Hans Riegel, the head of German confectionery giant Haribo, makers of the world-famous multi-coloured gummy bears, has died at the age of 90.
Riegel was the son of the company’s founder and died of heart failure months after an operation in July to remove a brain tumour, the family-run business said.
He was head of one of Germany’s most successful family owned businesses, which he ran for 67 years, together with two nephews since 2010.
His hobbies included flying helicopters and hunting.
Hans Riegel Junior and his younger brother Paul, who died in 2009, rebuilt the company after World War II when both returned from American-run POW camps.
Haribo was established in 1920 in Bonn, North Rhine-Westphalia state, by trained candymaker Johannes “Hans” Riegel Senior, the company name a composite of “Ha” for Hans, “Ri” for Riegel and “Bo” for Bonn.
The company sold its first gummy bear in 1922, the design based on the dancing bears that performed on European markets and fairgrounds until the 19th century.
The current bear-shaped treat, of which some 100 million are now produced every day, was launched in 1960 and became a global hit, along with a range of other Haribo-made jelly sweets and liquorice.
Riegel, who was responsible for marketing and sales, was known to be alert to the sweet tooth preferences of his fans, young and old.
“I need to stay informed about what they want to nibble on, how they think, what language they speak,” he once said. He was known to seek inspiration from comics, children’s TV and youth magazines.
The corporate jingle “Haribo makes children happy — and adults as well” is among the best known in German TV advertising. The English-language version is “Kids and grown-ups love it so — the happy world of Haribo”.
Today Haribo produces sweets in 15 European nations and exports them to over 110 countries.
The company employs over 6,000 people and its annual sales are estimated at over two billion euros ($2.7 billion), although the family business does not make its financial results public.
Germany’s Manager magazine last week listed the Riegel family at number 36 on the country’s list of wealthiest people and families, with an estimated fortune of 2.75 billion euros.
Riegel, dubbed “Mr Haribo”, recently told national news agency DPA that “I was never a person who sought the limelight”.
If he largely stayed out of the public view, the gummy bears have won hearts around the world.
Shortly after Riegel’s death was announced, a fan tweeted that “a life without gummy bears is possible, but pointless.”
Copyright (2013) AFP. All rights reserved.
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