Gummy candy is a unique candy composed of gelatin, sweeteners, flavorings, and colorings. Because of its nature it can be molded into literally thousands of shapes, making it one of the most versatile confection products ever. First developed in Germany in the early 1900s, it gained great popularity in the United States during the 1980s. Today, it continues to be popular, with sales totaling over $135 million in 1996 in the United States alone.
Gummy candy represents a more recent advance in candy technology. The technology, derived from early pectin and starch formulations, was first developed in Germany in the early l900s by a man named Hans Riegel. He began the Haribo company, which made the first gummy bears in the 1920s. While gummy candy has been manufactured since this time, it had limited worldwide distribution until the early 1980s. It was then when Haribo began manufacturing gummy bears in the United States. The fad caught on, causing other companies to develop similar products. The gummy bears led to other types of gummy candy entries from companies such as Hershey, Brach's, and Farley's. Now, the candy is available in various different forms, from dinosaurs to fruit rolls. According to one gelatin manufacturer, nearly half of all gelatin made worldwide currently goes to making gummy candies.
Gummy candy recipes are typically developed by experienced food technologists and chemists. By blending together different ingredients, they can control the various characteristics of gummy candy, such as texture, taste, and appearance. The primary ingredients include water, gelatin, sweeteners, flavors, and colors.
The main ingredient responsible for the candy's unique, gummy characteristics is gelatin. This is a protein derived from animal tissue that forms thick solutions or gels when placed in water. When used at an appropriate concentration, the gels take on the texture of the chewy, gummy candy. However, since these gels are thermoreversible, which means they get thinner as they are heated, gummy candies have a "melt in the mouth" characteristic. Both the texture and the amount of time it takes the candy to dissolve in the mouth can be controlled by the amount of gelatin used in a recipe.
Since gelatin is a tasteless and odorless compound that contains no fat, sweeteners and flavorings are added to give gummy candy its taste. Various sugars are added as sweeteners. Sucrose, derived from beets or sugar cane, provides a high degree of sweetness to the gummy candy. Fructose, which is significantly sweeter than common sucrose, is another sugar that is often used. Corn syrup is also used because it helps prevent the other sugars from crystallizing and ruining the gummy texture. Also, corn syrup helps add body to the candy, maintain moisture, and keep costs lower. Another sweetener is sorbitol, which has the added benefit of helping the candy maintain its moisture content. In addition to flavor, some of these sweeteners have the added benefit of preserving the gummy candy from microbial growth.
The sweetness of gummy candy is only one of its characteristics. Artificial and natural flavors are also used to create a unique taste. Natural flavors are obtained from fruits, berries, honey, molasses, and maple sugar. The impact of these flavors can be improved by the addition of artificial flavors that are mixtures of aromatic chemicals and include materials such as methyl anthranilate and ethyl caproate. Also, acids such as citric acid, lactic acid, and malic acid are added to provide flavor.
Gelatin gels have a natural faint yellow color, so dyes are added to create the wide array of colors found in gummy candy. Typical dyes include Red dye #40, Yellow dye #5, Yellow dye #6, and Blue dye #1. Using these federally regulated dyes, gummy manufacturers can make the candy almost any color they desire.
The textural characteristics of gelatin gels depends on many factors, such as temperature, method of manufacture, and pH. While the manufacturing method and temperature can be physically controlled, the pH is controlled chemically by the addition of acids. These include food grade acids such as citric acid, lactic acid, fumaric acid, and malic acid. Other ingredients are added during the manufacturing process as flavorants, lubricating agents, and shine enhancing agents. These include materials like beeswax, coconut oil, carnauba wax, mineral oil, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, pear concentrate, and confectioner's glaze, which are often added during the filling phase of manufacture.
Gummy manufacturing uses a starch molding process. First the candy is made, then it is filled into starched lined trays. The filled trays are then cooled overmight and the resulting formed candy is emptied from the trays. In the mass production of gummy candy, significant improvements have been made to increase the speed and efficiency of this process.
Quality control begins with the evaluation of the incoming raw materials. Before they are used, these ingredients are tested in the QC lab to ensure they conform to specifications. Various sensory characteristics are checked, including appearance, color, odor, and flavor. Many other characteristics, such as the particle size of the solids, viscosity of oils, and pH of liquids, are also studied. Each manufacturer depends on these tests to certify that the ingredients will produce a consistent, quality batch of gummy candy.
The characteristics of each batch of final product is also carefully monitored. Quality control chemists and technicians check physical aspects of the candy that include appearance, flavor, texture, and odor. The usual method of testing is to compare them to an established standard. For example, the color of a random sample is compared to a standard set during product development. Other qualities such as taste, texture, and odor are evaluated by sensory panels. These are made up of a group of people who are specially trained to notice small differences. In addition to sensory tests, many instrumental tests that have been developed by the industry over the years are also used to complement tests performed by humans.
Increasing the safety, speed, and efficiency of the manufacturing process are the major improvements being investigated for the future of the gummy candy industry. In any starch molding process, safety is a major concern because starch dryers represent an explosion hazard. Currently the U.S. government recommends minimizing these hazards by using spark-proof switches, blast walls, and other such mechanisms. Newer starch drying machines represent a reduced explosion hazard and improved microbiological killing. Additionally, moguls are being constructed that operate faster and more efficiently.
Since new products are the lifeline of any company in the candy business, new gummy flavors and colors are constantly being added to the base formula. Also, unique shapes are being molded, creating a plethora of new gummy candy. New forms of gummy candy are also being developed, most recently, a combination of gummy candy and marshmallow.
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Tiffany, Susan. "Infant Gummi Bear takes giant steps." Candy Industry, January 1995, p. 44.
— Perry Romanowski