From the land of ice and SNØ
SNØ candy made from birch tree xylitol is simple, sweet, and actually good for you
CHRISTY OLSEN FIELD
Taste of Norway Editor
The Norwegian American
On a recent trip to the grocery store, I walked down the candy aisle, when something caught my eye and stopped me in my tracks.
“Is that… my favorite letter in the Norwegian alphabet?!” I asked myself.
I picked up a hexagon-shaped tin of SNØ candy out of curiosity, and my days have been a little sweeter ever since!
Headquartered in Clayton, Calif., SNØ candy is a sugar-free candy made from just two ingredients: xylitol and natural flavors. SNØ is available in 10 flavors and distributed throughout the United States
If you aren’t familiar with xylitol, chances are that you’ve had it. It’s is a common sugar-free sweetener, because it is as sweet as sugar but is 40% lower in calories and 75% lower in carbohydrates. Xylitol is a naturally occurring sugar alcohol found in most plants, including fruits and vegetables. It has a glycemic index of 7, and it doesn’t spike blood sugar or insulin levels.
I dug a little more into the history of xylitol, because it sounded a little too good to be true. Xylitol was discovered almost simultaneously by German and French chemists around 1890. The major sugar shortage during World War II led Finland to use their abundant birch forests to produce xylitol. Yet it wasn’t until the 1970s, when Finnish researchers at the University of Turku discovered that xylitol could affect bacteria in the mouth that caused decay, and therefore could reduce cavities.
Xylitol touts some health benefits too, primarily dental health and preventing cavities, but also for skin, respiratory, digestive, immune health, weight management, and more.
And best of all, the xylitol-based SNØ candy is simply delicious. The translucent crystal shapes are just right for a refreshing sweet. I love the pleasant cooling effect of the peppermint flavor, and my kids keep sneaking pieces of the strawberry tin when I’m not looking.
I had to know more about this candy with health benefits, so I reached out to Kenney Joyal, the proprietor of SNØ candy, to ask a few questions.
Christy Olsen Field: How did you come up with the idea for a xylitol-sweetened candy? And how did you decide on birch bark xylitol?
Kenney Joyal: The inspiration for the candy actually came from xylitol itself. I was into healthy eating and trying different sweeteners. As I did a deep dive into researching xylitol and its health benefits, I just couldn’t decide why more companies weren’t using it. So I bought some xylitol and made a prototype candy in my home kitchen.
Xylitol comes from two main sources, corn and birch bark. From a branding and product standpoint, I didn’t want to bring in corn xylitol from China. So we use pharmaceutical grade xylitol made from birch bark, which is harvested from sustainable forests in North America.
COF: How did you come up with the name SNØ for your candy?
KJ: When I first started, we were using the name Snowflakes Candy. I thought it was the right name: The candy is cool and refreshing like snow, and no two pieces of our candy are the same size. But unfortunately, “snowflakes” became a politicized term, and we started getting comments and emails from people thinking we were politically motivated with our candy, which couldn’t be further from the truth. So, we had to pivot.
We also heard feedback that our packaging wasn’t up to par for larger retailers, so we hired a packaging design firm to help. The name SNØ was an a-ha moment for all of us around the table. It was one of those moments I will never forget.
SNØ has three attributes:
- It’s a shortened name from Snowflakes;
- It pays tribute to the Nordic region, where xylitol was discovered, and
- The “Ø” plays to the customer that there is no sugar, no fat, no gluten, no allergens.
We changed to a hexagon-shaped tin and a snowflake logo. I think it’s pretty eye-catching.
COF: You offer a range of flavors, from peppermint to watermelon, lemon and tropical mix. How do you come up with them?
KJ: Many flavors are mainstream popular, like lemon, different types of mint, and so on. Other flavors are more hit or miss. Consumers didn’t care for our apple flavor, which kind of surprised me. We listen to our customers’ feedback.
COF: Anything else you would like our readers to know?
KJ: I think it’s really important for mainstream candy companies to offer a healthier, beneficial, and cleaner option for people. Whether it’s food or drink or sweets, there is a cosmic shift in healthy eating. Instead of reaching for that tin of sugary candy, I’d like to see people pay a little extra and try something different with SNØ, which is good for your health.
So, there you have it: a sugar-free candy that tastes sweet and has some terrific health benefits!
SNØ Candy can be purchased through their website at snowflakescandy.com, on Amazon, or at retailers throughout the United States. If you know a retailer that would be interested in selling it, their website has a wholesale portal. Follow SNØon Facebook at facebook.com/snowflakescandy.
This article originally appeared in the Feb. 26, 2021, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.