The humble gummi bear was the first of gummi candy ever to be produced in 1922 by a German man called Hans Riegel, a candy maker from Bonn. Hans originally called his creation the “dancing bear” and launched his confectionary company “Haribo”, an acronym for Hans Riegel Bonn. The gummi bear was popular by the end of its first year of production and the sweet is still sold in Germany today under the popular name Gummibar (rubber bear) or Gummibarchen (little rubber bear).
A gummi bear is a small gelatin-based sweet which is roughly 2 centimetres long, bear shaped and comes in a 5 different flavours: orange (orange), strawberry (green), raspberry (red), pineapple (no-colour) and lemon (yellow). There have been other companies who have copied the gummi bear and introduced other flavours and colours, however these have never found their way into Haribo’s production.
The candy has been so popular it has lead to a range of other gummi animals being introduced into confectionary including worms, penguins, frogs, snakes, sharks, hippos, lobsters, octopuses and even Smurfs and spiders.
The original candy is made from a compound of sugar, glucose syrup, starch, flavouring, food colouring, citric acid, and gelatin. There are some versions of the sweet that have been produced to be suitable for vegetarians containing pectin or starch instead of gelatin. Candy made with either bovine or porcine gelatine are unsuitable for vegetarians and also do not conform to kashrut or halal diets.
The gummi bear manufacturing process is a long and interesting procedure which begins with manufacturing artists doing a character sketch and then carving it into tiny plaster moulds. The moulds are then duplicated using machinery with the duplicates running through a starch powder machine to produce a set of starch powder mould pans.
The ingredients are poured into large boilers and heated together, constantly being stirred by large mixing paddles. Colours and flavourings are added to the mixture to give the gummi sweets their distinct look and taste. Nozzles are used to squeeze the mixture on to the previously prepared starch boards where it is left for three to five days to set. Beeswax is then added to make the candy shiny and less sticky. The gummi candy is finally moved to a packaging machine and is ready to ship.
The gummi bear has gone from strength to strength over the years with Disney even creating a cartoon show in 1985, “The Adventures of the Gummy Bears,” based on the German candy. This children’s adventure cartoon lasted for 65 episodes where the show followed a family of gummi bears on many fun and educational journeys.