Whenever you merrily chomp on a candy that is flavored to be a banana, you usually find yourself thinking that they don’t taste like bananas at all. Or do they? The story of the artificial banana flavoring is a funny one, and as it turns out they do taste like bananas.
As a fruit that is commercially available all year round, the world has well-gone bananas for bananas. Casually peel them, slice them for cereals or blend them into daiquiris – everyone has a favorite way to eat bananas. By the 1920s, in America, bananas made up 3.3% of total U.S. imports. And by 1929, it was over 50% of the U.S. imports from Central America.
And even before bananas were being shipped to every household worldwide, people were sinking their teeth into those Runts candies. Though many were left wondering why the banana candies taste nothing like their real fruit counterparts. However, the line between real bananas and fake flavoring is much closer than we may think, as explained by Berenstein, a flavoring historian.
You see banana imagery was strongly inserted into the popular culture long before the widespread circulation of the fruit, this was due to images of the tropics and Central America. As a result, the first type of flavoring was created for hard candies, confections, and puddings as far back as the 1860s. And there were even fruit essences of banana being advertised in the early 1850s, and the way they were making these banana tastes was by basing them off the Gros Michel banana.
The Gros Michel banana was ravaged by plagues that devastated the banana crops during the 1950s and by the 1960s this type of banana was extinct. The banana we know today and find in every supermarket is a Cavendish. So when you are biting into a candy that is supposed to be flavored like a banana, it is not simply bad artificial flavoring that you are tasting, it is in fact, a blast from the past.