Gummy Bear History
We know you have lots of questions about gummy bears – one of the most popular retro candies, with a truly old-time candy history. FAR OLDER than what most people think. So, here goes… (Susan provided some of the information that follows to Smithsonian Magazine, for a recent article. You may have seen it there!)
When were gummy bears invented?
Gummy bears were made in 1922 in Germany, which most people expect. BUT – the basis of the gummy bears goes back much further than that. Gummy bears, and all gummy based candy, likely started with Turkish delight – first sold around 900 CE as a medicine in the Arabic apothecaries. In the 1700s, a Turkish sultan fell in love with the sweet and word traveled around the world where it was widely enjoyed. Why was Turkish delight a medicine? One important reason: it contained sugar, seen then, as now, to ease sore throats. The original Turkish delight did not contain gelatin, unlike the gummy candy of today. People love the Turkish delight for the same reasons they love gummy candy – a smooth texture and sweet flavor, fruity flavor.
What are some of the early gummy candies?
Early versions of gummy candy started with such selections as gum drops which originated in the early 1800s and was inexpensive and widely popular. In the 1860s, someone in Boston put a sugar coating on the delight and was likely sent it to the Union soldiers. That became known as the “jelly bean.” Later, in the 1970s, a candy salesman, David Klein, invented another kind of jelly bean, which he called “Jelly Belly.”
Why were the first gummies shaped like bears?
German candy-maker Hans Riegel, the first known person to use the gummy concoction, loved the dancing bears popular in the 19th and early 20th centuries at festivals and other events. So, he decided to create a candy version. Hence the bear shape. The original company, started by Reigel, was called “Haribo.”
Why were gummy candies called “gummy”? They’re not made of chewing gum.
OK – so, “gummy.” The word was based on the candy’s texture, which Riegel considered much like rubber. The German word for “rubber” translates into – yes! – “gummy.”
What happened to the Haribo during World War II?
Haribo survived the war although, although the company states they suffered hardships such as workforce issues, which diminished from 100 to 30 workers. Over the years, many questions have arisen as to those workers, with speculation that they were forced labor. The company denies the accusation. Records indicate that the company supplied German troops with gummy bears and that two of Riegel’s sons, fighting for the Third Reich, were captured by allied forces.
So many companies make gummy bears these days! How do I know the best brand to buy?
Plenty of other companies have risen up over the years, making a variety of gummy candies. With growing competition for gummy bear sales, Haribo changes the candy’s name to “Gold Bear” and added a gold logo to distinguish it from other brands. Is one bear different from the other? Hard to say. With so many bear sizes, not to mention ingredients (think: cannabis), it’s hard to say.
The selection of shapes and sizes has varied wildly, as well, creating a remarkable range of choices. Best idea – keep trying and find the ones you like best!