November 04, 1985 12:00 PM

A Los Angeles writer confesses that she “lived on six packs a day.” Teachers at one school pass them out for good behavior. Kids trade them like marbles, and sweet freaks eat ’em like candy. For good reason: They are candy. Gummi bears, tiny fruit-flavored chewables shaped like grizzlies, have become a fad with kids and are taking a hefty bite into the jelly bean-Jujyfruit market. Haribo of America, Inc., distributor of the original gummi bears that first came from Europe a decade ago, says its sales have more than doubled in the last two years, so that Americans are now chewin’ more than 465,000 imported bruins per week.

The bear facts, claim fanciers, are that gummis are cute, chewy and don’t stick to your teeth. Their taste and texture are “a cross between three-week-old Jell-O and flavored rubber bands,” says Jon Lang, who markets Disney’s Adventures of the Gummi Bears, a new Saturday morning cartoon show. Made with pectin, the same gelatin ingredient found in jelly beans, the candy is also molded by various manufacturers into fruit-flavored fish, mice, Smurfs, alligators, baseball bats, tennis rackets, transformer robots and the latest rage, worms. “The worms taste like the bears but are longer,” declares a 9-year-old critic.

Gummi bears (pronounced goomee, which in German means “rubber gum”) were born in Bonn in 1921 at the home of candymaker Hans Riegel. His stove-top operation grew to become Haribo GMBH & Co., which now employs 2,000 people to turn out about 200 million bears a week. Although Haribo of America President Frank J. Taglienti claims his firm’s candy cubs are “the Cadillac of gummi bears,” two American manufacturers, new to the fray, doubtless have other opinions. But no matter; right now there’s a bull market in bears and room for everybody. Claims Taglienti, “Once you taste them, you’re addicted.”

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