Cover image courtesy of HARIBO of America, Inc.

While Baby Boomers might remember Mary Jane’s, Jujubes and Squirrel Nut Zippers being part of their road trips snacks, Gen-X and younger generations will remember their candies of choice were Now and Laters, Jolly Ranchers, and of course, HARIBO Goldbears gummi candy.

Hans Riegel, Sr., Founder of HARIBO and inventor of the gummi bear. Image courtesy of HARIBO of America, Inc.

And while it may seem like gummi bears were something new Americans kids were munching on during our early ’80s road trips, they’ve actually been around a lot longer. In fact, as if remembering early ’80s road trips and thinking “Gosh, that was really 40 years ago?” doesn’t already make Gen-Xers feel old enough as it is, HARIBO’s gummi bears are celebrating their centennial in 2022.

So, today, in our own little version of Flashback Friday, we thought we’d take a look back at the history of our favorite chewy, fruit-flavored, ursine-shaped candies to help HARIBO celebrate a century of gummi goodness.

Bring on the Dancing Bears

After working at a confectionary job that seemed to be going nowhere, Hans Riegel of Bonn, Germany, decided to start his own candy company in 1920. Taking the first two letters of his first name, last name, and the city in which he lived (HAns RIegel BOnn), he called his new company “HARIBO”. Using only a copper kettle and a marble slab, he started out making colorless hard candy. The business did okay, but Riegel thought he could do better and started experimenting with gelatin-based treats.

One of the company’s earliest delivery trucks.
Image courtesy HARIBO of America, Inc.

In 1922, he came up with a soft, gelatin-based, fruit-flavored candy shaped like dancing bears – a popular attraction at 19th century European fairs and festivals. Riegel’s sold his Tanzbären (“dancing bears”) two for a pfennig (penny), and they were an instant success with the local kinder. At first, Riegel and his wife Getrud were meeting the demand for his delicious, dancing teddies by delivering them via bicycle. However, the candies were such a hit that, by the next year, Hans and Gertrud could afford their own company car and had a factory with 400 employees producing 10 tons of gummi bears a day.

Still, as it happened with many businesses at the time, World War II nearly put an end to HARIBO’ssuccess. Hans would die in 1945, and his sons Paul and Hans Jr. became POWs of the Allied forces. When they were finally released after the war, HARIBO was at the verge of collapse with only 30 people still working at the factory.

Rising Like a Gummi Phoenix

Only five years after its near downfall, however, Hans Jr. and Paul were able to build their father’s gummi empire back and better than ever. They now had 1,000 people working at the factory and Hans Jr. even came up with a new slogan – “Kids and grown-ups love it so, the happy world of HARIBO!”

HARIBO’s Goldbear packaging c. 1960. Image courtesy of HARIBO of America, Inc.

In 1960, Hans and Paul introduced a newer, squatter, chewier Gummibärchen (“little gummi bears”) that they could sell to a wider European market. They would later change the name again to “Goldbären” (“gold” and “cute” in a sort of German pun), this time to reach a more global market. 

Still, throughout the ‘70s, HARIBO’s candy bears were brought into the US primarily as gifts from servicemen and servicewomen stationed in Germany or through German language teachers who gave them to students as rewards.  And although Jelly Belly would start making their own version of gummi bears in 1981, HARIBO’s Goldbears  (the official name they’re still known as today) would finally officially arrive in the U.S. in 1982 where they would be a big hit with schoolchildren, roadtrippers and, well,  just about every American kid and grown up who love it so today.

Image: HARIBO of America, Inc.

This year, HARIBO celebrates the 100th birthday of gummi bears with new flavors and shapes like Blue-Raspberry flavored Party Hats and limited edition single-flavor packs in Pineapple and Blue-Raspberry. They’re even having a sweepstakes where the lucky winners will receive an all-expenses paid trip to Myrtle Beach. How’s that for a centennial celebration?

Happy 100th birthday to HARIBO’s gummi bears!

Speaking of special days, don’t wait until the last minute to get your mom something special for her special day. That’s right – Mother’s Day is less than a week away and nothing says “Thanks for all the road trips you took us on, Mom” more than the Stuckey’s Mother’s Day Gift Box. Each Mother’s Day Gift Box includes:

                4 – 2 oz. Pecan Log Rolls,

                4 – 1.7 oz. Pecan Divinity,

                4 – 1.5 oz. Pecan Pralines,

                1 – 8 oz. Hunkey Dorey,

                1 – 4 oz. Sea Salt Pecans,

                1 – 4 oz. Kettle Glazed Pecans, and

                1 – Candy Shoppe Coffee Mug

But Hurry! If you live:

  • West of the Rockies, your last chance to order and receive your gift box by Mother’s Day is today, April 29.
  • East of the Rockies, your last chance to order and receive your gift box by Mother’s Day is Monday, May 2.
  • In the State of Georgia, your last chance to order and receive your gift box by Mother’s Day is Wednesday, May 4 (Noon).

Visit stuckeys.com for more info.

Stuckey’s – We’re Making Road Trips Fun Again!