Probably the only thing I have in common with Ronald Reagan is a sincere love for Jelly Belly jellybeans. He kept a jar of them on his desk in the Oval Office, and another stash on Air Force One. If you enjoy jellybeans, you know there really isn’t a brand that comes close to the texture and flavor of Jelly Belly.
Before the idea for what is now Jelly Belly came along in 1976, jellybeans typically only had their signature flavors in their outer candy-coating. The insides were plain, colorless pectin. They were large and sugary and very similar to the ones you see only at Easter. You know the ones…
David Klein, a Los Angeles candy distributor had the idea for a better bean, so he contacted the Herman Goelitz Candy Co. and Jelly Belly was born. They wanted to make a smaller bean with a flavored inside as well as outside, and they wanted to use as much natural flavors and fruit juice whenever possible to improve the flavor of the bean, and reduce the amount of sugar. The result was the first “gourmet” jellybean, and it earned its title in both flavor and price (which was steep). Original flavors included Very Cherry, Lemon, Cream Soda, Tangerine, Green Apple, Root Beer, Grape and Licorice.
They have only increased in popularity and variety since then. Jelly Belly jellybeans now come in 50 “official” flavors, with a revolving assortment of “rookie” flavors that sometimes make it and sometimes don’t (RIP Buttered Toast and Graham Cracker). They also are available is specific varieties such as Jelly Belly Sours, BeanBoozled, Soda Pop Shoppe, Smoothie Blend, Cold Stone Creamery Ice Cream Blend, Sugar Free, Sports Beans, and (my favorite) Belly Flops. Those are bags of “mistake” beans. The Jelly Belly brand also makes other chewy, gummy candies such as Unbearably Hot Cinnamon Bears and traditional sweets like candy corn…but nothing beats the bean.
Jelly Belly has had a mascot since 1996, another anthropomorphic cartoon terror like Fruit Pie the Magician, only this one is a jellybean in a chef’s hat called…wait for it…Mr. Jelly Belly. He doesn’t appear to have any distinguishing traits…much to my disappointment….though he is sometimes pictured on a skateboard.
My favorite flavors are cinnamon, peach, watermelon, root beer, strawberry jam, crushed pineapple, and pink grapefruit. My least favorites (meaning I throw them out the window) are top banana, black licorice, chocolate pudding, and (holiest of horrors) buttered popcorn. Those are worse than marshmallow circus peanuts.
Jelly Belly Fun Facts:
- Blueberry JB’s were invented so Reagan could serve red, white, and blue beans at his inaugural parties.
- Many mosaic art pieces exist made entirely of Jelly Belly’s. My favorites are, of course, Lincoln and Princess Diana (see below).
- My BFF Lauren and I tried to feed ABC Jelly Belly’s to seagulls once on the beach in Ogunquit, ME. They looked the other way. We still don’t understand why.
If you are ever in Fairfield, CA you can embark on an official Jelly Belly factory tour and (I assume) eat lots and lots of jellybeans. Add it to the list!
And of course, for more info including recipes and flavor guides, visit the official Jelly Belly website. Brace yourself…it’s colorful.
Ever since I received “Hello, Cupcake!” from the Tucker’s for Christmas in 2008 I have wanted to make corn-on-the-cob cupcakes…and you can’t make these without Jelly Belly’s. Too bad most of the yellow jellybeans are sad flavors…
Happy Labor Day!