Impressed is too mild a word to describe my visit to the headquarters of the Jelly Belly jelly bean factory! On a regular work day, Jelly Belly produces 2,000,000 beans per hour and each bean takes from 7-10 days (some up to 21) to be produced. Why? They are most unique in that they have specific flavors inside as well as on the outside shell. They are smaller than traditional beans with intense and exotic flavors. No one can just eat one!! They are OU/OUD Kosher, with non-OMG natural ingredients. They are organic, gluten free, peanut free, dairy free, fat free and vegetarian friendly. Just 4 calories/bean with 1 gram carbohydrate. They are really, really good!
The confectionery company started in 1898 in Illinois and moved to Chicago in 1904, North Chicago in 1913, Oakland in 1924, making different types of candies. They developed the jelly bean in 1965. It was in 1966 that California governor Ronald Reagan was introduced to the jelly beans. Governor Reagan wrote: "... we can hardly start a meeting or make a decision without passing around a jar of jelly bean. We owe you a special measure of thanks for helping keep our state government running smoothly." During Reagan's eight years as U.S. President, he was provided Jelly Belly jelly beans. Reagan gave them to dignitaries and they were the first jelly beans in space, sent aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger in its 1983 flight.
The idea of using natural purees in the beans launched their Jelly Belly brand of beans in 1976 with the Very Cherry flavor. We took the self-guided tour at the Fairfield, CA headquarters of Jelly Belly. There were conveyor belts to move the beans and containers holding beans of all types. They have over 100 different flavors, with 50 official flavors. Every Jelly Belly bean is imprinted with the word 'Jelly Belly' on it and that's impressive! Beans that don't pass their quality control are called Belly Flops and are cheaper to buy at the factory.
They have sports beans that give you boosts in energy, they have sugar free beans, and they have Jewel beans that feature an iridescent sheen. In addition to the Very Cherry flavor, they have a range of fruit flavors, buttered popcorn, bubble gum, root beer, cream soda, chocolate pudding, cinnamon, cotton candy, licorice, and margarita. They have a Harry Potter series of flavors. Some of the more creative (yukky, nasty) ones are black pepper, dirt, ear wax, grass, sardine, soap, vomit, and earthworm.
Finally, they have a set of flavors they have combined into a game. You spin a container and different beans come up. You take a bean and eat it. It could be yummy or 'throw up' nasty! These are part of their BeanBoozled bean edition. For example the same color bean for Coconut is the same color for Spoiled Milk, or Strawberry Banana Smoothie might be Dead Fish! Other pairs: Booger and Juicy Pear; Caramel Corn and Canned Dog Food; Buttered Popcorn and Moldy Cheese. The only way to know is to eat them! Ready to play???
There is something to admire here when a U.S. company produces 14 BILLION jelly beans a year to ship worldwide. If I had the time, I would have loved to sign up for an internal tour to see the production process. I'm guessing that there is much to learn and to benchmark as a model production plant. I'm wondering how they imprint each of the 14 billion beans with the Jelly Belly logo. Mind boggling!
If you have a chance to visit the factory in Fairfield, CA (about 1.5 hours northeast of San Francisco, you will also see an art gallery of jelly bean paintings, including President Reagan and a giant tsunami.
© Dr. Baldwin H. Tom CMC, FIMC