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Haribo king dies at 90

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Children around the world (and their dentists) should pay their respects to German Hans Riegel, who has died aged 90 from heart failure. The name might not be familiar, but the first syllables gave the name to Haribo, the mighty jelly empire that dominated kids' confectionery.

Riegel's father founded the company in 1920, but Riegel built it up from a struggling concern in post-war Germany to become a global byword for cute, jelly-based treats, available in over 100 countries.

It might not be stretching a point too much to say that Haribo's gummy bears also helped Germany cultivate a rather more cuddly image after the horrors of the mid-20th century. The German foreign minister Guido Westerwelle seemed to imply as much, saying “wherever I travelled in recent years, the gummy bears had arrived long before me".

The bears weren't always quite so cute. The gummy bears were originally conceived as jelly versions of the dancing bears that entertained children in village fairs in less-enlightened times. They retained their fierce expressions until as late as 2007.

Riegel retained a hands-on role at the company for 70 years, right up to his death, despite having a personal fortune of £1.84bn which could buy a lot of bags of Fangtastics. "I work because it makes me happy, and I have no reason to deny myself that happiness," Riegel said in 2010.

Riegel successfully negotiated the company through a series of controversies. Like many long-established German companies, Haribo was accused of using enforced Jewish labour in the 1940s. The company has always denied it.

Haribo was also accused of being racist due to the “Negergeld” (“Negro coins”) licorice coins it marketed. It changed the name in 1993, but German marketing material still contained dubious representations of black Africans.

Riegel never let the problems get in the way of expanding the business and teaching the world to sing: “Kids and grown-ups love it so – the happy world of Haribo".

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