Yummy Revelation: Gummi Bears Occupy Baltimore County!

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How did I miss this sweet morsel before now? Haribo of America — you’ll know them best as the brilliant inventors of gummi bears, but they also make licorice and marshmallows — is based just down the road in Woodlawn, and has been since 1989! A Gen-Xer who grew up eating tons of gummis, I find this late discovery, which I just came across reading Sunday’s Baltimore Sun, kind of delicious.

Nice to know Baltimoreans can claim ties to the cool German company (named for founder Hans Riegel and the city where he launched his brand in 1922, Bonn); reassuring to read of their super steady financial growth. Haribo of America’s sales increased by more than 20 percent last year, Christian Jegen the U.S. division president told Lorraine Mirabella of The Sun. Their top seller: g. bears, which are distributed to the U.S., Mexico and the Caribbean by 14 Woodlawn worker bees.

Intriguing factoid: Did you know that 65 percent of candy consumers are adults not kids? Mirabella’s report suggests further that 30-somethings, especially, often opt for the gummi treat they grew up gobbling–and yanking out of their teeth. No massive surprise for this cavity-and-root-canal veteran.

Haribo ventured into the U.S. market in the early ’80s — the U.S. division opened in downtown Baltimore in 1982 and relocated to Woodlawn seven years later — first selling mainly to specialty stores, but has since distributed the bendable bites to supermarkets and mega-stores nationwide including Wal-Mart. Jegen told The Sun that this more generous sprinkling of gummi candy round the country has spurred their rapid sales growth — though he didn’t use these exact words. (By the way, did you know that gummis are both gluten-free and fat-free? Another reason to be proud they’re Maryland-linked.)

Now the company aims to become the leading sticky-bear provider in the U.S., taking a bite out of large competitors Mars and Kraft. In another tasty local twist, two years back, Haribo hired Baltimore ad agency TBC to teach more Americans the sweet truth about Haribo. They wanted both grown-ups and kids to conjure the concept of “fun” when they heard the H-word. (As opposed to, what, hyper-activity?) And meanwhile strategized to play hardball against the aforementioned soft-candy competitors.

According to Mirabella, “The company already had a decades-old jingle that it translated into English as ‘Kids and Grown-Ups Love It So, The Happy World of Haribo.'”

Of the early client/agency commercial’s brainstorming sessions, Allan Charles, TBC’s chairman and creative director (and father of actor Josh Charles), told The Sun, “We spent a lot of time talking about who [Haribo is]. The big challenge for us was to adapt what we could of their tone into the pop culture of America… They liked the idea of kids running the show.”

The spot was produced across South Wolfe Street in the agency’s film studio. Precocious kids in business suits are shown conducting a Haribo boardroom meeting; a later spot features elementary-school-age boys and girls running the factory.

The next time you see Haribo advertised on TV, score one point for our region. Then treat yourself to a mini-bag of gummis, guilt-free…plus a box of dental floss.



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