The Amazing History of Gummy Bears

Gummy Bears

In an interesting episode of the Mental Floss series Food History, host Justin Dodd explains the history behind the gummy bears.

How did gummy bears go from niche German sweet to the world’s favorite gelatin candy?

Dodd first tells the early versions such as Turkish Delight and wine drops, however, German candymaker Hans Reigel struck out on his own in 1920 to make the now-famous company Haribo. The name is a mixture of the first two letters of Reigel’s first name, last name, and his hometown of Bonn.

This new company was the first to shape the chewy candy in the shape of a bear. This special shape came from the renowned dancing bears of Germany.

The shape originated as an homage to a European tradition that goes back centuries. Trained, “dancing” bears gained popularity during the Middle Ages, and they persisted into the 20th century. They were still a common sight at German festivals 100 years ago, so Riegel knew it was an image his customers would recognize.

In reality, the aforementioned bears were not dancing at all. Rather they were dodging the pain of hot plates put under their feet. This evil practice has since been banned in Germany and around the world. In some way, Reigel’s candy pays sweet homage to the bears in perpetuity.

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