranking of the best candy flavors everyone has to try.
Most of these flavors you’ll easily discover in our carefully curated assortment of hard candies, jellies, marshmallows, and other sweets! So if anything feels like it’s tickling your fancy, you can go and easily buy candy online.
Yummy Bazaar’s Ranking of Best Candy Flavors:
Now, without further ado, let’s proceed to our entirely subjective but extensive ranking.
20th Place: Anise
Quite possibly one of the most contentious entries but one that nonetheless deserves to be here. Despite its controversial reputation, anise is one of the world's most popular flavors of hard candy. It’s due to the fact that anise is pulling double-duty when it comes to candy flavors.
Not only will you frequently encounter anise or aniseed-flavored candy drops (despite grips that they taste like medicine), but anise extract is often used for flavoring black licorice candy, either together with licorice root extract or entirely substituting it to cut down the costs.
19th Place: Rose
Today, rose seems like an exotic flavor, but until around the late 18th century, rosewater was a common flavoring agent across Europe. Today its popularity is greatly diminished, but in its native South Asian region, rose is still commonly used to flavor sweets like laddu and gulab jamun, not to mention the popularity of Persian rose jam.
While the rose is by no means one of the most popular flavors of hard candy, it’s definitely one of the best and deserves both a spot on this ranking and more attention.
Rose candy is fragrant, floral, and mildly sweet. If you’ve ever had a rose macaron or rose jam, you’ll recognize the flavor instantly. If not, now’s the time to get acquainted with it.
18th Place: Milk
Milk hard candy has become quite a famous sweet in several Asian countries in the last decade or two. These candies are made with fresh dairy milk or cream, condensed milk, and sugar. Plain milk candy tastes more like condensed milk from a can than anything else, but there are exciting variations. Japanese milk candy, for example, comes with flavored fillings, often contrasting the sweet milk flavor of a hard and crunchy outer shell with the soft filling. The real kicker is that fillings can come in the most unexpected flavors, from classic chocolate and strawberry to matcha or corn. But make no mistake, milk flavor is always the undisputed king in Japanese milk candy.
17th Place: Honey
As classic as a hard candy flavor gets, honey earns its spot on this ranking due to its long history. While many would argue (similar to anise) that plain honey candy tastes too much like medicine, it has undoubtedly amassed more fans than detractors.
16th Place: Cola
Interestingly enough, cola candy has fans even among those who aren’t particularly fond of cola. It’s usually mildly sweet, with a bit of spiciness (usually, thanks to spices like cinnamon and some citrus flavoring) and hints of vanilla.
15th Place: Grape
Another contested entry, grape flavor, has long been a debate among candy connoisseurs. I know, I’m shocked myself, but they do apparently debate over stuff like this. Some consider it too chemical and say the flavor has little to do with grapes. Others contest that it’s delicious, so does the similarity truly matter?
If it matters to you, we’d advise checking out Asian candy with muscat grape flavor. Apparently, it imitates the real stuff quite closely.
14th Place: Banana
And while on the topic of fruit-flavored candy that doesn’t resemble the real stuff, banana is likely the king. Many point out that texture doesn’t help either. Banana-flavored desserts are usually thick and soft. So crunchy hard candy combined with the not-quite-right-tasting banana isn’t everyone’s favorite.
But for those who like the light, mildly sweet candy and enjoy a more muted banana flavor? It’s a favorite.
13th Place: Mint
We’re really on the roll with controversial opinions here, aren’t we? You know how this debate goes. Mint detractors believe it should be exclusively reserved for flavoring toothpaste and has no place among sweets. Mint lovers counterclaim that it’s delightfully refreshing, and the added cooling sensation adds an extra enjoyment factor (which might very well be true since sensations often determine how we feel about what we consume).
But it is a seminal hard candy flavor that has survived centuries and earned a devoted following, so it gets a place on our ranking.
12th Place: Orange
12th place goes to a classic non-controversial flavor for a change. Orange is one of the most popular flavors of hard candy in the world. Point to any hard candy manufacturer, and there’s a 99% chance you’ll find orange among their selection.
Orange is somewhat similar to mint (don’t kill me!) in that it combines refreshing tones with sweetness. But while mint is cooling, orange is zesty and fruity, balancing the sugary sweetness.
11th Place: Lychee
Not a classic hard candy flavor in the West, but a staple in Asia, lychee, along with other tropical fruits, has been building up quite a following recently. Lychee candy is a unique combination of strawberry-like sweetness, citrusy tartness, and rose-like strong floral tones.
10th Place: Caramel
Another classic, caramel candy, opens our top half of the ranking. Caramel flavor should probably rank higher on this list, considering it's one of the first hard candy flavors to become truly famous, but its overwhelming sweetness does knock it down a notch. On the bright side, caramel candy is smooth, creamy, and even somewhat buttery, considering the candy recipe. If you can handle the rich sweetness, caramel is definitely up your alley.
9th Place: Butterscotch
And right after caramel comes butterscotch. Fitting since they’re somewhat similar in flavor, but we’d argue that butterscotch balances flavor complexity with sweetness better, so it gets to rank a little higher than caramel. Classic butterscotch is made with molasses, which adds to the richer flavor and good butterscotch candy imitates that flavor, even when made without molasses. High-end gourmet butterscotch has a bit of savory undertone and hints of rum.
8th Place: Watermelon
The great strength of the watermelon flavor is in its versatility. It’s one of the most popular hard candy flavors because even the artificial flavoring seems to be one of the least offensive among candy connoisseurs. Good watermelon candy imitates the prototype: it’s not overwhelmingly sweet and sugary but mild and refreshing.
7th Place: Mulled Wine
This one’s a bit of a wild card, but we couldn’t skip it. In fact, it only narrowly missed out on top-5 and only because there were so many classics left.
Mulled wine hard candy has one of the most complex flavor profiles among hard candy drops. It only has a mild wine-like flavor but instead emphasizes the spices used in mulled wine: cinnamon, cloves, and vanilla notes.
Unfortunately, this is not a popular flavor, and not many brands manufacture it. So, if interested, you might have to buy mulled wine candy online. A British brand, Simpkins has a pretty great one in their assortment.
6th Place: Wild Berry Mix
A classic flavor cocktail, the wild berry candy mix is an excellent balance of sweet and sour flavor profiles. Moderate sweetness with tart undertones makes this combo a refreshing fruity flavor that is one of candy lovers' top choices.
5th Place: Lemon
For those who love sweets but don’t like when their desserts are too sweet, lemon is often the default choice. While the flavors are wildly different, It’s still similar to the wild berry mix in this regard. The tartness and acidity balance out the sugary sweetness and yield a moderately sweet, pleasant candy. The two could be swapped out, but lemon is a more popular hard candy flavor, so it gets to take the lead.
4th Place: Strawberry
As classic as a flavor gets. There’s really not a lot that can be said. Strawberry is arguably the most popular candy flavor in the world. It has a slight acidic kick to it, but overall it’s just sweet fruity goodness that’s arguably closer to the fruit counterpart than most other fruity flavors on this list.
3rd Place: Pear and Blackberry
This is one flavor combo you won’t see a lot. It seems to be unique to German confectionery giant Cavendish and Harvey candy. It combines the sweetness from the pears with the tartness of blackberries, creating a concoction that’s well-tested (again, the sweet-and-sour combo is a classic when it comes to hard candies) and something most have never tried before.
We even considered giving this one a crown but couldn’t, not in good conscience. It’s just not known well enough for it.
2nd Place: Mixed Citrus
A perfect balance between lemon candy’s higher acidity and orange candy’s fruitiness, this mix strikes the ideal balance between the two.
1st Place: Sour Cherry
A perfect balance between all the ranking factors:
- It’s a classic flavor and one of the best-sellers in the world;
- It strikes a perfect balance between sweetness and tartness, with a slightly higher acidity than strawberries but more sweetness than citruses.
All that’s great in hard candy in sour cherry flavor is simply turned up to the highest degree.