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HARIBO Gummi Bears, Germany's Cult Candy

Gummibärchen, those small, rubbery-textured bear shaped candies, literally "little rubber bears", came into the world in Bonn, Germany, in 1922. Known world wide as "The Gummi Bear" or "Gummy Bear", and invented by Hans Riegel, a confectioner who after the First World War became a partner in the Heinen & Riegel company, before branching out on his own in 1920 with a firm he named HARIBO.

HAns RIegel BOnn.

The first two letters of his christian name, his surname and his hometown.

There his co-worker was his young wife Gertrud, who each day used to deliver that day's production of Haribo candy by bicycle.

By 1922, inspired by the old tradition of dancing bears and the increasingly popular teddy bear, Hans had developed the "Dancing Bear", a gelatine based fruit gum drop shaped as a bear but a bit bigger and thinner than the "bear" of today, and the success of the Haribo Gummi Bears meant by 1923 the bicycle could be replaced by a car.

Which was quite useful because in 1923 Gertrud gave birth to the first of their three children.

The early 1930's saw HARIBO with 160 employees, and it had been producing liquorice since 1925 giving rise to a famous "liquorice wheel" as well as a liquorice bear called "Black Bear".

The original advertising slogan, "HARIBO macht Kinder froh", which literally translates as "HARIBO makes children happy", was created in the mid-30's, and by the time the WWII began the company had been "making so many children happy" with their German gummy bears it was employing around 400 workers.

There is little demand for "Gummi Bears" during a war, as well as a lack of the necessary raw materials.

Hans Riegel died in 1945 and his two sons were prisoners of war, so his wife Gertrud ran what remained of the business, with 30 employees, until they returned in l946.

Under the direction of the Hans and Paul Riegel, and only five years after the war ended, the company had 1,000 employees; while the "Gummibärchen" had acquired a cousin, a smaller plumper more teddy bear-shaped bear.

It was then decided the Gummi Bears were no longer to be called "Dancing Bears", and they became the classic HARIBO Gold Bears.

Events during the sixties and early seventies, the economic recession, student revolts, protests and Vietnam War, together with change in the air everywhere, did not affect the demand for Gummi Bears.

The packaging and logo were updated in tune with the mood of the times, but the unique taste remained the same.

Traditionally German gummy bears are made from a mixture of sugar, glucose syrup, flavoring, starch, coloring, citric acid and gelatin; recipes do vary however. Those sold in the USA that are not imported from Germany have a slightly different recipe, while there are varieties for vegetarians and those belonging to religions with strict dietary laws.

Cornstarch molds are filled with the hot liquid mixture; allowed to cool and rest for three to five days. Once set the candies are removed from the molds, which are open on top so the bear's front is formed and the back flat.

Then they are covered with a fine coating of beeswax, so they shine and don't stick together, and packaged.

Since they were first "born", Haribo Gummy Bears have their own official birth certificate, their shape has changed several times, the position of the feet reversed, and in Germany their colors have become paler as today extracts from natural fruits and plants are used to both flavor and color them, while at the same time a Gummi Bear continues not only to be a favorite with children it has become a "cult object". An iconic candy.

A dress inspired by the late couturier Alexander McQueen's Spring/Summer 2008 collection, "La Dame Bleue", made with 50,000 gummy bears and weighing 220 lbs, hit runways and launched itself into the fashion world.

There are "Vodka Gummy Bears": Gummi bears are soaked in a glass container with vodka for a few days, absorb the alcohol and turn into a trendy fruity treat with a definite kick.

A Gummi Bear Candy Hedgehog makes a popular children's party snack, instead of one made with pieces of cheese or fruit.

Gummibärchen 90 times the normal size are a gift for the person who already has "everything". Though they should be covered with plastic wrap and kept in the refrigerator between attacks of the munchies.

While the cafeteria of the Jewish Museum in Berlin, and many other places, has a vending machine for kosher gummy bears.

There was even a successful Disney "Gummy Bear" animated series complete with "sing-a-long" songs.

The world is awash with companies making their own versions of the bears now, some better than others, and with millions of fans there are, and have been, some notable "Gummi Bear" enthusiasts. Among them:

Wilhelm II, known as Kaiser Bill and the Emperor of Germany until 1918 and the end of WWI, loved them so much he had them sent to him during his exile in Doorn, Holland. He declared Gummy Bears to be the best thing the Weimar Republic, the federal republic and parliamentary representative democracy that replaced him, had produced.

Another fan was Konrad Adenauer, Germany's first postwar Chancellor, who led his country from the ruins of WWII to become a prosperous nation forging close relations with old enemies.

Albert Einstein, developer of the general theory of relativity and all round genius, was also very fond of Gummi Bear candy.

As are others currently in the public eye; including American actress Sandra Bullock and a future Queen of England, the former Kate Middleton wife of Prince William.

Many companies producing Gummy Bears keep to a similar color/flavor combination as HARIBO; so whether it is the colorless Pineapple Bear, the Green Strawberry Bear, Lemon Flavored Yellow Bear, the Orange Orange Bear or the Red Raspberry Bear, and in Germany the Russet Gold Apple Bear, the original slogan still works:

HARIBO Macht Kinder Froh – und Erwachsene Ebenso - HARIBO Makes Children Happy, and Adults Too; the English version "Kids and Grown-ups Love it so, the Happy World of HARIBO".

And especially when it is a world where there are some Gummi Bears..

Illustrations: Haribo Gummy Bears by HARIBO, The Gummy Bear Dress by Hissa Igarashi and Sayuri Murakami via Twelv Magazine

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Content copyright © 2015 by Francine McKenna-Klein. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Francine McKenna-Klein. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Francine McKenna-Klein for details.


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