Americans of all ages are stuck on multi-shaped gummy candy

October 05, 1992|By Knight-Ridder News Service

FORT WAYNE, Ind. -- Lately they have been spotted swimming in a sea of blue Jell-O. Come Halloween, they will haunt trick-or-treaters as snakes, spiders and tarantulas.

You can find them shaped as everything from fish to fruits, cola bottles to Chevrolet cars and trucks and tools to "Looney Tunes" characters. They even tease your taste buds now in regular fruit flavor, sour or sugar-free.

"That's what's fun about gummy candy," says Shawna Moret, BTC associate marketing director at Foreign Candy Co. in Hull, Iowa. "You can make them in any shape because you make them in molds."

Many people thought gummy candy would be just another fad when Foreign Candy introduced gummy bears to America in 1983.

The company found the fruity, sugar-and-gelatin bears in Germany, where they have tempted people's sweet teeth for decades.

If you haven't encountered them yet, gummy candies -- or gummi, as the Germans spell it -- look similar in color and content to rubbery jujubes. But gummies' gelatin base gives them a softer, slightly slimy feel. The gelatin also makes them relatively clear in consistency and less likely than jujubes to lock up your molars like some kind of wonder glue.

And as any stroll down a store candy aisle will confirm, the success of Gummy Bears has sparked a surge of spinoffs.

Candy lovers' interest has led Bob's Candies Inc. of Albany, Ga., to add gummy bears to its line of sugar-free candies.

Even chocolate maker Hershey's Chocolate U.S.A. has gone gummy, introducing its Amazin' Fruit Gummy Bears last month.

The candy industry estimates Americans now chomp down on about $100 million in gummies each year. What's the attraction?

"They have a good taste," says Ryne Schaden, 7, echoing the consensus of other first-graders at his lunch table at his school in downtown Fort Wayne, Ind.

Besides the candy's tangy fruit flavor, Matthew Auman, 7, says gummy candies also have a neat texture.

"They are like rubber," Matthew explains. "They are fun to eat."

Though the candy's shape doesn't seem a big part of the appeal for the St. John crowd, shape does matter to some of Katie Poore's younger customers at Abby Brown's Chocolates.

"It's always fun to eat a worm," Ms. Poore says of gummy worms, one of her most popular gummy items. She also sells gummy bears, 8-inch gummy rats and crocodiles and even larger rattlesnakes.

"The rats are popular for Christmas stockings," she notes wryly.

Of course, youngsters aren't the only ones who go for gummies.

"The flavors are excellent," says Chris Wheeler, bulk foods manager at the Scott's Foods store.

Mr. Wheeler, who occasionally buys a bag of the new gummy fish for herself, says, "The texture is smooth. They are chewy but not tough like rubber."

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