Raise your hands if you’ve ever heard of Ferrero. I think it’s safe to say that even people who aren’t particularly interested in gourmet food can easily identify the gold-wrapped Italian candy at first glance, their mouths automatically watering, imagining the famous chocolate-hazelnut flavor combo.
But how many of these people do you think would know that Ferrero is not the name of the chocolate candy itself but the company?
Ferrero, of course, has little to worry about in this regard. It’s safe to say they’re one of the most popular candy brands out there, if not THE biggest. Ferrero the chocolate is one of the most beloved Italian candies in the world. It's name recognition drives people to buy not only more Ferrero Rocher, the signature golden-foiled flagman product, but it potentially raises interest in their other products.
Unfortunately, plenty of locally popular types of candy from Italy can’t boast the same. Which is a shame because recognition is rather essential for candy. You see, people tend to be conservative when it comes to candy. A recent study found that most people choose their favorite at around age 11 and stick to it for the rest of their lives. So the older you grow, the less chance a candy company has to make you into their loyal customer. You’re always going to gravitate towards your childhood favorite above all else. But name recognition gives popular candy brands an edge. You’re much likelier to try Cadbury Cream Egg when you’re an adult than some unknown candy from some unknown manufacturer. Simply because it’s a product that has garnered a high level of buzz over the years.
Italian candy brands have a bit of a problem with buzzing up their product across the pond if you know what I mean. Especially if the product they specialize in isn’t chocolate-based. See, Italian chocolate holds a certain buzz independently of the brand name. Like Swiss and Belgian chocolate, Italian chocolate has come to be associated with quality. And has also completely overshadowed almost all other types of candy manufactured in Italy.
Many popular candy brands have maintained a steady devoted following for years (some even centuries) in their home country - and hold no name recognition outside of it.
We want to rectify that. Italy is the home to some of the world’s oldest and most unique brands that have consistently delivered quality products to the market and do not deserve to be overlooked by candy connoisseurs. If you walk away from this article with a desire to give at least one candy company from this list a try, we’ll consider that a win!
What is the most popular Italian candy?
Even locally, Ferrero is undoubtedly become the champion among popular candy brands. Somewhat shocking, considering it’s not even that old for an Italian confectionery product manufacturer. It was established in 1946, which is the younger side of iconic Italian brands.
Italians love their chocolate as fiercely as the rest of the world.
However, outside of chocolate-based confectionaries, the most popular Italian candy seems to be “Galatine.” It’s a type of milk candy with a straightforward recipe that consists mainly of milk, yogurt, and a bit of honey. Italians generally seem to have affection for hard candies and chewy toffee with milky or fruity flavors.
While Galatine may seem a little basic for the country renowned for its richly flavored, gourmet desserts, these small sweet white tablets have apparently been a childhood staple for most Italians, regardless of their age or gender, and socioeconomic class. Hence, most of them continue to crave it as adults. Another anecdotal evidence supporting the theory that childhood memories tend to determine our preferences for sweets.
However, if you’re a true foodie and are always open to trying something new, you can always take a peek at our collection of Italian candy and find something interesting.
Other types of candy that are nigh-ubiquitously beloved are torrone, an Italian nut and nougat confection, and Rossana, a combination of Italians’ two favorite treats - crunchy milk casing with a hazelnut-almond flavored liquid center.
7 Popular Candy Brands from Italy (Aside from Ferrero)
The brands we’ve compiled for this list have all proven themselves as dependable manufacturers devoted to the quality of their products, carrying their traditions through many years and maintaining devoted user bases.
We’re not ranking them in any way, shape, or form. They’ve earned their spots. Instead, we’ll list them from oldest to youngest for simplicity’s sake.
The first candy company on this list has been operating in one way or another since 1731. Think about that for a moment. Amarelli has been in the business of confectionary manufacturing for almost 300 years now.
Unsurprisingly, when it was first established, it looked little like it does today. The Amarelli family, whose history records apparently go back to the XI century, possessed large land estates in Calabria and was heavily involved in agriculture. At the beginning of the XVIII century, the family became interested in the licorice root, primarily due to its professed health benefits, and turned their agricultural efforts towards its production.
In 1731, the Amarelli’s started operating the first establishment that would act as one of the first proto-industrial organizations to farm the licorice and extract the juice from its roots. Not long after, the first Italian licorice candy popped up on the market. It’s unclear if the family was directly involved or simply adopted and then developed the recipe someone else brought to Italy from the Netherlands. Still, there’s no doubt they were at the forefront.
We say almost 300 years of experience is credible enough as a reason to give what Amarelli has to offer a try.
Top-3 products to try: this one can be tough to get into. While most confectionary companies produce multiple types of candy, they’ve stuck to their roots. Amarelli offers a broad selection, but in a very narrow niche: same as 300 years ago, they concentrate on licorice, which is not exactly the most popular candy on the market.
But if you’re willing to give it a chance, here’s what we advise you to start with:
Sugar Coated Colorizia Anise Flavored Soft Licorice Candies are a fun, colorful bunch with a milder taste than classic licorice and an added kick of sugar. If you’ve never tasted licorice candy before, this is a great option to start with.
Senatori Violet Flavored Soft Licorice Candies are possibly the most unique candies in our selection. It’s an option even seasoned licorice aficionados may not be familiar with.
Old England Licorice Candies is as classic as licorice candy gets. It’s characteristically bittersweet with a pleasantly chewy texture, without much fanfare. This one is for those who want to know what licorice candy tastes on its own. As a bonus, it comes in delightful metal packaging, which you can reuse later.
Remember those milk candies we mentioned above? The most popular non-chocolate candy in Italy? Sperlari is the one producing them. Somewhat predictably, they’re one of the most popular candy brands in the country.
Sperlari has been in the business since 1836 and has devoted this time to becoming the premier hard candy manufacturer in the industry. It’s the sort of name recognition when the brand name becomes synonymous with the product it manufactures.
It might even be entirely responsible for the popularity of hard candy in Italy, which has now looped back. Italians love Sperlari, and deservedly so. For them, it’s a dependable and ever-consistent taste of their childhood that both stays true to tradition and manages never to get boring.
Colorful hard candies are not all Sperlari has to offer its devoted customers. Unlike Amarelli, which has devoted itself to perfecting a single product, Sperlari has expanded its manufacturing to include multiple types of candy, including chocolates, torrone, and even candied fruit.
Top-3 products to try:
Sperlari Spicchi Su Citrus Hard Candies is as classic as a candy flavor can get. If you want to give iconic Italian candy a go but don’t want to experiment too much, this is the one to get.
Sperlari Club Mint Eucalyptus Hard Candies - on the other hand, if experimenting is your style, this version might be just up your alley.
Sperlari Zanzibarone Assorted Soft Torrone Nougat Candies - If hard candy is just not your style, you can try another Italian candy favorite, a soft and chewy torrone covered with gianduja and dark chocolate.
Like Amarelli, Vergani is the master of the craft for one particular product instead of a wide selection. But where Amarelli specializes in licorice, Vergani specializes in torrone.
The company’s roots go back to the second half of the XIX century. During the time, torrone was one of the most popular confections in the province of Cremona, and many grocery shop owners produced it by hand for sale.
Secondo Vergani, the future founder, worked as a grocery boy in Porta Venezia and fell in love with the treat. In 1881, he acquired his own shop and started producing torrone. The tradition of making torrone in-store started fading slowly but surely, with many grocers beginning to buy from other producers - including Secondo Vergani.
By the 1920s, what was once a tiny shop in Porta Venezia significantly consolidated its activities and became a leader in the torrone industry. By the 1930s, Vergani started distributing torrone abroad.
The final step of cementing itself as the industry leader was when Vergani opened a new factory in the 1980s.
While Vergani the company is as devoted to producing torrone as its founder back in the days and cautious of change, it’s not entirely adverse. While torrone is still the company’s primary focus, it has started to produce a few other types of candy like chocolate pralines and marron glaces.
Top-3 products to try: if you’re looking for gluten-free Italian candy options, then Vergani torrone is a perfect choice for you.
Vergani Torrone Soft Nougat with Almonds is as traditional a taste as you get. It’s soft, chewy nougat, filled with a generous number of crunchy almonds, so you get one with every bite. If you’ve never tried torrone before, this is where you should start.
Vergani Torrone Soft Nougat with Almonds and Cappuccino Flavor is the one if you prefer your sweet treats on the less sugary side (and enjoy coffee). The coffee flavor balances the torrone sweetness, and roasted coffee bean bits add an extra kick.
Vergani Torrone Soft Nougat with Almonds and Forest Berries is for those who like their dessert with a sour note. The mix of raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, and blueberries adds zing, pairing well with torrone sweetness and almonds’ nutty flavor.
Another Italian candy company over a century old, Baci Perugina, is probably the most confusing case on this list. Often, you’ll find its products labeled as Baci Perugina, other times just Perugina, without Baci.
Google will insist that Perugina is the company name (not untrue), online stores will insist Baci Perugina is the company name, and few will mention that Baci is just the subsidiary of Perugina.
It’s not really straightforward, but thankfully the company has put in the effort to clear it all up.
The company name is Perugina. It was founded in Perugia (fittingly) in 1907 and has been producing premier chocolate ever since.
But the real fame came to Perugina in 1922, when the wife of one of the company’s founders Annibale Spagnoli, Luisa, finally perfected a recipe of her signature creation - a small dark chocolate ball encasing a whole hazelnut. She initially called it “cazzotto” (“punch”), but Giovanni Buitoni, the son of another founder, Francesco, disliked the name, considering it too awkward for conversation between potential customers and clerks. So in 1924, Luisa changed the name to “baci.” Between 1922 when Baci Perugina first hit the market, and 1927, the company sold over 1 million baci candy chocolate, cementing its place as one of the leading candy companies in Italy.
Baci chocolate’s ubiquitous popularity led to the creation of a separate line under its name to sell additional products. Baci Perugina is used to mark types of candy created under this line.
Top-3 products to try:
Baci Perugina Original Dark, aka the candy that made Perugina what it is today.
Baci Perugina White Chocolate Pralines, if you’re not a big fan of dark chocolate, try this white chocolate twist on the classic made in collaboration with Dolce & Gabbana while there’s still a chance.
Perugina Extra Dark Chocolate Tablet (70%) is deservedly considered one of the best dark chocolates on the market. Not too bitter and subtly sweet, with a velvety smooth melt-in-mouth texture. If dark chocolate is your jam - give it a go!
Hermabelle (Fabbri 1905)
Okay, so this entry is even more complicated. Hermabelle is actually a new company, the most recent on the market. It was established in 2015.
But Hermabelle is not precisely an independent operator.
In 2019 Hermabelle founder Andrea Ambrosoli (whose family, in turn, is the founder of another popular Italian candy brand Ambrosili) entered a partnership with one of the oldest and most popular confectionery brands in the country, Fabbri 1905, to perfect the recipe of premier-quality honey candy.
Does access to all that tradition make Hermabelle a legacy Italian candy, or is it still the baby that should be judged on its own merit? You decide.
Top-3 products to try: As of right now, Hermabelle focuses on one type of product, but it does come in three different flavors! You decide which one you want to start with.
Serra has been on the market for almost as long as the famous Ferrero since 1947. The company took off in 1958 and concentrated on establishing itself in the local market, only going genuinely global in the 1990s. While, unlike Ferrero, it hasn’t seen a meteoric rise in success, its dedication to the local market has established it as one of the most well-known Italian candy companies back at home.
Serra is still run by the family it was created by, and their primary product is still classic hard candy (though they’ve expanded their options somewhat with a few different types of candy, like fruit bars, chewing gum, and sugar-free options).
Top-3 products to try: start with their iconic filled hard candy.
The latest, and thus youngest, entry on the list is still old enough to have managed to establish itself as a top Italian candy company on the market both by continuously providing consumers with quality products and by aggressive expansion tactics.
Fida started with artisanal fruit-flavored jellies, which would later continue under the line Bonelle. Instead of manufacturing different types of candy, Fida expanded by acquiring several brands over the years to get its name associated with brands already known and loved by customers.
In 2016, they arguably cut their biggest deal when acquiring one of the most iconic Italian candy brands, Rossana, from Nestlè Italia to relaunch it immediately.
Top-3 products to try:
Rossana hard filled candies - this is one of the most Iconic Italian candies around. If we were to ask to try only one, this would be our choice.
Bonelle Jelly Candies - the one that started it all! These candies are soft and chewy, with a moderately sweet flavor.Lemoncella Hard Filled Candies - this candy combines a crunchy, zesty outer shell with soft and velvety cream with lemon liqueur. Somewhat tangy but pleasantly sweet, this candy deserves the attention of every lemon lover out there.