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Haribo's Hans Riegel -- Gummi bears visionary -- has died

By Rene Lynch

6:16 PM EDT, October 15, 2013

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Gummi bears are sure to be a staple in Halloween trick-or-treat baskets later this month. And for that, we have Haribo candy baron Hans Riegel to thank.

He was the marketing visionary who helped turn the German Haribo company into an international candy giant. He died Tuesday of heart failure in Bonn, Germany, where he had been recovering from a medical procedure to remove a brain tumor.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle recognized Riegel's accomplishment of turning Haribo into a "German global brand" by exporting the multicolored treats to every corner of the planet, according to the Associated Press.

"Wherever I traveled in the last few years, the Gold-Bears had already long been there," Westerwelle said.

Riegel's father, who was also named Hans, created Haribo in Germany in 1920 and made his first batches of candies in a small kitchen sink, according to the company's history page.

The company started off with "dancing bears," later added "black bears" made out of licorice and in the 1930s rolled out "teddy bears," honoring U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt.

Then came World War II. Members of the Riegel family were reportedly held as allied prisoners during the war, and the elder Riegel died in 1945, according to AP. Upon release, the younger Riegel and his brother began to rebuild the family's firm. At that time, they had only about 30 employees.

It was up to Hans Riegel to focus on marketing, sales and promotion, and turning Haribo into an international brand. The brand expanded into the U.S. in 1982, where its popularity exploded.

The Gummi bears that we know and love today were "born" in 1960, and the line was expanded to include Gummi worms and many other items, according to the company website. (They are called Gummi candy on the bag, and their formal title is Gold-Bears, according to the packaging, but everyone, of course, calls them Gummi bears.)

Today, Haribro has roughly 6,000 employees. There is such demand that if all the Gummi bears produced in one year were laid head to toe they would go around the Earth four times, boasts the company website.

About this time, you might be wondering, hey, what are Gummi bears made of anyway?

You might not like the answer, but since you asked: corn syrup, sugar, gelatin, dextrose, artificial and natural flavors, wax, artificial colors Yellow 5 and Red 40, and other good stuff. (We kid!)

Are you a Gummi bears fan?

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