While your parents might remember gummy bears as a sweet treat that came along in the early 1980s, their origins actually date back much farther than that. German entrepreneur Hans Riegel invented gummy candies way back in the early 1920s when he started his candy company Haribo. Today, Haribo continues to be one of the world's top manufacturers of gummy candies.
Riegel's first gummy candies were shaped like bears. Riegel was inspired by the trained bears he had grown up watching at street festivals around Europe. The original base ingredient Riegel used was gum arabic, which led to the name gummy bears.
Gummy bears are mass-produced in factories by the tens of thousands at a time. First, the ingredients are mixed together in a large vat. Typical ingredients include corn syrup, sugar, water, gelatin, food coloring, and flavorings. Flavorings often come from fruit juices and citric acid.
Once the ingredients are mixed, the resulting liquid is cooked until it thickens into what manufacturers call a slurry. The slurry is then poured into molds for shaping. Gummy bears would be poured into bear-shaped molds, of course. There are many different types of shapes for gummy candies, though. One of the most popular you're probably familiar with is the gummy worm.
The molds for gummy candies are lined with corn starch, which prevents the gummy candies from sticking to the molds. After the gummy candy slurry is poured into the molds, it is cooled to 65º F and allowed to sit for 24 hours to allow the slurry to cool and set.
After 24 hours in the molds, the gummy candies are removed and placed in a large drum tumbler. In the tumbler, the gummy candies are tumbled in a light food-grade oil that absorbs any remaining corn starch and keeps the gummy candies soft and fresh. After they're tumbled, the gummy candies are ready to be packaged and sold.
Some of the most popular flavors of gummy bears include raspberry, orange, strawberry, pineapple, and lemon. While regular gummy bears can be very high in sugar, you can also find healthier varieties on the shelves today. In fact, some companies now sell multivitamins in gummy form to make them more attractive to children!