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What are Gummi Bears?

By Sheri Cyprus
Updated May 16, 2024
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Gummi bears are small, jelly-textured, translucent candies that are sold in bulk and in packages. They were invented by German candy company owner Hans Riegel, who started his business, Haribo, in a production plant in Germany in the 1920s. In 1922, Riegel created a bear-shaped candy made out of fruit gum that he called The Dancing Bear. This product became popular and was later known as the Haribo Gold-Bear. In the 1950s, Riegel invented the gummi bear, and today these sweet, rubber-like little candy bears are available worldwide.

In the early 1980s, gummi bears began to be manufactured by Haribo in the United States, and these candies quickly became an American favorite. The clear ones are pineapple-flavored while the red ones are berry-flavored. The candies are usually always fruit-flavored, and an orange one tastes like orange, a yellow one, like lemon, and a green one, like lime.

Gummibar or Gummibarachen means "small rubber bears" in German, and these candies typically get their rubbery texture from gelatin. Since gelatin is often made from animal bones, they are not suitable for vegetarians and vegans. Pig or cow bones are usually used for producing gelatin, so those who do not consume one or both of these animals for religious or other reasons are not likely to want to eat them either. There are several brands that are made with non-animal options, such as pectin or starch, rather than gelatin, however, so shoppers who are concerned should read the ingredients carefully.

Candy made with starch tend not to be as chewy or gummy as the gelatin types. The Jewish Museum in Berlin has vending machine that contains a kosher version. The popularity of Haribo's Gummi Bears led to many other candy manufacturers making similar gummy-textured types of candy, such as fruit and animal varieties, as well as cola bottle shapes. The Trolli company's Gummi Worms, first marketed in 1981, became a huge success. Sour gummy-textured candies are another popular variation of the original, sweet bear, and an acidic ingredient such as fumaric acid is often used to create the sour taste.

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Discussion Comments
By clintflint — On Dec 15, 2013

@croydon - Actually, I don't think the point of that cartoon was to market gummi bears the candy. I think it was just a play on words or a cute trick that they happened to be the same as the candy, because they are owned by different companies.

Although, I suppose Disney might have released their own version of the candy at some point. I'm not sure if the term "gummi bear" is trademarked or anything like that.

It seems like it should be, but there are plenty of generic versions of the candy out there that aren't produced by Haribo.

By croydon — On Dec 15, 2013

There was also a cartoon series produced by Disney that was inspired by the candies. The Gummi Bears cartoon was one of my favorites when I was a kid, although I'm sure it would be pretty embarrassing to watch now.

If I remember correctly the bears would eat a special kind of berry and that would give them the power to kind of jump around and that was how they solved the problem of the episode. I don't think, as a kid, I ever actually associated them with the candy but it was probably all meant as a marketing tactic.

By SanSlayer — On Dec 15, 2013

Haribo's Gummy Bears are pretty great, but for my money, gummy worms are the way to go. You just seem to get more bang for your gummy buck with the worms.

Plus, if you've never had Oreo "dirt" pudding with gummy worms in the mix, you're missing out on one of the best applications of gummy candy imaginable!

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