Sweets and more at Haribo’s ‘Musée du Bonbon’

We had an unexpected visit to the Haribo museum near Uzès. I say unexpected because we hadn’t planned to go there. We were on our way to lunch in Uzès when we passed a huge Haribo factory and then saw signs saying ‘Musée du Bonbon’. We were curious, so we HAD to stop and investigate.

As we crossed over from the car park to the entrance, the girls were like giddy kippers! I don’t think they could believe that there would be a museum of sweets, and even less that we would have taken them there! And that was all before the free sweets…

Haribo museum - entrance

What’s in a name?

Anyway, have you ever thought about the name HARIBO and wondered about its origins? Me neither – I’d never given it a moment’s thought. But, I can now reveal to you that the name HARIBO is made up of the first two letters of three words: HA from Hans – the first name of the man who started the company; RI from Riegel, his surname and BO from Bonn, where he first started making his sweets. Now, the more perceptive of you will have noticed that Riegel is a German name and Bonn is also a city in Germany…so what is the Haribo museum doing in Uzès in France?

Well, Uzès was the location of the original liquorice factory of Henry Lafont, started in 1862. Lafont was later to produce one of the most well known liquorice brands of the time – ZAN. In the 1970s, the company merged with another company (Ricqles) forming Ricqles-ZAN, which merged with the German company Haribo in the 1980s, creating HARIBO-RICQLES-ZAN.

Haribo museum
Haribo museum – parts of it looked like something Willy Wonka might have dreamed up.

History of sweet making

The first part of museum was about the history of sweet making, starting with the hand-rolled liquorice sticks produced by Henry Lafont. It also detailed how Hans Riegel started the Haribo company in 1920, originally making boiled sweets in what had been a laundry room. At the beginning, his wife would deliver the sweets on her bicycle. Then in 1922 he invented the Tanzbar (dancing bear), which was a jellied sweet in the shape of a bear and was the forerunner of the famous gummy bear.

Haribo museum - history
Hans Riegel making his Tanzbar (Dancing bear) jellied sweets, a display about Pontefract cakes and some big drums for adding colouring and sugar to sweets.

We learned how jelly sweets are produced, starting with a model of the shape made in gypsum. This is then used as a template for a rubber mould, which in turn is pressed into a deep tray of cornflour, leaving indentations when it is removed. The jelly is then poured into these hollows and cooked.

Haribo museum - jelly moulds
The jelly sweets are poured into hollows made by pressing moulds into trays of cornflour

And did you know that liquorice was originally used as a medicinal product? It was only when George Dunhill, a pharmacist in Pontefract had the idea of adding sugar to the already popular Pontefract Cakes that this primarily medicinal product was turned into a incredibly popular sweet.

From ingredients to the final product

A big section of the museum focussed on flavourings like cocoa, vanilla, aniseed, ginger and cinnamon, going into great detail about where and how they were grown. It also discussed sugar cane and sugar beet and the process of removing the sugar from the plants. I found this quite interesting, but it didn’t hold the girls’ interest for long and they were soon off to the interactive exhibits in the next room.

Advertising and publicity

Another section looked at advertising and publicity, with a collection of posters from the 19th century, and looking at various TV adverts throughout the ages, starting with the first Haribo advert to appear on German TV in 1962.

The museum was clean and brightly coloured and at times I felt a bit like I might be walking into somewhere Willy Wonka had dreamt up. As I mentioned before, there were lots of hands-on, interactive exhibits where you had to work out how much of different ingredients to add to make a particular sweet, or select the order of different parts of the production process etc. There was even one where you had to manoeuvre a ‘virtual’ fork lift truck around a warehouse to stack pallets of sweets.

Haribo museum - interactive games
Having a go at some of the interactive games at the Haribo museum. Andy is trying his hand at operating a ‘virtual’ fork lift truck.

For me, the most disappointing part of the whole visit was that you didn’t get to look into the actual factory and see the sweets being made. The factory was next door to the museum and there was even a footbridge linking the two, but the door was closed and locked. Instead, there was a section in the museum that was meant to represent going into a factory, but the only sight we got of the production process was on a screen. It was still interesting to see how they are made, but a video is not quite the same as the real thing.

Haribo museum - production line
Haribo museum – watching a video showing how the different sweets are made.

The best bit?

When we bought our tickets, they gave us four tokens that they said we would need in the last room of the museum. When we got there, there were two packing machines, each loaded up with different sweets. You put your token in the slot and watched as the machine filled the small cellophane bags with sweets, sealed them and dropped them on to a mini conveyor belt that deposited them in a bin at the bottom for you to retrieve and take home. Each token yielded 4 bags of sweets. The girls quickly did the maths and were jumping up and down with excitement – are we really going to get 16 bags of free sweets? They could barely contain themselves – that is a lot of sweets! And to see them bagged up before our eyes was pretty awesome!

Haribo museum - bagging machine
The ‘magical’ bagging machine at the Haribo museum packaged and dispensed four bags of sweets each!

All in all, it was a fun way to spend a couple of hours. The entry price is a bit steep, but you do get loads of free sweets!

Practical information about visiting the Musée de Bonbon:

  • The museum is on the D981 just south of Uzès in the south of France.
  • Entry was €7 for adults and €5 for children aged 5-15. Under 5s were free.
  • All of the information was in English as well as French.
  • You WILL end up coming away with bags and bags of Haribo sweets!
  • Watch out for the shop at the end – we had never seen such enormous tubs of Haribo sweets!
  • My recommendation is that I wouldn’t go out of my way and drive miles to visit this museum. But if you are in the area and have an hour or two to spare, it is an interesting diversion – and your kids will love you for it!
  • Museum website : http://www.museeharibo.fr/en/
Haribo museum - shop
The shop at the end was staggering – shelf after shelf containing enormous bags and boxes of sweets. Our haul of 20 free bags from the visit constituted about 600g of sweets!
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