Haribo of America Seeking Bigger 'Bear' of U.S. Market

Gummi maker building brand with new TV campaign

WOODLAWN, Md. -- Adults, not children, account for 65% of gummi candy consumption in the United States. And that appetite is growing, if Haribo of America Inc.'s sales are any indication, reported The Baltimore Sun.

U.S. sales for the Baltimore-based division of the German candy maker have grown in double digits in each of the past five years, and more than 20% in 2011, Christian Jegen, president of Haribo of America, told the newspaper.

Known for inventing gummi bears, Haribo began mass-marketing the fruity, chewy candy in the United States in the 1980s.

Research from the National Confectioners Association (NCA) that shows continuing adult consumption means that the kids who grew up with gummies in the 1980s are continuing to consume the candy as adults, Susan F. Whiteside, an NCA spokesperson, told the Sun.

"It's not just gummi bears, it's gummi worms and so many more flavors. They're constantly capturing a new audience," she said.

Haribo of America sees even more untapped demand, the report said. It is building its brand with a TV ad campaign, expanding its reach in stores and dreaming up new versions of the snack that once came in just five flavors--lemon, orange, strawberry, pineapple and raspberry.

Consumers are looking for a fat-free, gluten-free candy alternative, Jegen said. "Gummies were known in Europe for a long time … but the market potential has not been fully achieved in the U.S."

Before Haribo moved into the U.S. market in the early 1980s, its gummi candies were imported and sold mainly in specialty stores. Haribo has since expanded into supermarkets, drugstores and mass merchants such as Wal-Mart. Wider distribution has spurred Haribo's rapid sales growth, said Jegen, who declined to disclose actual sales figures for the U.S. division.

With gummi bears as Haribo's top-selling U.S. product, the company is striving to become the dominant player in the gummi category among its many competitors, including big candy and food companies such as Mars and Kraft, and smaller private labels, said the report.

About two years ago, Haribo began working with Baltimore-based advertising agency TBC to better familiarize U.S. consumers with the brand. Company executives wanted adults and children to think "fun" when they think of Haribo. The company already had a decades-old jingle that it translated into English as "Kids and Grown-Ups Love It So, The Happy World of Haribo."

Above all, Jegen said, the company wanted a campaign that would distinguish Haribo gummies from the competition.

"Texture and flavor distinguishes them," he said. "They are true to nature. If you're eating peach, it tastes like peach."