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If you've been on social media lately, you might have noticed a pretty mind-blowing rumor floating around: All Skittles, regardless of color, actually taste the same and don’t really have different flavors.
What the what?!
The internet is going gaga over this possibility, much like when it was first revealed that all Froot Loops' cereal rings are all just one flavor.
The buzz surrounding this latest candy myth originated with an NPR article in which the writer conducted an informal experiment with fellow employees to see if they could distinguish between different flavors of Haribo gummy bears in a blind taste test. It turned out that, when blindfolded, tasters' abilities to name the right flavor declined significantly.
The article the included a quote from neuroscientist Don Katz, PhD, a professor of psychology at Brandeis University, that really got people going: “Skittles have different fragrances and different colors, but they all taste exactly the same.” But does that really mean they're all the same flavor?
TODAY Food reached out to Katz and he maintained his position, saying he came to that conclusion based on a simple experiment he's conducted previously. However, he clearly distinguishes between “taste," the signal coming from the tongue; "smell," the signal from the nose; and "flavor," the combined signal our brains receive from the tongue, nose, eyes and ears.
To conduct the test, Katz said he blindfolded subjects and also made them wear nose clips — and then fed them Skittles, telling subjects they were eating one color, while actually giving them another. Katz says subjects will guess correctly 50 percent of the time, which, according to him "means that you actually have no idea. This is how we know that they don't have different tastes.” However, he believes that Skittles do have distinct fragrances, and as science tells us, taste and smell are intrinsically linked, which is what gives food "flavor."
“The coolest thing is that our brain fools us into thinking that this combined signal is actually coming from the tongue — the smell/color/sound/feel of a food changes what we think the food tastes like!” he told TODAY Food over email.
But Mars Wrigley Confectionery, the maker of Skittles, says otherwise. A spokesperson for the company vehemently denied that every color has the same taste and told TODAY Food, “Each of the five fruity flavors in Skittles has its own individual taste and flavor.”
The original packs contain strawberry, green apple, grape, lemon and orange-flavored candy, which is achieved by flavoring both the candies' chewy centers and the outside shells, according to the spokesperson.
The candy maker has even had some fun releasing new flavors recently. In 2017, they debuted a Trick Plays version of Skittles, where the color of the candy didn't match its usual flavor, leaving fans to guess which flavor they were eating. The company also released five new flavors of Skittles for Valentine's Day in February.
After hearing that Skittles maintains that its candies do have distinct flavors, Katz offered, “It is possible (not highly likely, but possible) that the taste agents included in Skittles are subtlety different, but that difference is so subtle that when you're suddenly in the unnatural state of not being able to use the normally-involved senses of smell and vision, your brain can't do a good job of detecting that difference.”
So, it turns out you really should be able to "taste the rainbow" with a pack of Skittles — as long as you aren't blindfolded! Haribo also responded to NPR after their blind taste test, assuring them that each of their gummy bears have distinct flavors, too.