Did Haribo stop making sugar free gummy bears?

Haribo, the popular German confectionery company known for its gummy candies, faced controversy in 2012 when it released sugar-free gummy bears that caused severe gastrointestinal distress in many consumers. The intense laxative effect of the sugar-free gummies even spawned horror stories and humor memes across the internet. This episode raised the question: did Haribo discontinue its infamous sugar-free gummy bears due to the negative backlash?

What happened with Haribo Sugar-Free Gummy Bears?

In 2012, Haribo introduced several new products to appeal to the growing market of health-conscious candy consumers. One of these new candies was sugar-free gummy bears, which replaced sugar with lycasin (a sugar alcohol also known as maltitol syrup). On paper, lycasin seemed like an ideal alternative sweetener – fewer calories than sugar, safe for diabetics, and no unpleasant aftertaste.

However, when consumers actually ate the sugar-free gummy bears, the results were disastrous. Lycasin is not fully digested in the human body, so excessive consumption can lead to cramping, flatulence, diarrhea, and other laxative effects. Both the gummy texture and sweet flavor of the bears encouraged people to overindulge. The internet soon filled with tales of consumers who suffered diarrhea, vomiting, and worse after eating the bears.

For example, one Amazon reviewer wrote: “I’ve never had such a violent reaction from any candy before in my life. … let’s just say they worked and leave it at that.” Another described it as “Satan’s Diarrhea Hate Bears.” People began pranking their friends and family by gifting boxes of the sugar-free gummy bears.

Did Haribo discontinue the sugar-free gummy bears?

Yes, amidst the consumer backlash and bad press, Haribo ultimately decided to stop production of its sugar-free gummy bears. The bears disappeared from store shelves by early 2013.

Haribo never openly admitted it was pulling the item due to the laxative effect – likely for legal reasons and to save face. The company briefly stated that the sugar-free version was “discontinued due to lack of consumer demand.” However, it was abundantly clear the real reason was the product’s gastrointestinal issues.

Evidence the bears were discontinued

Here is the evidence that Haribo sugar-free gummy bears were taken off the market:

  • The sugar-free gummy bears disappeared from Haribo’s website and advertising.
  • Retailers stopped carrying the item, with some posting notices that it had been discontinued.
  • Haribo customer service reps confirmed the bears were discontinued and not coming back when asked by consumers.
  • No new stock appeared in stores after early 2013.
  • Secondary market prices shot up on eBay and Amazon due to scarcity.

Overall, it became impossible to find the bears through any major retailer by mid-2013. Haribo clearly halted production and sales after the PR disaster of their laxative effect went viral and eroded trust in the brand.

Did Haribo face any legal issues over this?

Remarkably, Haribo does not appear to have faced any major legal or regulatory actions over its dysfunctional sugar-free gummy bears.

A few factors likely prevented lawsuits:

  • The gummy bear packaging did contain warnings about possible laxative effects from maltitol. However, these warnings were arguably not prominent enough.
  • No lasting health damage occurred. The laxative effect, while brutal, was transitory.
  • Haribo discontinued the bears quickly amid complaints, avoiding further sales of the product.

Consumer protection groups did criticize Haribo’s actions publicly. For example, the Center for Science in the Public Interest wrote the bears illustrated how candy companies promote sales over safety. But no actual lawsuits or legal penalties ensued.

What lessons did Haribo likely learn from this failure?

While a public relations embarrassment for Haribo, the sugar-free gummy bear debacle also provided some important lessons for the company and the food industry as a whole:

  • Ingredient interactions matter. Lycasin and gelatin interacted in unexpected ways that exaggerated the laxative effect.
  • Test new products more rigorously. More extensive testing could have revealed the gastrointestinal issues before launch.
  • Don’t ignore negative feedback. Haribo overlooked early negative reviews and warning signs from consumers.
  • Transparency builds trust. Open communication about any issues proactively retains consumer loyalty.

Haribo apparently took these lessons to heart. In recent years, the company has introduced more new treats without repeating such a dramatic failure. It remains cautious about using alternative sweeteners and emphasizes product testing.

Did Haribo ever try sugar-free gummy bears again?

No, Haribo has not attempted to sell sugar-free gummy bears again after pulling them in 2013. The company appears to have decided the reputation damage was too severe, and that sugar-free gummies are simply not worth the trouble.

However, Haribo has quietly introduced some other sugar-free candies:

  • Sugar-free licorice
  • Sugar-free sour gummy worms
  • Sugar-free jelly bears

These sugar-free products use sweeteners like xylitol and stevia instead of lycasin. Haribo seems to have reformulated them to avoid laxative side effects. But the company markets these new sugar-free candies cautiously, not risking another fiasco on the scale of its infamous sugar-free gummy bears.

What sugar-free Haribo candies can you buy today?

Here are some of the main sugar-free Haribo options currently available:

Candy Sweetener Used
Sugar Free Gummy Licorice Stevia
Sugar Free Jelly Bears Xylitol
Sugar Free Happy Cola Aspartame
Sugar Free Sour Rainbow Strips Sucralose

These sugar-free options use different sweeteners, flavors, and textures to avoid issues like what happened with the original sugar-free gummy bears. Haribo sells them via its website and in some major supermarkets under the “Sugar Free” branded line.

Will Haribo bring back sugar-free gummy bears?

It is highly unlikely that Haribo plans to reintroduce original sugar-free gummy bears anytime in the foreseeable future. The backlash was just too severe, and the negative associations with the product still linger years later. “Haribo sugar-free gummy bears” has basically become synonymous with “explosive diarrhea.”

Some fans of sugar-free candy still post online petitions and appeals asking Haribo to bring back the bears. However, these are unlikely to succeed. While it generated buzz at the time, the sugar-free gummy bear product ultimately hurt Haribo’s brand image. The company will not risk reigniting past controversies for minimal gain.

Never say never, but don’t hold your breath waiting for the return of perhaps the most (in)famous sugar-free candy in history. Haribo has moved on to other products that are less likely to cause bathroom emergencies.

The viral internet phenomenon

Beyond just a failed product, Haribo’s sugar-free gummy bears became an viral phenomenon across social media and internet pop culture after gaining notoriety for their intense laxative properties:

  • Hundreds of memes and image macros popped up featuring the bears as a prank or visual pun related to diarrhea.
  • Comedians and internet personalities filmed over-the-top reaction and prank videos capitalizing on the bears’ effects.
  • LISTSicle-style web articles drew thousands of clicks by ranking the “most hilarious sugar-free gummy bear reviews.”
  • Entire discussions on Reddit, social media, and forums were dedicated to the bears and their aftermath.

The absurdity and schadenfreude surrounding the negative effects led to endless derivative jokes and content piggybacking on the viral moment. The bears arguably became more known for this meme status than their merits as an actual product. It was free publicity, but not the kind any company wants.

Lasting impact on Haribo’s brand

While over time the viral craze around sugar-free Haribo gummy bears has faded, the episode has remained part of Haribo’s brand story and public image:

  • The bears are still referenced in internet culture as shorthand for any product or experience with extreme laxative effects.
  • Comedy and satire writers occasionally reuse the meme for easy fodder or call-backs.
  • Haribo gets jokingly associated with diarrhea and stomach issues by those familiar with the bears’ reputation.

For a company that wants to be known for delightfully playful candy, having an iconic product literally known for explosive diarrhea is far from ideal. But the public memory of internet phenomena can be hard to shake once established.

Haribo likely prefers that people associate the brand with its classic Goldbears, Happy Cherries, or other whimsical creations. However, the specter of the sugar-free gummy bears continues to lurk, never fully fading away. It remains an odd and inconvenient – but memorable – chapter in Haribo’s corporate history.


Haribo’s short-lived sugar-free gummy bears were a notable failure that became engrained in internet lore for their unintended yet epic laxative consequences. The company wisely chose to discontinue the bears amid backlash. But the viral phenomenon spawned enduring associations between Haribo and explosive diarrhea. Years later, this odd legacy endures as an unusual footnote in the company’s otherwise family-friendly image.

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