Are we alone in mistakenly thinking Haribo was a Japanese candy company? Well, in any case, Haribo is a German company, founded in Bonn over a century ago. They have a fun annual tradition at their German headquarters, allowing children to bring in acorns and chestnuts once a year and exchange them for gummy bears, or gummibärchen (which are actually labeled “Goldbears” – another thing we failed to ever notice). The Haribo gummy exchange has been going on since 1936.
What is the Haribo gummy exchange?
Haribo will hold its 80th+ gummy exchange this year (2023) at its facility in Grafschaft, Germany. (It would be its 87th year, but Haribo canceled the exchange at least once during the COVID pandemic). Over a weekend in October, kids (and adults, it appears) can bring in all the acorns and chestnuts they can gather and get candy in return. People come from all around the area with wagons and laundry bags and baskets full of nuts, which Heribo employees weigh on “golden gummy bear scales.”
People wait for hours to make their exchanges. In 2009, over 20,000 people showed up – a record. That year, they collected 150 tons (about 300,000 pounds!) of acorns and 260 tons of chestnuts. Dozens of Haribo employees supervise the festivities which culminate in the final weighing of the nuts.
What happens to the nuts?
While there may be a few cavities as a result, the gummy exchange is for a good cause. According to (a translation of) Germany’s General Anzeiger news publication:
“The fruits of the forest are weighed and then exchanged for pre-packaged Haribo products at a ratio of 10:1 (chestnuts) and 5:1 (acorns) according to the number of kilograms. Only chestnuts and acorns without shells will be accepted, the company said. The chestnuts must be separated from the acorns for weighing. The chestnuts and acorns are then donated to animal and game parks in Germany and Austria for feeding during the winter season.”
Clearly, there’s a bit of work to do before kids can cash in and get their gummy candies.
In some years, lines of nearly half a mile have formed for the event!
In the past, Haribo held the event at the company headquarters in Bonn. But they relocated to Grafschaft in 2018.