Although gummy bears have been around for almost 90 years, the gummy worm is a relatively recent phenomenon. Having originated in Germany, gummy candy is now enjoyed all around the world. Gummy worms are among the most popular gummy candies.
German candy maker Hans Reigel came up with the gummy candy concept in 1922. The candy was in bear form and wasn't shipped to America until around 1981. It was then that American candy manufacturer Trolli developed the gummy worm. The intent was to give children something fun to eat, while mildly shocking parents. This shock has since worn off. Gummy worms are one of the most popular gummy characters around.
Gummy worm making then was similar to today's process. An artist first sketches the character before carving the sketch into a small plaster mold. Once in the factory, candy makers pour ingredients such as gelatin, sugar and glucose syrup into large boilers. The ingredients are then heated before colors and flavorings are added. The process then moves into the production area, where the mix is poured into the molds and left for up to 5 days. Beeswax is added to make the worms less sticky.
Some candy companies are trying to change the notion that gummy worms contain only empty calories. Bear Essentials, for example, provides gummy candies enriched with Vitamin C. Certain vitamins are also taking on the gummy bear shape, so as to entice picky eaters. Even Borba Cosmetics offers gummy candies to clear up skin.
In the '90s, some people linked an ingredient found in gummy worms to the Mad Cow Disease outbreak. Because gummy candies contain gelatin, an element pulled from the skin or bones of animals, it was purported that those people who eat them are at higher risk of contracting the neurological disorder. However, in a 2003 report, the World Health Organization puts those fears to rest. The report says as long as the gelatin is processed correctly, it poses little risk to humans.
The creation of gummy worms has spawned a gummy candy revolution of sorts. Today, gummy candy lovers enjoy gummy rings, gummy snakes and gummy cola bottles. But despite the variety, gummy worms remain the second-most popular snack of its kind behind, of course, gummy bears. To keep the edge, some candy companies have introduced different flavors of gummy worms.