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The (Legal) History of the Gränna Polkagris (Candy Stick)

Statue of woman standing on bricks with a basket on her right arm in Gränna, Sweden.

Statute of Amalia Eriksson, Gränna, Sweden. Photo by author Elin Hofverberg. August 2022.

Today, November 25, marks the birthday of Amalia Eriksson (1824-1923), the creator of the Gränna polkagris. This year, her sweet peppermint candy stick (think a straight candy cane but slightly softer) earned protection as a registered  protected geographical indications (PGI) product under the European Union (EU) geographical indications legislation.

This means that only polkagrisar made in Gränna, Sweden, may use the name “Äkta Gränna Polkagrisar” (the Real Gränna Polkagris). The candy may not be as fancy as Champagne or as fought over as Feta cheese but for anyone who has driven down mainstreet (Brahegatan) in Gränna which is home to shops upon shop, all selling and baking polkagrisar, it is easy to conclude that the locals consider this a huge win.

If you don’t have a sweet tooth, you might still have heard of Gränna, it is the birthplace of balloonist Salomon August Andrée who died during an expedition to the North Pole.

Closeup of basket on arm of statue showing the basket of polkgrisar.

Basket of polkagrisar, detail from Amalia Eriksson statute, Gränna, Sweden. Photo by author Elin Hofverberg. August 2022.

Background – Amalia Eriksson, Gränna, and the Polkagris

One does not give justice to the Gränna polkagris candy stick without also describing the plight of its creator Amalia Eriksson (nee Lundström). Born on November 25, 1824, in Jönköping, Sweden, Amelia was orphaned at a young age and worked as a domestic maid before marrying a local tailor, Anders Eriksson. However, the marriage was short-lived. In 1858, the year after their marriage, Amalia’s husband died just days after Amalia gave birth to twins, only one of whom survived the birth. Thus, Amalia was now the sole provider for herself and a one-week-old baby.

At this time, Swedish law did not generally allow women to own or operate a business. However, women could work with their hands in certain exceptional cases in accordance with a royal proclamation (Fabriks och handtwerks Ordning [Factory and Crafts Order](Svensk författningssamling (SFS) 1846:39) also known as Kongl. Handtverksordningen den 22 December 1846).

Picture of Royal Proclamation in book from 1846 in Swedish.

Fabriks och handtwerks Ordning [Factory and Crafts Order](Svensk författningssamling (SFS) 1846:39). Photo by author Elin Hofverberg.

Accordingly, in 1859, Amelia applied for and received her license, which specified that she could ”as means of livelihood with her own hands conduct bakery operations of coarse and fine pastries as well as to produce so called polkagrisar.”(Translation by author.)

Picture of two pages of Swedish legal text.

Section 12 of the  Factory and Crafts Order of 1846 (SFS 1846:39). The legal basis upon which Amelia’s license rested. Photo by author Elin Hofverberg.

The name Polkagris is believed to originate from the swirling dance polka and from the word Gris (pig), which was slang for sweets at the time.

The polkagris recipe is straightforward and only includes sugar, water, glucose, vinegar, peppermint oil, and red caramel color.

The making of the polkagris is slightly more intricate however, as can be seen in this video.

Some claim that Amalia invented the candy to alleviate her daughter’s cough and that the original polkagris recipe did not include water or glucose.

After its launch, Amalia’s business became a quick success and earned her fame throughout Sweden. In 1915, Crown Prince Gustaf Adolf (later king of Sweden) visited her bakery together with his wife. Amalia Eriksson successfully exported her candy to a number of countries including the United States, a tradition that continues today.

Picture of book with Swedish writing

Kongl. Maj:ts Nådiga Förordning angående utvidgad näringsfrihet (SFS) 1864:41. Photo by author Elin Hofverberg.

In 1864, a few years after Amalia started her business, a royal proclamation was adopted. In the 1864 proclamation, the Swedish king granted expanded freedom of trade (Kongl. Maj:ts Nådiga Förordning angaående utvidgad näringsfrihet, SFS 1864:41) proclaimed that:

A Swedish man or woman may, with the exceptions and restrictions and under the conditions otherwise specified below, in towns or in the countryside perform trade or factory, trade, or other business for the purpose of export or import, or between domestic locations, transport or transport by ship domestically as well as internationally. (Translation by author.)

Legal Protection of the Äkta Gränna Polkagris

Under Swedish law, the designation “Äkta Gränna polkagris” enjoys trademark protection. This term was originally registered as a trademark with the Swedish Intellectual Property Office (PRV) in 1948. It was then owned by the Gränna förening (Gränna association), and can now be used by member companies selling polkagrisar in Gränna. That is why you will find not one shop but an abundance of shops with both “the original” (Äkta Gränna Polkagris) flavor as well as their own specific and more novel flavors such as “trollgodis” (troll candy) along the main street of Gränna.

However, until this summer the Swedish candy was not specifically protected under EU geographical indicators.

Red and white candy sticks and pieces, one with wrapper and seal.

Äkta Gränna Polkagrisar with the PGI EU label in blue and yellow. Photo by author Elin Hofverberg.

European Union Geographic Indicators

When referring to geographic indicators and many of us think of Champagne, the sparkling wine made in the region of Champagne, France. Only sparkling wine from this region may be called Champagne although arguably many of the properties of other sparkling wines are similar to that of Champagne. Although Champagne is protected under a different EU regulation (protected designation of origin) than Äkta Polkagrisar, the candy too now enjoys protections based on its geographical creation. Only polkagrisar made in the little town of Gränna (population 2,713) may state that they are Äkta Polkagrisar from Gränna. Thus, no matter if you use the exact same recipe that Amelia used in 1859, you are still not baking Äkta Gränna Polkagris, and you may not sell it as such unless it is made in one of the special shops (polkagriskokeri) in Gränna.

Geographical protection of foodstuff falls under Regulation (EU) No 1151/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 21 November 2012 on quality schemes for agricultural products and foodstuffs. Article 5.1 deals with “designation of origin” protection known as PDOs, whereas article 5.2 deals with “geographic indication” protection, known as PGIs. Äkta Gränna Polkagrisar are protected under article 5.2. The distinction between the products is that products protected under article 5.1 must meet the following requirements:

(a) originate in a specific place, region or, in exceptional cases, a country;
(b) their quality or characteristics are essentially or exclusively due to a particular geographical environment with its inherent natural and human factors; and
(c) the production steps all take place in the defined geographical area

Whereas products, like Gränna polkagrisar, which are not made by wholly Swedish ingredients (sugar may be from Denmark for example) must fulfill the requirements in article 5.2.:

(a) originate in a specific place, region or country;
(b) their given quality, reputation or other characteristic is essentially attributable to their geographical origin; and
(c) at least one of the production steps takes place in the defined geographical area.

There is also a third category, geographical indications for spirits, known as GIs (like whiskey).

To receive protection under any of the three geographical protections, one must apply to register a name for protection. (Art. 40 Regulation (EU) No 1151/2012.) In the case of the Äkta Gränna Polkagris the application was made by Gränna Näringslivsförening, Polkagrisgruppen (the Polkagris group) and supported by Sweden. The application was then reviewed by the Commission and published in the Official Journal of the European Union. (Art. 50 (2).)

Thus, the Äkta Gränna Polkagris is now one of only 12 Swedish products that enjoys EU geographic protection. Of these, four enjoy “designation of origin” protection under article 5.1. , whereas eight enjoy “geographical indication protection” protections under article 5.2.

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One Comment

  1. Rose M Byrd
    November 26, 2022 at 1:16 am

    Fascinating histories of Swedish culture, its laws governing intellectual property, its legal geographies within the EU,and the perceptions of women as non-entity earners during the 18th century in Europe.

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