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What flavor is Rainbow salt water taffy?

Salt water taffy is a popular candy that is commonly associated with beach towns and seaside resorts. The candy gets its name from the use of salt water in the manufacturing process, which allows the taffy to retain its unique chewy texture. Rainbow salt water taffy takes the classic taffy flavor and adds a burst of fruity rainbow colors and flavors. But what exactly are the flavors in rainbow salt water taffy?

The origins of salt water taffy

Salt water taffy originated in Atlantic City, New Jersey in the late 19th century. According to legend, a candy store owner named David Bradley was making his usual taffy batches when a major storm hit the area. The storm flooded his shop with ocean water, soaking all of his taffy. After the storm passed, Bradley sold the “salt water taffy” as a novelty. He discovered that the salt water actually improved the taffy’s texture, making it light and airy. Bradley’s mother is often credited with naming the candies “salt water taffy.”

The story of the storm flooding Bradley’s shop may be more myth than fact. However, food historians agree that the unique manufacturing process using salt water allowed candy makers to whip air into the taffy, creating a new soft and chewy candy unlike regular taffy. Soon many Atlantic City boardwalk candy shops began selling their own version of salt water taffy.

Traditional salt water taffy flavors

Although invented by accident, salt water taffy quickly became popular with vacationers in Atlantic City. Early taffy flavors aimed to highlight popular flavors and ingredients of the time:

  • Vanilla
  • Chocolate
  • Molasses
  • Anise
  • Maple

These classic flavors highlighted natural ingredients and new sensations like chocolate, which was gaining popularity in the late 1800s. Over time, candy makers expanded their flavor options to include banana, lemon, orange, lime, and wintergreen mint.

The development of rainbow taffy

As salt water taffy increased in popularity throughout the early 20th century, candy makers wanted to develop new flavors and varieties. Some shops began experimenting with food colorings to produce colorful taffy.

According to food historians, the earliest rainbow taffy was simply a mix of the standard taffy flavors like lemon, lime, and wintergreen. Each flavor would be dyed a different color to create a mix of rainbow hues. This allowed shops to use their existing flavors in a novel way.

Over time, artificial flavors and dyes expanded the rainbow possibilities. Candy makers could create totally new flavor and color combinations like watermelon, grape, blue raspberry, and more. Customers loved the bright colors and exotic flavors of the new rainbow taffy.

Common rainbow taffy flavors

Today rainbow taffy is available from many major candy companies and beachside candy shops. With artificial flavorings and professional food coloring, the possibilities are endless. However, some classic flavor and color combinations have emerged as rainbow taffy favorites:

Color Flavor
Red Cherry, Strawberry, Raspberry
Orange Orange, Peach, Apricot
Yellow Lemon, Banana, Pineapple
Green Lime, Green Apple, Watermelon
Blue Blue Raspberry, Blueberry, Grape
Purple Grape, Plum, Blackberry

These classic flavor and color pairings allow candy makers to create the bright rainbow assortment that makes rainbow taffy so fun and appealing. The tart fruit flavors like cherry, lemon, and lime contrast nicely with deeper berry flavors like blueberry and blackberry.

What ingredients are in rainbow taffy?

Authentic salt water taffy contains only a handful of basic ingredients:

  • Sugar
  • Corn syrup
  • Glycerin
  • Vegetable oil
  • Salt water
  • Flavorings
  • Colorings

The key ingredient is the salt water, which helps bind the sugars together to achieve that signature chewy taffy texture. Artificial flavors, extracts, and professional grade food dyes are used to create powerful fruit flavors and vibrant colors.

Why does rainbow taffy seem to sparkle?

One fun visual effect of rainbow taffy is that it often seems to sparkle, especially when wrapped in wax paper. This eye-catching sheen comes from the manufacturing process. As hot liquid taffy is cooled and pulled, miniscule air bubbles become incorporated throughout the candy. When light hits these tiny air pockets, it reflects and refracts, creating a twinkling effect.

Does the dye affect the taffy flavor?

Surprisingly, the dyes themselves do not add any flavor to the taffy. Professional food coloring is specially formulated to tint foods and candies without altering the flavors. However, the dyes will affect our perceptions of the flavors based on color associations. For example, lime taffy dyed green will taste more like lime thanks the power of color expectations.

Specialty flavored rainbow taffies

While fruit flavors dominate most rainbow taffy assortments, some brands offer specialty flavors to mix things up:

  • Cotton candy – Bright pink cotton candy flavor
  • Bubblegum – Classic pink bubblegum flavor
  • Marshmallow – Sweet marshmallow cream flavor
  • Banana split – Banana, strawberry, and chocolate flavors
  • Neapolitan – Chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry flavors
  • Miami Vice – Strawberry and lime flavors

These specialty flavors add some extra variety and novelty to the classic rainbow line-up. The combinations aim to mimic other popular candies, desserts, and treats.

What is the best rainbow taffy flavor?

With so many amazing flavors, it’s impossible to declare one single “best” rainbow taffy flavor. However, a few favorites tend to rise to the top:

Flavor Reasons People Love It
Cherry Tart cherry flavor pops against the sweet taffy
Watermelon Spot on watermelon candy flavor
Grape Classic flavor with strong purple color

These flavors tend to strike the perfect balance of sweet and tart while having colors that match our expectations. They capture the fun fruity essence of rainbow taffy.

Does the taffy flavor last while you eat it?

One of the signature attributes of salt water taffy is how the flavors tend to disappear quickly as you eat it. The intense fruit flavors are strongest when you first bite into the taffy. However, they fade fast, leaving behind just sweetness and chewy taffy texture.

Candy experts suggest that the aeration that gives taffy its texture also causes the flavors to dissipate rapidly. Air pockets allow flavor molecules to disperse and escape. The flavors literally evaporate away as you chew!

Tips for making rainbow taffy flavors last

While it’s difficult to make the flavors in taffy last, here are some tips to get a little more mileage from those fruity flavors:

  • Don’t chew too quickly – slower chewing keeps flavors in your mouth longer
  • Let taffy melt on your tongue – flavors will release more slowly
  • Buy smaller/thinner taffy pieces – less surface area to lose flavor
  • Store taffy in airtight container – prevents flavor loss
  • Wrap pieces individually – unwrap one at a time to prevent air exposure

What is the difference between candy flavors and real fruit flavors?

The fruity flavors in rainbow taffy are created using artificial flavorings. Food scientists work to identify and extract flavor compounds from real fruits. These compounds can then be blended together to replicate that same flavor profile without using any real fruit.

Here are some key differences between artificial candy flavors and real fruit flavors:

Candy Flavors Real Fruit Flavors
Usually only contains 3-5 flavor compounds Dozens of flavor compounds
Flavor intensity fades fast Flavor persists as you chew
Often sweeter and more tart More complex and nuanced
Pure flavor without imperfections Impacted by ripeness, season, origin

Artificial flavors aim to recreate just the core flavor experience of fruits. Real fruit flavors change depending on growing conditions and contain subtleties that food scientists cannot replicate.


Rainbow salt water taffy offers a wide assortment of fun, fruity flavors all in one bite. While original taffy contained natural ingredients, today’s rainbow taffy achieves its vivid colors and flavors using artificial colorings and flavorings. These synthetic ingredients allow candy makers to create almost any flavor and color combination. However, the flavors tend to be fleeting as the taffy structure causes the flavors to quickly dissipate as you chew. Fans of rainbow taffy enjoy matching the colors to flavors and experience a short burst of flavor with each chew. While not as nuanced as real fruit, rainbow taffy offers a whimsical taste of summer in a bite-sized, colorful package.