As a child of the ‘90s, I was a big fan of the Disney channel lineup of shows. One of the odder ones was called The Adventures Of The Gummi Bears. This show, if you’ve never seen it, was about a family of talking bears in Medieval times who possessed the formula for a magical potion called “gummi berry juice” that gave them the power to bounce but gave humans super strength, so they have to hide from the knights and goblins that want to steal it from them—wild I know. Also, the theme song was a bop.
In any event, I probably saw like 30 episodes of this show at an impressionable age, so I always forget whether the treat is spelled gummi bear or gummy bear (it’s typically the latter). And while we may never know the secret ingredients of gummi berry juice (though, one supposes, a lot of it is gummi berries), we can certainly figure out what gummy bears are made out of.
What are gummy bears made of?
As always, a good place to start is the packaging. A glimpse at the packaging of Harbio’s Goldbears (some of the best gummy candy, according to Sporked) reveals the ingredients list: glucose syrup (from wheat or corn), sugar, gelatin, dextrose (from wheat or corn), contains less than 2% of: citric acid, artificial and natural flavors, palm oil, palm kernel oil, carnauba wax, white beeswax, yellow beeswax, yellow 5, red 40, blue 1. That’s all well and good, but if you threw these in a blender you probably wouldn’t end up with gummy bears, or even their obviously inferior cousin, gummy worms. So, how do these bears get made?
How are gummy bears made?
First, much as I described, the ingredients are smooshed together in a big mixing tank. Gelatin is the key here, as it is, well, gummy, and helps the concoction hold its shape.
Everything is cooked and you end up with a slurry of sugary goop. Manufacturers pour that goop into cornstarch-powdered molds (bear-shaped molds, in this case). The mixture cools in the molds, and is left to rest and set for about 24 hours. After that, the gummies go for a tumble in food-grade oil, which removes any remaining cornstarch. (If you want to watch how gummies are made, check out this video from How It’s Made.)
This is the process for Haribo, the original and most famous gummy bear vendor. They sell gummies in all shapes and sizes—perhaps you’ve even had one of their massive, 5-pound gummy bears that can tower over your candy bowl like a giant grizzly. Other brands’ process might be slightly different, but they achieve the same ultimate effect.
So, now that you know how they’re made, go out and enjoy some gummy bears. Or, if you’re feeling lazy, there are probably some episodes of The Adventures Of The Gummi Bears on YouTube or something. Still too much effort? Just listen to the theme song. It really does slap.