As you would imagine, recipes for famous products can never be shared...they are the "secret sauce" that provides a certain chunk of a company's valuation. Nonetheless, the US Food and Drug Administration requires ingredients to be posted on product labels--albeit, without proportions. 

It's easy enough to start with the ingredients on the label of a single package of Lemon Life Savers (sunny yellow, with gold ends): 

  • Sugar
  • Corn syrup
  • True fruit flavor
  • Citric acid
  • US certified color

You may recall that in the 1930s, Life Savers was all about health. Cola Life Savers included additional ingredients that made their way into multiple so-called health products: phosphoric acid, extract of cola leaves, cola nuts, and caffeine. They also included artificial flavor

Clove Life Savers were pressed dextrose in the Life Savers Corp. years (later, there were "spicy" Clove boiled candy ones in Assort⭕Mint). Instead of citric acid, they had Stearic acid. No color was required, because many of the pressed dextrose candies were white. I loved them very much; clove was also a flavor in "grandma" hard candies and ribbon candy. Did you know that clove was something you were supposed to put on a toothache? I never had toothaches until I was an adult, and sadly there were no Clove Life Savers to be found at that point. No wonder clove was a product at pharmacies.

Choc⭕mint, during the Life Savers Corp years, included cocoa as its number 3 ingredient, as well as salt. Buttermint also included salt, as well as Magnesium steareate.

Modern Packaging (1951) expands on the recipe for the pressed mints:

"Composed of pulverized sugar and slight quantities of corn syrup, the mints are flavored with volatile oils and then pressed into shape by a high-speed compressor applying seven tons of pressure to each mint. The oils are not only easily lost but, if retained, are highly susceptible to flavor contamination and may, if retained for too long a period, develop an off taste. The quality of the oil is all-important in determining the freshkeeping properties of mints, since poor-quality oils turn more rapidly than the purest grade. The package, obviously, is the only means of retaining flavor and preventing flavor contamination." (p. 95)

During the Life Savers Mfr. Port Chester and San Jose years, the Cinn⭕mon flavor used Invert Sugar, Dextrose, Artificial flavoring and Artificial color. I don't really understand the use of artificial flavoring, given that cinnamon volatile oils have been available for hundreds of years. Could it be that their shelf-life was too short? Was the oil so prominent that it would negatively impact any other flavors near it?

During the Beech-Nut years, Butterscotch included butter and salt. Also during that time., Crystal⭕mint was unique in that it only included 3 ingredients: Sugar, corn syrup and natural flavor.

In the 1990s, Tangy Watermelon from Nabisco Foods Inc., Lifesavers in Winston-Salem, NC, included High Fructose Corn Syrup and Malic acid.

Also during those years, there were the Butter Creme Mint flavor; these were different than the aforementioned Buttermint. They did not include Magnesium stearate, and they did include butter.

Life Savers Australia explains a little more in 2019:

"We mix the powder here with the sugars, flavours and colours and then that powder is then put into a pressing machine* where the Life Saver is pressed into shape," Mr. Byrne said.

"It then moves onto a packing line where it's rolled onto candy rolls, so there are three parts of manufacturing a Life Saver, then they roll off the line and we ship them to customers in the country.

* From the explanation, he's describing the process for pressed dextrose candies (like Pep-⭕-Mint), not boiled candies (like Butter Rum).

Retrieved from

Speaking of Butter Rum, there were these additional ingredients during the Nabisco years: molasses, hydrogenated palm kernel oil, and vinegar. During the Mars years, caramel color was added (replacing the artificial color).

The role of sugar in these recipes has lent it a political component. More on this topic later...

Who provided the afore-mentioned high quality volatile oils? I was startled/excited when our blog reader LMG brought this interview in the New York Times to my attention--before I got around to asking that question.

"NAME: Joanne Leonhardt Cassullo.

"IDENTITY: Texas philanthropist and trustee of the Whitney Museum of American Art.

"Q. What was your family's business?

"A. My grandfather Frederick Leonhardt invented the five flavors that Life Savers used as its original flavors." (New York Times, 1992)

Since the New York Times did not post a retraction, I've decided to take Ms. Cassullo's assertion at face value, after doing a little bit of recognizance; flavorist Leonhardt did indeed live in New York, having immigrated from Germany to work for Fritzsche Brothers, a very well-known purveyor of high quality oils for flavors, perfumes, etc. (Perfume Projects)


One step further brought me to a photo of a bottle of Fritzsche Brothers Oil of Lemon. The Elephant Trunk in Alabama kindly gave me permission to include it. (Lemon was one of the original Five Flavors lineup; this flavor was eliminated in 2002.)

It should be noted, however, that this may not be the actual flavor used. Flavorists are known to draw from a range of flavors to create an iconic product--and once the flavor is solidified, it is a highly-protected secret. For example, Life Savers Lemon may have been flavored by an oil comprised of a blend of Florida lemons, Meyer lemons, and perhaps some unique tropical citrus like pomelo--the proprietary blend of which makes these products unique and iconic (New Yorker).

On a different note, the flavorist's granddaughter Cassullo mentioned that she collects "ephemera" (which she refers to as "things most people don't want"). Ephemera is the category of collecting in which Life Savers labels, advertisements and rolls fall, because all of these items were intended to be used, then discarded.


"Packaging's Hall of Fame: Life Savers," Modern Packaging 1951-12: Volume 25, Issue 4. Digitized from IA1643112-05. pp. 92-98, 180-185. Retrieved from

Photo: ©️2024, by The Elephant Trunk, Alabama. Used with permission.



Life Savers™️ is a trademarked name currently owned in the US by Mars Wrigley Confectionery, having been owned and/or licensed by many previous companies, varying by country.

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