Why Gummy Bears Were Invented

For many with a sweet tooth, it's difficult to imagine life without a favorite candy, or before it. Take gummy bears, for instance. According to Haribo (via HITC), 100 million of their beloved Goldbears are made around the world every single day.

A firm global favorite, a confectionery classic, you might think that their reason for existing is simple: to make fans' days a little brighter, fruitier, and gummier. That's a noble raison d'etre as it is, but there's an interesting reason why these gummies are bear-shaped in the first place. 

Bon Appetit reports that Haribo founder Hans Reigel — the company's name derives from the first two letters of his first and last name and of the town he lived in, Bonn — was struggling to sell the hard, suckable candies that his new company developed in the 1920s. They had no color (being developed on a marble slab in Reigel's kitchen) and just didn't have the appeal that such a product would need. He had a customer base, but needed to expand it. A bright, colorful product was in order, and the invention of fun, chewable gummies was just what he needed.

From hard, boring candies to the beloved Goldbears

Per California Gummy Bears, Reigel did not invent the gum Arabic recipe the first gummy bears were made from. In fact, such a recipe is much older than that, reportedly dating back to the 9th century (the source of the sticky product is the acacia tree). Reigel's gelatin-based recipe set his new sweet treats apart, per Bon Appetit, as did their distinctive bear shape, which was inspired by the popularity of performing bears at circuses at the time.

The Haribo visionary took this inspiration and ran with it. According to Deliciously Savvy, the result was that the first gummy bears took Reigel's native Germany by storm under the name of Tanzbär (Dancing Bears). They may not have looked or tasted exactly as they do today, but their novelty and relatively cheap price (during a tumultuous time when a range of different products were either tough to acquire or expensive) set them up to be a smash.

From there, Deliciously Savvy goes on, the company's unmistakable and irresistible Goldbears were launched in 1967. 15 years later, they arrived in the United States, and the franchise quickly expanded to include a TV show ("Disney's Adventures of the Gummi Bears"), and an entire merchandising empire. Haribo states that 2022 marks 100 years of Goldbears "delight[ing] kids and grown ups" in one form or another, and they may well prove to be a favorite for another century.