Richest Germans: The Emperor in Gummy Bear′s Clothes | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 12.12.2005
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Richest Germans: The Emperor in Gummy Bear's Clothes

Gummy bears are his passion, but also a source of his incredible wealth. His name is Hans Riegel, and millions of children around the world get their first sugar rush chewing on his sticky candies.

He knows the secret recipe for your favorite gummy bear: Hans Riegel

He knows the secret recipe for your favorite gummy bear: Hans Riegel

It is practically impossible to find a kid in this world that doesn't have a sweet tooth. It is this law of nature that made Hans Riegel, junior, one of the richest Germans living today. His assets, like those of his brother Paul, have been estimated to 1.6 billion euros ($1.3 billion)

Haribo, the international sweets giant with an estimated annual turnover of 1.5 billion euros, holds a 60% market share on licorice and fruit drops in Germany, and is undisputed number one in Europe. In the eighties, it crossed the big pond and started expanding in the United States. In the nineties, it discovered Eastern Europe. The world of gummy bears knows no borders.

Hans Riegel, senior, confectioner from Bonn, founded the family business in 1920 and gave it the exotic sounding name Haribo, which was, in fact, an acronym consisting of his initials and the city of Bonn. But it was really Hans Junior, who took over the family business after the Second World War, that turned it into an international success story.

Tradition and change

Models in Lakritz-Kostuemen posieren am Sonntag, 5. Juni 2005, in Koblenz.

In the summer of 2005, Haribo organized a licorice-inspired fashion show

It is a well-established part of the Haribo corporate mythology that, at least in the first few years of developing their business, Hans Senior and his wife Gertrud used to deliver their products on their own, by bicycle. Hans Junior, who prepared himself for his later career by earning a doctorate from the University of Bonn on the role of sugar in world trade, doesn't have to play delivery boy anymore because Haribo candies are now sold over the world. But he does like to fly his own chopper to a business meeting.

What hasn't changed over the years is the soul of the family business: Hans Riegel sits at the top of the gummy bear pyramid and rules supreme in a somewhat antiquated managerial style. As a patriarchic figurehead who believes more in trust and authority than focus groups and marketing departments, this active octogenarian has single-handedly turned his father's business into a major player on the world market. He is known to have said that "without Haribo, my life has no meaning."

Tradition means everything to Hans Riegel. The original Haribo advertising slogan -- "Haribo macht Kinder froh," which literally means "Haribo makes children happy" and, luckily enough, rhymes in German -- was sold to Riegel senior in the thirties by a traveling salesman. The slogan was updated only once, in the sixties, to welcome the paying adults into the fairy world of gum drops: "Kids and grown-ups love it so, the happy world of HARIBO."

Techno grandpa

Haribo Gummibärchen

Millions of gummy bear leave the Haribo factories on a daily basis

In 1994, Riegel was awarded the Order of the Federal Republic of Germany, 1st Class, (Bundesverdienstkreuz) for his services to society. He is a a self-proclaimed fan of techno music, who likes to follow latest trends

“I love kids and I enjoy watching them. They are my customers, I have to know what sweets they enjoy, what they think, what language they speak," Riegel said.

Since 1991, Haribo has been advertised in Germany by Thomas Gottschalk, an aging entertainer who is also a household name in Germany. The Riegel-Gottschalk partnership is the said to be the most successful advertising campaign in German history, although younger German entertainers, like the popular Stefan Raab, enjoy making fun of Gottschalk's not very convincing attempts to use slang in Haribo ads.

The gummy bear dynasty is in no shortage of males called Hans. Hans Junior inherited the family business from his father, Hans Senior, and he is likely to leave the throne to his nephew Hans-Jürgen, who is currently running a Haribo factory in France. The dynasty will probably live on.

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