“Gummy bears. Not gummy worms or gummy sharks or gummy frogs or gummy penguins...gummy bears!”
My pre-teen son was rather specific with his party request.
“Are you sure you want gummy bears,” I countered, “They have that weird cleaning-product smell to them.”
“Maawmm, you’re going to make me hate gummy bears,” he moaned.
“Well, they aren’t really the food of the gods,” I smiled. “But, baby, if you want gummy bears, then gummy bears you shall have. But I’m going to taste-test them and get the best kind.”
That evening I sat down with hubby Patrick and daughter Evelyn for some gummy-candy pleasure. We left the brother out of the tasting, figuring the critique would be too much for him.
“My brother once was gifted a gummy bear called the ‘World’s Largest Gummy Bear,’” said Patrick. “It was sickeningly huge, around 50 servings of gummy bears, five pounds of gumminess. I’m feeling sick just thinking of it [$29.95 for the 9.5-by-5.5-inch bear at giantgummybears.com].”
“Well, I found some local giants,” I replied, pulling out some candy-bar-sized bears from Candy Paradise in Grossmont Center ($2.74 per quarter-pound for the bulk candy). “The size is off-putting...extremely rubbery. I couldn’t get my teeth all the way through it,” said Patrick. “There is a reason gummy bears are so small — it’s all the gelatin you would ever want to eat. You make bears this big and it just emphasizes the worst part of a jelly bear — their rubberiness.”
Another option from the land of Paradise: “soft” gummy bears.
“A lot more flavor and much softer than the last one,” noted Evelyn.
“These are about what I would expect,” said Patrick. “A keeper.”
The last option from Candy Paradise was the “Techno Bears.”
“They’re glossy, dancing with their arms up — of course they are called ‘Techno Bears,’” laughed Patrick.
“Good flavor but too tough,” complained Evelyn.
“Gummy bears have a magical light-capturing quality to them that makes people smile,” waxed Patrick, this from a man who once played football. “The light shines through them like little Christmas lights. But these Techno Bears look like pieces of plastic.”
The Safeway Gummi Bears landed in the discard pile due to their dusty appearance and low flavor ($1.50 for 10 ounces at Vons).
The Sunrise Gummi Bears also suffered from flavorlessness ($1.50 for 9 ounces at Albertsons). “If I was looking for a gummy fix, I would be seriously disappointed with these,” griped Patrick. “The bears stick together in a big clump in the bag, and they have a chalky texture that you can feel. The higher-quality bears don’t stick together.”
“Should we know what carnauba wax is?” asked Evelyn, reading the package.
“Nope, better not to know the crap you are putting in your body,” I teased.
Nummy Bears cost $10.99 a pound at Whole Foods. “These are fruit snacks shaped like gummy bears,” I noticed. “They have a strong flavor, but they are not gummy bears. It is a fruit snack disguised in the bear’s shape.”
We finally popped open some keepers, starting with the Fruitee Gummee Bears (99¢ for 6.98 ounces at the $.99 Store). “These are what I expect in a gummy bear: one bear should last no more than ten chews,” said Patrick.
Trader Joe’s Gummy Bears were half the size of most of the bears ($1.99 for 7 ounces). “A bit short on flavor, but what’s there is gentle and pleasant tasting,” said Patrick. “And it’s reassuring reading the ingredients...some actual living products.”
Haribo Gold-Bears Gummi Bears were chewy with good flavor ($1.99 for 5 ounces at Ralphs). “These are just perfect,” added Patrick. “The German-made gold standard.”
“Well, maybe these are just perfect,” said Patrick, chomping on a few Black Forest Gummy Bears ($1.79 for 4.5 ounces at Ralphs). “A tiny bit less chewy than the Haribo. Is it sacrilege to speak against the gold standard in gummy bears?” smiled Patrick.
Sprouts Gummi Bears included 12 flavors and were super soft ($3.99 per pound). “Lots of colors, even light purple, and mint, but overly saturated sweet, and I’m not sure what flavor I am tasting until I’m about ten chews in,” complained Patrick. “Turns out that gummy bears are yet another proof that virtue is in the mean.”