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Jelly Belly Jelly Beans Celebrate Three Decades and Bean-Filled Future!

FAIRFIELD, CALIF.—They were the first jelly beans in outer space when they were sent on the space shuttle Challenger in 1983.  They were in the Oval Office and on Air Force One. They are the beans of choice by the likes of Orlando Bloom, Larry King, Kelly Clarkson, and Phil Collins and were served at the opening for Stella McCartney in London.

Mr. Jelly Belly, Jelly Belly Candy Company MascotA little jelly bean with great big flavor was introduced in 1976 by the California candymakers of the Herman Goelitz Candy Co. (now known as Jelly Belly Candy Company). Hmmm, it didn’t look like the usual jelly bean, and it certainly didn’t taste like the usual jelly bean. Little did company chairman Herman G. Rowland, Sr. know this confection would make American history and change his family’s candy-making business. The Jelly Belly® jelly bean was born.

The company celebrated 35 years of Jelly Belly beans in 2011 and prepares for an ever increasing demand for a bean-filled future. In 1991 four billion jelly beans were consumed. This year the company projects more than 16 billion will be eaten in 70 countries worldwide, an enormous increase for this family-run business now in its sixth generation of candy making.

The very things that make Jelly Belly beans so special today were present when the first eight flavors were introduced in southern California at Fosselmans Candies in 1976. The company had developed a new style of highly flavored jelly bean in 1966 that became the favorite treat of then-California Governor Ronald Reagan, named Goelitz Mini Gourmet Jelly Beans.

From this auspicious beginning the candy makers turned to even more innovation a decade later by using natural ingredients for flavoring whenever possible—fruit purees, citrus oils and real coffee and more. They mixed the flavorings into the center of the bean and into the shell of the bean.  Wow, what a taste!

The original eight flavors were Very Cherry, Licorice, Lemon, Root Beer, Cream Soda, Grape, Green Apple, and Tangerine. Three of those flavors remain in the top 10 most popular flavors of the 50 official flavors the company makes today.

The new gourmet jelly beans named Jelly Belly jelly beans were sold, not in a mix like standard jelly beans, but by single flavor, so each could be savored for its own special taste. Wow, what flavor! Within a year, 25 different flavors were developed. Watermelon and Chocolate Pudding Jelly Belly beans surprised and delighted the public.

Jelly Belly beans had fans in high places. Former California Governor Ronald Reagan who was enjoying the company’s mini jelly beans in 1966, was sent Jelly Belly beans a decade later. When reporters discovered his fondness for the jelly beans on the presidential campaign trail in 1980, the business broke wide open. Everyone, it seemed, wanted to taste a Jelly Belly jelly bean.

The company put on three shifts around the clock to attempt to meet the demand. Still orders were backlogged for more than a year. The attention from the American press grew and grew as Jelly Belly beans went to the White House in 1981. Blueberry flavor of Jelly Belly beans was invented to match the American flag and was sent to the presidential inaugural ceremonies in 1981 when the company shipped three tons of red, white and blue beans to Washington.

“We believed then, and still believe now, that Jelly Belly beans are so good tasting that it’s ‘love at first bite’ for most people. We have never advertised our candy using the name of the president, because we respect the office and believe quality speaks for itself,” said Herman Rowland, Sr., a fourth generation candymaker and Jelly Belly Candy Company chairman of the board.         

Today, the family-owned business produces over 100 different gourmet confections at their three manufacturing plants. Public tours in California and Wisconsin draw approximately half a million visitors a year.

Tags: Jelly Belly Jelly Beans, Jelly Belly History