Gummy (or gummi) worms, the wiggly cousin of the gummy bear, made their sweet debut in 1981. Although their flavours and shapes have changed, the recipe for gummi candy has remained consistent since the German candy company Haribo introduced it to the marketplace in 1922. Proportions and amounts vary by manufacturer and country of origin.
The main ingredient in gummy worms is gelatin. Gelatin, a colourless substance derived from the collagen of animals, is what gives gummy worms their “gummy” texture. Some manufacturers have started making gummy worms using starch, tapioca, pectin (derived from plants) or agar (sourced from seaweed) as vegetarian-friendly alternatives, but this substitution can alter the feel of the candy in the mouth, making the candies more of solid sweet gel than a true gummy.
Flavouring and Color
Food flavouring and colour is added to gummy worms to give them their distinctive taste and appearance. Depending on their brand and manufacturer, these flavourings and colours may be artificial or natural (from fruit and vegetable juices or spices, such as tumeric).
In the United States, yellow (lemon), red (cherry or raspberry), green (lime or strawberry), light yellow (pineapple) and orange (orange) are common gummy worm colours and flavours.
Gummy worms are sweetened with sugar, corn syrup, dextrose or glucose syrup—or a combination of these sweeteners. Dextrose and glucose syrup are usually found in European gummy worms, while those manufactured in America tend to use corn syrup.
A number of "sugar free" gummy worms have become available for those who need to limit their sugar intake. These gummy worms may be sweetened with maltitol (sugar alcohols), xylitol (a sugar dervived from wood), aspartame or sucralose.
Citric acid, an organic acid made by fermenting lemons, limes or other citrus fruits, is used as a preservative, keeping the gummy worms from spoiling. Citric acid also helps the worms stay soft and lends a slightly sour taste to the candy.
Confectioner’s wax (made of paraffin or carnauba wax), or less commonly, beeswax, is added as a light coating to the outside of the gummy worms. These edible waxes—commonly used in the production of other types of candy, such as chocolate—keep the gummy worms from sticking together and give the candy a characteristic shininess.
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