Without wishing to mention the war, until a decade or so ago there could be no doubt that the Allied Forces had won the battle of the confectionery counter. Go into any corner shop looking for a sweet snack and you'd come out with a product that further filled the coffers of the two industry giants: Cadbury (dear Cadbury, founded in Birmingham, producer of the Dairy Milk bar since 1905) and Mars (founded in Washington State in 1911 though its eponymous bar was created in 1932 at the company's factory in Slough). Ah, the scent of that special, sweet sweet relationship.
But hold on... since the mid-1990s, there has been an invader in our midst. Just what are these plastic bags hanging from every available hook in every available nook wherever you look? Who is behind these jelly treats in strange shapes (lips, rings, fried eggs, bears) and where did they come from? Can anyone explain exactly why "Kids and grown-ups love it so – the happy world of Haribo"?
The answer to most of these questions can be traced back to one Hans Riegel of Bonn, Germany, who – as well as cunningly merging the first two letters of his first name, surname and birthplace to create his brand – also synthesised sugar, starch and glucose syrup into the shape of a small cuddly animal when he created the Gummi Bear (above) in 1922.
And since then? Starmix, Tangfastics, Sour Cherries, Fantasy Mix and Fizzy Cola bottles. Since then, five factories in Germany and 13 more in the rest of Europe. Since then, sales offices from Australia to America and a Facebook campaign to "Bring Haribo to South Africa". Since then, the acquisition of products as diverse as Pontefract Cakes, Pez dispensers and Maoam fruity chews.
The figures? UK sales of about £115m. A market share of 25 per cent. Fans including one Catherine Middleton. An ad budget of about £5m that ensures 95 per cent of us have heard of Haribo. The effect on our home-grown chocolates (not to mention our teeth)? Incalculable.
The upshot? For one German confectionery company, peacetime victory is sweets.
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