Let’s be honest. Does anyone like the green Gummi Bears? Or, for that matter, the green jelly beans or Lifesaver-brand lifesavers? OK, I know my audience well enough to know that a few of you probably do like them – a little. Or will say you do because you’re … well, you don’t want me to get away with anything. But even among those folks, truly: Have they ever in their lives said, “Oh! Save me a green one!” … or, “Why don’t they put more GREEN ones in here?” … or, “You bum! You took the last green one!”

I have lived a long time. I have never heard any of these statements. (And if you were being honest with me, you would admit it: You never have, either.)

Even the yellow and orange ones win no popularity contests – it is the red ones people go for most enthusiastically, and the white vanilla ones (which it turns out are actually pineapple) – which leads one to wonder: What’s the deal? Surely the Gummi Bear people know this. Why don’t they nix the greenies? Or, at least, radically alter the mix? (Or reformulate the green ones as kiwi, which would actually taste quite good?)

Could it be a nutrition thing? Balanced diets and all that? I doubt it. Lime-juice-dyed corn syrup can’t be all that different nutritionally from cherry-juice-dyed corn syrup.

Could it be cost? Could red Gummi Bears possibly be more expensive to breed than green and yellow ones? Get real.

I called the Gummi Bear people. Or tried to. It seems there are no Gummi Bear people, as such. As the woman I reached at Promotion in Motion, Inc. explained, “Anyone can make Gummi Bears.” Just not the Care Bear brand Gummi Bears that Promotion in Motion makes under license to the Care Bear people. So different Gummi Bear makers may have different philosophies. Is there an association of Gummi Bear manufacturers?

No, says Mike Rosenberg, the affable president of Promotion in Motion. In Mike I had a man who makes literally billions of gummis each year – perhaps 15% to 20% of the U.S. gummi market – and who claims that his own children, aged 6 and 7, love the green ones. (The nearly-two-year-old doesn’t eat them yet.) I am skeptical of this. Perhaps they are merely pretending to win his approval.

Gummi, Mike explains, is German for rubber. Gummi Bears seem to have originated in Germany. But not, he believes, with the German outfit that claims to have invented them. Carbon-dating (well, or something) shows the existence of gummis predating the existence of that boastful company.

I researched a couple of seemingly identical Promotion in Motion, Inc. 3.5-ounce boxes of Care Bear brand Gummi Bears and discovered the distribution to be as follows:

Color Box 1 Box 2
Red 5 7
Yellow 8 10
White 10 8
Pink 11 6
Green 4 10
Orange 8 7

Note that Box 2 appeared to have two more bears than Box 1 – 48 versus 46 – and that it was really the luck of the draw. Wherein may lie much of the plan for and success of the Gummi Bear. It’s a gummi gamble. You don’t know just what you’ll get. You could get lucky!

No gain without pain, so they stick the green ones in there to make the red ones seem all the more desirable. As crestfallen as you are to grab a green one, well, that’s how much your heart warms with the special friendship of good fortune when … it’s red!

(Pink was not something I expected. Upon experimentation, pink appears to be strawberry, while red is cherry. Why not black licorice? It must be that black is not a pretty, kid-friendly color.)

Mike Rosenberg disclaims any such plan. Six flavors, six nozzles filling molds, some blending, heating, cooling, a shiny non-stick agent like beeswax, mixed in a drum … on average, each flavor gets equal weight.

Which is why there are so many leftover green Gummi Bears in the world.

And here’s another thing. What about those salt shaker/pepper shaker twin paks? What kind of ratio is that? Is there a family in America that has ever run out of the salt at more or less the same time as the pepper? Quite clearly not: We are all left with nearly full peppers, vainly searching the supermarket shelves for a salt-salt twin pak to even the score. (Not to say, of course, that I approve of this very non-bulk form of purchasing to begin with. But we all slip occasionally.)

Ratios are wrong, supplies are out of kilter. But this is America, and sooner or later someone will come up with a way to profit from these inefficiencies. I sense a new kind of green-gummi-bear-pepper composite paving our roads one day or caulking our seams. In every crisis lies opportunity.

 

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