The candies that thrill children in one country rarely even appear on the store shelves of another nation. But afamous exception is gummi bears, the five-flavored candies in the shape of little bears that currently are available, and popular, in most of the world. What sets them apart from other sweets? Mainly, it was Hans Riegel, who ran the company since 1945 until his death this month.
Riegel and his brother Paul took over the family business from their father. While Paul focused on production, Hans was in charge of marketing and sales. He began the international expansion by moving from Germany into neighboring countries, such as Austria and Sweden in the 1970s. Soon he crossed the Channel to introduce the multicolored sweets in the United Kingdom. Success throughout Europe led him to move into the U.S. market in 1982.
In addition, he encouraged the expansion of the product line to meet other niche market demands. Today, Haribo thus produces and sells a wide variety of gummy candies, in different shapes and characters, each with a specific flavor line, to appeal to the widest markets possible. But the original gummi bears remain the most popular product it sells.
With these moves, Riegel transformed a small family business into an international force, with annual sales of approximately $2.7 billion.
Hans Riegel’s sales skills helped expand the brand, based largely on his own form of marketing research. In particular, throughout this life Reigel remained an active reader of popular comics and children’s books. Each autumn, he also hosted an event at the Bonn, Germany, gummi bear factory in which children could gather acorns and chestnuts and trade them in for candies. Recognizing that his ultimate consumer was children, Riegel famously noted, “I have to be informed about what they want to nibble, what they think, what language they speak.”
Souce: Melissa Eddy, “Hans Riegel, Marketer of Gummi Bears, Dies at 90,” The New York Times, October 16, 2013