Jelly beans are not a new confection by any means. In fact, versions of the kidney-shaped candy with the hard shell and gooey interior have a history that dates back to the Civil War era. For those who like variety, however, the traditional version never offered much more than a handful of generic, artificial flavors. That is, until the arrival of the Jelly Belly. From that day forth, seemingly every flavor under the sun became available in jelly bean form, thereby converting millions of candy fans into jelly bean connoisseurs.
Jelly Belly jelly beans were first introduced in the late 70s, the brainchild of a marketing whiz named David Klein, who came up with the idea of selling individually flavored jelly beans, each with remarkably accurate flavor renditions. The official list of flavors consists of 50 varieties, including such traditional flavors as cherry, grape and lemon. But that’s really only the tip of the iceberg. The real fun comes from the remarkably realistic specimens such as cream soda, cotton candy, green apple, peanut butter, blueberry, chocolate pudding, plum, Dr. Pepper, toasted marshmallow, watermelon, and even stranger varieties such as buttered popcorn and jalapeno. Perhaps not surprisingly, the roasted garlic, buttered toast, baked bean and pumpkin pie flavors were briefly introduced … and quickly discontinued.
That’s only the traditional Jelly Belly flavors. Over the years, the company has produced many spin-off products as well, including the more intense Jelly Belly Sours, Sports Beans, which are laced with electrolytes and vitamins, and Extreme Sport Beans, which in addition to the above, also include a small dose of caffeine, for when you need an extra little pick-me-up from your confections. And, during the manufacturing process, when some of the beans don’t quite live up to the high Jelly Belly appearance standards, they are repackaged and sold under the affectionately titled, Belly Flops.
Jelly Belly candies are manufactured at two factories in the US, one in Chicago and the other in Northern California. The latter features an extremely popular and elaborate free tour of the factory, where fans can watch the entire manufacturing process, get a few free samples, and then, of course, purchase their favorite individual flavors by the bucket load.
These officially touted “original gourmet jelly beans” have a few boast-worthy claims as well. They were a regular snack of former President Ronald Reagan, who kept a jar of red, white and blue varieties on his Oval Office desk, and they were the first jelly bean to visit outer space, having been a snack aboard the 1983 Space Shuttle Challenger mission. But while these are certainly impressive achievements in the jelly bean world, the sole reason Jelly Belly beans remain the best-selling candy of their kind is simply the accuracy of the flavors, which always leave people smiling and coming back for more.
IF you are a fan of these tasty gourmet beans, we’d love to hear from you in our comments section. Tell us the Jelly Belly flavors you love, and the ones you love a little less, as we tip our hats to a confection that truly understands that variety is the spice of life.