This article originally appeared on Munchies
Tears have been shed and relationships have crumbled over the contentious issue of Skittles flavour ranking. In the upper echelons of the rainbow-flavoured hard sweet, you of course have the red (generic berry, potentially strawberry) and the orange ones. The midrange flavour is clearly the greens (lime) and festering at the bottom of the Skittles hierarchy are yellow (lemon) and purple (blackcurrant).
But what if we told you that coloured sweets like gummy bears and Skittles are actually all the same flavour, and it’s just our brain that interprets the taste differently because of their colours? According to scientific studies into flavour, smell and colour can influence our interpretation of taste, even if there’s no difference between the substances.
While this isn’t technically new news, an article from NPR published this month covering the phenomenon is currently causing Twitter to lose its shit. The piece explains, “our brains associate the color yellow, a lemon smell and a slightly acidic taste with each other. When you're offered two of these three sensory cues, your brain will fill in the blanks.”
Twitter, subsequently, cannot deal:
In order to get to the bottom of this pressing Skittle flavor mystery, the MUNCHIES London and New York offices joined forces to conduct a blind taste test. Forget Wikileaks, this was the greatest journalistic issue of our time and it was about to get blown wide open by a bunch of adults chewing Skittles with their eyes closed at 4 in the afternoon.
The results were … inconclusive. Both offices seem to believe that the sweets had different flavours, despite this directly contradicting a claim in the NPR article that, “Skittles have different fragrances and different colours—but they all taste exactly the same.” However, not every flavour was correctly guessed, making us wonder whether the sweets are, in fact, flavoured differently.
MUNCHIES staffers were able to correctly identify lemon, blackcurrant, and strawberry—three out of the five different Skittle flavours—leading us to believe that there are distinct tastes. A second theory also emerged, positing that the sweets’ coloured coating is flavoured but their inner sugar goo is all made of the same stuff.
This needed to be tested. After successfully removing the outer shell via a combined effort of nibbling and sucking on the sweet (yes, this is my job), I find that a residual flavour remains, though significantly reduced.
Arguably, the Skittles tagline of “Taste the Rainbow” suggests that perhaps the sweets’ flavour *does* come from their colours, rather than flavours. Could this be the key to cracking the enigma?
We may never know.