It all started in the UK with some little ‘Unclaimed Babies’. These would eventually turn into ‘Peace Babies’ – marking the end of WWI. At a similar time, Germany was busy recreating their own edible darlings in the form of colourful dancing bears. These bears would lead the world to wriggly worms and eventually, our modern day sharks, frogs, and roadkill. If you haven’t guessed already, we’re talking about gummy candies.
Despite an Austrian working in England inventing them early on (1864), the ‘Unclaimed Babies’ weren’t really propelled into playground fame until 1918 when Bassett’s finally claimed them. They gave them the more marketable ‘Peace Babies’ name, before having to suspend their production during WWII. It was at this time they were able to relaunch the babies with another name that, this time, would stick… ‘Jelly Babies’!
But why create edible babies, when you could create edible dancing bears? This is what HARIBO founder Hans Riegel, Sr. must have been considering when recalling the 19th-century’s street festivals that had trained bears! Unlike England’s ‘Peace Babies’, his own ‘Dancing Bear’ or Tanzbär line of candy managed to remain not only available, but affordable, during WWII, and it’s ‘Gold-Bear’ or Goldbär successor of 1967 is still going strong today.
Another version of the HARIBO story that’s different from their official website describes Gummibärchens, ‘gummi bears’, having existed right from the start in 1922, without any name changes. Either way, you cut it, we’re not about to change our opinion of the plump little bears, or any of their chewy little companions… When considering the gummy candies that have appeared since the rise of the bears, we immediately think of spiders, snakes, penguins, and even beards, to name a few. But we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention Trolli’s creepy-crawly gummi worms!
Trolli is another German company that has had nothing but success since it began its operations in the late 1940s. They’d created their own version of the famous HARIBO gummi bears. But they really gained sweet recognition in 1981 with their stretchy worms. Their products were so popular during this time that they were exporting nearly 40 tonnes to the US every day. 40 tonnes of gummy candies! This was when they decided to open their own production facility in Iowa. They then entered into mergers with other companies to manage the growing demand for lunchboxes and dirt cakes. Dirt cakes being a wonderful combination of vanilla pudding, crushed Oreos, and gummi worms. Some thoughtful parents even serve dirt cakes in little terracotta pots!
Interestingly, much the same way strudel is German for ‘swirl’, we found out gummy translates to ‘rubber’. Truly a word that perfectly describes the chewy, fruit-flavoured candy! Another fun fact: in 2004 Trolli released roadkill themed gummy candies. This meant squirrels, snakes, and chickens with tire tracks were available for hungry little mouths. However animal activists protested enough to have the line pulled from the markets. A bit ironic when considering the other gummy products that remain on the shelves today.
Thankfully, we can still celebrate National Gummi Worm Day every July 15. So, whether you’re a fan of the sour worm gummies, or more of a traditional gummi worm connoisseur, make sure you eat at least one today!
Grab yourselves gummy candies and happy National Gummi Worm Day.