Did you know that we are in the midst of a gummy bear shortage across America? You may be thinking "no way. I see gummy bear products in stores all of the time." I couldn't agree more. It seems like no matter where I go in the Berkshires, it's not difficult to come across gummy products. So how is it that the U.S. is undergoing a gummy bear shortage? We spoke with candy expert and owner of Robin's Candy Store in Great Barrington, Robin Helfand in an off-air interview as she filled us in with all of the details.

Jesse: Robin, I see gummy products in Berkshire County stores all of the time, how can there be a shortage?

Robin: What you're seeing in the stores are what is called peg bags (little cellophane envelopes) filled with various Haribo candies and you saw a lot of them.

Robin: Jesse, do you know what Haribo stands for?

Jesse: No, please share.

Robin: Haribo stands for Hans Reigle of Bonn. Hans Reigle is the founder of the Haribo gummy company and he died within the past decade. His family still has a hand in the business and they manufacture all over the world. One of the places they manufacture is in Bonn, Germany where the company was founded. They also manufacture in Spain as well as Turkey. In Turkey, they manufacture quite a bit of the peg bags that you see every day in stores. The peg bags are not going to be affected by the shortage.   

Jesse: So, which types of gummies will be affected by the shortage?

Robin: The shortage will affect (what we refer to in the industry as the bulk) the fresh product that we get from Europe (it's by and large made still in Europe, most of it is made in Germany), and then it's trucked from Germany into the U.K. From the U.K. (this is key) it's shipped to the United States and to other countries.

Jesse: Why is there a Shortage?

Robin: The majority of that product as I said is the fresh product that is trucked by truck/lorry drivers to pick it up at the factory in Germany, drive across the continent of Europe into the U.K., and then it's taken to the docks and loaded on to barges. From there,  it's shipped to America in containers. It arrives here quickly and it comes really fresh which is what we carry. Earlier this year, the truck drivers that are by and large of German origin, got it in their heads that they really didn't like the fact that Brexit had happened, that the U.K. had chosen to leave the European Union. Of course, Brexit happened on paper a few years ago but this is the year the shipping restrictions started to change. So, they all of a sudden got together (the German-based truck drivers) and they decided that they would stop trucking products that were to be shipped that originated in other EU countries but had to get into the U.K. to reach the docks. So, you're a German truck driver, you're picking up your product from a facility in Germany (maybe in Bonn, Germany), driving it across the European Union continent into the U.K. from where it will be loaded on to these barges. Well, all of the sudden the truck drivers refuse to cross the border into the U.K. The U.K. is no longer part of the European Union, there's a process to get into the country and they start refusing to bring in fresh product. Now, remember the peg bags are not affected by this because they're made (by and large) in Turkey.

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Jesse: The shortage is happening right now. How long is it expected to last?

Robin: There's a very precise answer. Six months. This is because six months is the length of time it takes the U.K. to train their commercially licensed drivers. Those that carry what we call in America CDLs or commercial drivers licenses. So, the U.K. responded to this crisis of the gummy shortage by putting out a massive ad campaign announcing that they would support U.K.-based lorry companies if they would hire new lorry drivers and get them trained. It takes exactly six months in the U.K. to get your commercial drivers license and become a licensed truck driver, able to drive out of the U.K. and over to Germany, pick up your load of fresh gummies and drive it back to the U.K., get it to the docks and get it sent out. So, this shortage should last until about April of 2022.

So there you have it. If you are hoping to get fresh Haribo gummy products within the next few months, it may be a little tough, though Robin's has enough to last through the shortage. If you are one that loves the peg bag version, then you are all set as that product is not affected by the shortage.

If you're wondering if you have ever had a fresh gummy product, as I did, here's a way to tell. If you ever scooped gummy products out of the large plastic, clear bins into a bag at a movie theater, then you were enjoying the fresh product. Can you tell the difference between the fresh product and the peg bag product?

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