Go to the candy aisle of any grocery store and you’ll find at least one gummy product. There’s gummy bears, gummy worms, gummy Smurfs and gummy rings. Maybe you’ll find a bag of rainbow-colored gummy frogs or a pack of fun-sized gummy spiders. Gummy candy has found its way into lunchboxes and kitchen pantries across the world, but the chewy treat originated in Germany almost a hundred years ago.
In 1920, Bonn resident Hans Riegel launched a confectionery company that he named Haribo (which stands for Hans Riegel Bonn), producing hard, colorless candies in his own kitchen. His wife, Gertrud, helped him with his endeavor, distributing the candies to their first customers using only her bicycle. Business was good, but not as good as Riegel had hoped – until he came up with a new idea.
In 1922, Riegel was struck with inspiration: after seeing trained bears at festivals and markets across Germany, he invented the so-called “dancing bear” – a fruit-flavored gummy candy in the shape of a bear. The initial “dancing bears” were larger than the Haribo gummies that are on the market today, and they quickly became popular. The bears were sold at kiosks for just 1 Pfennig (German penny), making the colorful treats affordable at a time when the economy was struggling.
It wasn’t long before Haribo made it onto store shelves: by 1930, Riegel was running a factory with 160 employees. By the time World War II began, there were more than 400 employees. But World War II took a toll on the company: Riegel died during the war and his two sons were taken prisoner by the Allied forces. When they were released, the company had only 30 employees left.
Despite the wartime hardships, the company recovered and Haribo continued to grow. It soon had over 1,000 employees and a catchy slogan (in English: “Kids and grown-ups love it so, the happy world of Haribo!”). The name Goldbär (Gold-Bear) was registered as a trademark in 1967. Although Haribo dominated the gummy bear market, other companies were emerging with their own versions of gummy candy as far west as the US. In 1981, the German company Trolli introduced gummy worms, while The American Jelly Bean Company came out with its own line of gummy bears. In 1982, Haribo opened its first branch in the US. Today, Haribo produces over 100 million Gold-Bears each day.
And not all gummy candy is uniform; over the years, a diversity of gummy types emerged on the market. There are organic gummy bears, gummy candy with added vitamins, Halal gummy candy, gummy candy in various shapes and gummy candy that’s allegedly good for your teeth. Gummy bears are a staple candy in Germany, but even across the world, the chewy candy has become a common treat.
By Nicole Glass, German Embassy