Nostalgic Candy: The Gummi Bear
My friend, Billy, is addicted to gummi bears. He can eat them at any time, and in any amount. He’s very particular, though, and will settle for nothing less than Haribo Gold-Bears. When the store’s hook is void of them, he frowns (and sometimes pouts) and walks quietly out the door. In an instant, Billy turns from a 40s-something with three kids to a disappointed pre-teen. I get it – I feel the same way about M&M’s.
Created by Hans Riegel Sr. for the German company Haribo, the gummi bear is a gelatin-based candy that has a rubbery texture. The candy is also often spelled “gummy bear”, though the spelling gummi is proper when referring to Haribo. In Germany it is called the Gummibar (rubber bear) or Gummibarchen (little rubber bear).
Riegel started Haribo in 1920. Two years later he invented the Dancing Bear – a fruit-flavored gum that took the shape of a bear. Haribo’s Gold-Bears were introduced in 1967 and soon became world-famous.
The ingredients used in making this candy are simple – it’s a mixture of sugars, starches, flavorings, colorings, citric acid and gelatin. After mixed and heated to a hot liquid the batch is poured into starch molds and cooled. Some companies have created alternative concoctions for vegetarians.
For years, Haribo’s candies, including Gold-Bears, could only be found in the US in gourmet stores, where they were sold mostly in bulk at gourmet prices. Haribo of America was incorporated in the 1980s and introduced the Haribo brand in US mass markets. Haribo Gold-Bears were a huge hit – so popular that the German company could not keep up with demand. This opened the doors for other companies, like Black Forest and Trolli, to produce competing products. Though many, including Billy, find these competing confections inferior in both taste and texture.
Haribo’s gummi candy also inspired many spinoffs, like gummy worms, gummy rings and and sour gummy ropes.
Today, Haribo Gold-Bears can be found at stores throughout the US, but are often sold as quickly as they are stocked. At my local Walgreens, for example, the candies are often sold out within a day of stock arriving.
Haribo produces many other candies, many gummi-based, like Happy-Cola and Jelly Babies. The original Gold-Bears, though, remain the company’s most popular product in the US.