From a small family kitchen in Bonn, Haribo developed the now legendary gummy bear and launched an international confection phenomenon. On the cusp of the 100th anniversary of the Goldbear, let’s learn more about Haribo. 

Origins of Haribo

In 1920, Hans Riegel Sr registered a confectionary company with just a sack of sugar, a copper pot, a slab, a stove, a stool, and a roller. The name Haribo is derived from his own name: Hans Riegel Bonn. The following year, his wife Gertrud became his first employee, and in 1922 Riegel invented the “Dancing Bear”.

Inspired by the trained bears that were popular at street fairs in Germany at the time, and the way these bears excited and engaged children, Riegel developed a bear shaped candy with vivid colors. The distinctive shape was achieved with the use of gum arabic, and, despite high inflation and a poor economy, Riegel insisted on pricing them affordably, at just two bears for one Pfennig.

The bears were incredibly popular, and in 1923 Haribo invested in an automobile, allowing them to distribute their candies more widely than Gertrud had been able to on her bicycle. 

In 1925, Haribo produced their first licorice candies. Their licorice wheel remains popular to this day, and the dancing bear acquired a black bear licorice-flavored cousin. 

In 1930, just a decade after their humble beginnings, Haribo employed 400 people and introduced their first commercial slogan “Haribo macht Kinder froh” (“Haribo makes children happy”).  

WWII and the untimely death of Riegel caused hard times for the company in the 1940s. In 1946, son Hans Riegel Jr and his brother took over the flagging company from their mother, and success soon followed. 

The Gold Bear

In the 1960s, Haribo re-invented the dancing bear. They made it smaller, rounder, and re-launched them as Goldbears, the first modern “gummy bears.” The original gummy bears were trademarked in 1967, and are still produced globally by Haribo.

However, the incredible popularity of gummy bears has spawned a world of imitators, making gummy candies in every imaginable shape. The combination of sugar, starch, flavors, colors, and gelatin lends itself to a huge range of flavors and shapes, and gummy bears and gummy candies are made all over the globe, appealing to a huge range of people. Recent years have also seen the introduction of gummy vitamins, with pleasing flavor and sweetness, but also with needed vitamins and nutrients. 

While the original bear-shaped candies developed by Haribo were formed with gum arabic, which is how they got their name, most modern gummy candies are formed from gelatin. This can make them a concern for people who prefer vegetarian or halal candies. Haribo gummy bears produced in Turkey are halal, and halal varieties are available in some other markets. 

In 1989, Haribo reduced the artificial colors and flavors of their line of gummy bears, creating bears that are still delicious, but with more muted, natural colors. In 2009, Haribo launched Juicy Goldbears, with a softer consistency and 25% fruit juice. 

In 2018, Haribo opened their new headquarters and production facility in Grafschaft, launching a new era for the next generation. 

The Happy World of Haribo

Haribo’s branding and marketing has remained virtually unchanged throughout its long history. The company’s first slogan, “Haribo makes children happy”, has been changed only once, to “Haribo macht Kinder froh – und Erwachsene ebenso”. In English-speaking countries, the slogan is translated to “Kids and grown-ups love it so – the happy world of Haribo”. 

In 2018, Haribo opened their new headquarters and production facility in Grafschaft, launching a new era for the next generation. 

Now available in over 100 countries, Haribo has 16 production facilities in 10 countries, and employs over 7000 people. Their success is based on consistency and adherence to tradition, balanced with new confectionaries that are specially tailored to local preferences in various markets. 

Thanks to Haribo and the famous gummy bear, it’s a happy world indeed.

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