At the confluence of food safety and marketing, blue raspberry was born.
In the natural world, no raspberry is anywhere close to the electric blue shade of “blue raspberry.” Most raspberries are red but there are some blue-ish raspberries. The white bark raspberry, native to western North America, is a very dark shade of blue, nearly black. So why do we have the flavor and color of blue raspberry?
Red Number 2
In the 1950s there was a growing movement in the U.S. to ensure the safety of food and food additives. There was increasing doubt over the safety of the food dye Red No 2 (which at the time was made from coal tar). Food companies could capitalize off of this concern if another color was used.
It was during this time that the Gold Medal company of Cincinnati introduced a new flavor of blue raspberry cotton candy. Blue raspberry’s popularity grew but things really took off when Icee introduced their blue raspberry flavored frozen drink in the early ‘70s. The competition between blue raspberry and red flavored candies/drinks was taken to a new level in 1976 when Red No 2 was banned in the United States because it was potentially carcinogenic. Simple put, at the time, Blue No 1 was safer to consume than Red No 2.
To mimic real life, food companies then and now use the color red for lots of flavors: cherry, apple, cinnamon, watermelon, cranberry, etc. It’s a crowded space. However, there are not many foods that are naturally blue, which as a marketing opportunity was very attractive. Blue was a way to set raspberry apart from the other flavors. This is similar to why pink lemonade exists: lemonade isn’t pink, but it’s a bright color that stands out from the crowd. Blue raspberry had the color all to itself for a long time which was marketing gold.