Blog: From Ear Worm to Gummy Worm

Albanese Confection

Bethany Albanese (left) with Winsight’s Tim Ahlering and Abbey Lewis

I have to admit to something: I have any one of five songs stuck in my head all the time. One is “Bunny Hop,” one is “Yakety Sax,” two others are too embarrassing to mention, and the other is this lovely song I learned at Girl Scouts camp.

“Make new friends, but keep the old …”

On the afternoon we visited the Albanese Confectionery Group in Merrillville, Ind., this tune was stuck in that space between my ears next to my grocery list and that Mother’s Day card I forgot to send. I hummed it stepping out of the car. I whistled it wandering up the walkway to the building.

“One is silver and the other’s gold …”

This is one of the perks of my job: meeting the folks behind all those products on your shelves. There’s always more to the story than what you see there, beyond the cellophane wrappers and cardboard boxes.

The growth of the business is less remarkable to me than the family behind it.

The Albanese story in particular is pretty remarkable. It was 32 short years ago that Scott Albanese opened a small candy shop in a strip mall in Merrillville, selling nuts and other candy products. In his 20s with four kids at home, Scott tried to figure out a way to make candy the business that could support his family. So he invented something his daughter Bethany told me no one ever had before: an effective way to get flavoring into gelatin. And the Albanese “World’s Best” Gummies were born.

Thirtysome years and hundreds of new products later, the pace of growth at Albanese is staggering, to say the least. The company seems to be adding manufacturing and retail space all the time. But the growth of the business is less remarkable to me than the family behind it. Of the four kids—a boy and three girls—the girls are at the helm with their dad, each heading different areas of the business that bears their name.

Bethany Albanese met us in the retail shop attached to the manufacturing plant. It was a Wednesday afternoon before lunch and the store was full of shoppers. The store has a chocolate waterfall. Willy Wonka himself would be proud.

We suited up in hairnets and white lab coats. Bethany walked us through the citric air, past packaging machinery and into the kitchen. She pulled fresh gummies right off the conveyor and let us sample the item that started it all and continues as the bedrock of the Albanese brand.

When I got home that night and watched my kids sorting gummy bears and sour gummy worms, I understood how Scott Albanese must feel watching his dream become his kids’ dream, too. And I started humming to myself.

“Make new friends, but keep the old / One is silver and the other’s … gummy.”