I was enjoying some Haribo Gold-Bears last night and thinking, “man, Haribo makes by far the best gummy bears.” I even thought to myself that Haribo’s gummy is so superior to all others that it must be the pioneer in gummy candy. So I went to the source of all knowledge and found that not only were my suspicions correct, but that gummy bears have a surprisingly extensive Wikipedia page.
From the Wikipedia: Gummy bear.
According to the Wikipedia, a gummy bear is a “small, rubbery-textured confectionary” that is “roughly two centimeters long” and “shaped in the form of a bear.” The gummy bear is not to be confused with the actor Jason Davis, whose nickname is Gummi Bear, nor the Korean R&B singer Gummy nor the Australasian gummy shark, which is apparently edible but presumably tastes nothing like its sugary namesake.
The gummy bear has its roots in Bonn, Germany, where candy-man Hans Rieger founded the Haribo company and personally crafted the molds used to form bear-shaped fruit-flavored gum that ultimately begat bear-shaped fruit-flavored candy. The Wikipedia is pretty vague on how it all went down though. We know the Dancing Bear gum came out in 1922, under Rieger’s watch. Per the Wikipedia, “[t]he success of the Dancing Bear’s successor would later become Haribo’s world-famous Gold-Bears candy product in 1967.”
That strongly implies a missing link — and a successful one — between the Dancing Bear and the Gold-Bear, but the Wikipedia says nothing else about it. Was it the slow-dissolving gum product I’ve always dreamed of? Maybe, but I’ll never know. As it turns out, the era between 1922 and 1967 was pretty tumultuous in Germany, and no one thought to keep detailed history of bear-shaped candy lineage.
The gummy bear is still popular in Germany today under the name Gummibärchen, which translates to “little rubber bear.” Another German brand, Trolli, started making gummy candy in the wake of Haribo’s success and in 1981 became the first to market gummy worms. Gummy worms, everyone knows, are for cretins.
According to the Wikipedia, there are also gummy rings, frogs, snakes, hamburgers, cherries, sharks, penguins, hippos, lobsters, octopuses, apples, peaches, oranges and even Ampelmännchen. None are necessary.
One intriguing gummy innovation are giant gummy bears. The Wikipedia reports that there exist gummy bears that weigh several kilograms, which would sound pretty intriguing if I could figure out the stupid metric system.
Haribo gummy bears — which are undoubtedly the Babe Ruth of gummy bears, in that they’re both the first popular gummy bear and still to date the best gummy bear — come in five standard flavors: red is raspberry, orange is orange, yellow is lemon, pineapple is clear, and, oddly, green is strawberry. Some newer brands offer dumber flavors, like the Apricot Green Tea gummy pandas I bought at the airport gift shop not long ago for like five bucks.
Gummy bears are made from sugar, sugar, sugar, sugar, food coloring and gelatin. Because of the gelatin, they’re often not kosher or halal. Who knew? Maybe you did. Sorry. I guess I’m just drawn to pork products. Turns out Haribo does make halal Gold-Bears from bovine gelatin in its factory in Turkey, though.
Gummy bears have been linked to health problems like tooth decay and mad cow disease, but now they make gummy bears with multivitamins and cavity-fighting xylitol. The Wikipedia says gummy bears are one of the only candies to inspire a television show, and to the Wikipedia’s credit, I can’t think of any others. Gummy bears have also inspired a virtual novelty band and song and album and associated meme.