What is your favorite flavor of jelly beans?
Are you someone who grabs a whole handful of jelly beans and shoves them all into your mouth, or do you just pick the ones you like and don’t eat the rest?
President Ronald Reagan once said, “you can tell a lot about a fella's character by whether he picks out all of one color or just grabs a handful.”
While President Reagan does have a point, the bigger question that we’ve been asking is where did jelly beans even come from in the first place and how did Jelly Belly become the name and face for one of the most iconic candies of all time?
After spending a few hours on the computer researching with some jelly beans in hand, we found that your favorite bite-sized treat has a story as unique as its 100+ flavors.
A brief history of jelly beans…
Gustav Goelitz had an obsession for candy—an obsession so large that when he started his confectionery company in 1869 his goal was to take the candy world by storm. For the first 30 years, he and his family slung a variety of sweets from their small brick-and-mortar business in Bellville, Illinois until 1898 when they started focusing on a new, innovative product called mellocremes.
Mellocremes, for those who might not know, is the recipe used for the candy corn that all of us eat during special seasons like Halloween and Christmas. Goelitz and his candy crew had worked hard to develop the perfect recipe and production process for making the classic candy corn shape and look, then commercially put it out into the world.
For the next 40 years, mellocremes would be the product that sustained their business throughout the Great Depression and into the 1960s. It wasn’t until a third-generation Goelitz, named Herman, took part of the original company and moved out to the west coast.
There they took it upon themselves to explore new candy recipes that nobody else was doing, this included tangerine slices, spice drops, and jelly beans.
The jelly bean comes to life...
While jelly beans had been around before the Goelitz family, they were one of the first to start producing them in large quantities and different flavors in 1965. After testing different recipes and flavors, Herman and his team discovered a candy concoction that would change the game—mini jelly beans with flavoring both inside and on the shell.
With this recipe in hand, the Herman Goelitz Candy Company began to catch the attention of candy lovers all over the United States, including a very famous president, Ronald Reagan.
A presidential snack everyone loves…
After trying to quit smoking for years, the President took to popping Goeltiz mini jelly beans as a way to curb his oral fixation. What started as a small practice to overcome a habit quickly evolved into a complete craving.
Reagan wrote Herman Rowland Sr. during his time as California governor saying, "It's gotten to the point...where we can hardly start a meeting or make a decision without passing around a jar of jelly beans. We owe you a special measure of thanks for helping keep our state government running smoothly.”
It was well known that during his presidential campaign and long into his term, President Reagan always started his meetings with the passing of a jar of Jelly Beans stating that, “You can tell a lot about a fella's character by whether he picks out all of one color or just grabs a handful.”
Where did the name Jelly Belly even come from?
You’re probably wondering, “who even came up with the name Jelly Belly?”.
No, the Goelitz family didn't decide that one day they needed to rebrand their confectionery company to something a little more creative. As a matter of fact, it was actually a man by the name of David Klein who came up with the name in 1976.
After working on a jelly bean recipe that put more flavor into the middle and the outside of the bean, he finally came up with new flavors that had never been done before including watermelon, licorice and root beer.
These flavors, along with the catchy nickname Mr. Jelly Bean propelled Klein to popularity, earning him features on the Mike Douglas show in 1977 and a cover of People magazine in which he flaunted no shirt and a bathtub full of jelly beans.
After a decade in the spotlight, Klein's fame began to decline so he sold the Jelly Belly brand to the Goelitz candy company in 1980 for a casual $4.8 million dollars. Talk about a sweet victory, right?
Jelly Belly starts making the world’s wildest jelly beans…
Following the purchase of the Jelly Bean brand, the company started making major moves in the jelly bean game. First, they set out to develop a whole new set of flavors starting with Root Beer, Green Apple, Licorice, Cream Soda, Lemon, Tangerine, Very Cherry, and Grape. These flavors would become staples for the company eventually leading to the creation of over 100 different kinds of jelly beans.
Over the next 25 years, Goelitz Confectionery Company dabbled in tons of different types of jelly beans including sour fruit flavors and even savory ones like buttered popcorn. It was also during this period that they merged the east and west coast arms of the company and officially changed the company name from Goelitz Confectionery Company and Herman Goelitz Candy Company to Jelly Belly.
After crossing some T’s and dotting some I’s they officially released their first-ever Jelly Belly stamped jelly bean, with the logo prominently featured in the middle of every single bean.
With a new logo, name, and flavors in their back pocket, Jelly Belly started shocking the world with major partnerships that pushed the brand far beyond the boundaries of most candy companies.
In 2000, they partnered with the famous children’s book and blockbuster selling movies series Harry Potter to create the iconic Bertie Botts Every Flavor Beans that included some not-so-tasty flavors including ear wax and dirt.
Jump forward to 2005 and Jelly Belly puts its name into the mix of the sports world with its first-ever Sport Beans intended to provide carb and sugar replenishment for high-performance athletes.
Another 3 years later, they tested their customer’s taste buds with one of its most unique products made to date—BeanBoozled Jelly Beans. These beans were unlike any they had done before in that it was a box of beans that combined some of the best and worst flavors without telling you which—each one could be juicy pear or booger, buttered popcorn or rotten egg and so on.
Candy lovers chomped at the chance to challenge themselves to see who could bear the test of the entire box and many of them put their experience online. Just check out this video from FV Family who ate the entire box with their kids!
Jelly Belly today, tomorrow, and beyond…
In 2016, the brand celebrated the 40th anniversary of their Jelly Belly jelly bean with a special champagne bean which you can actually get right here.
Today, Jelly Belly is constantly working on new flavors, ideas, and concepts that will take the candy world by storm. In their 2022 Press Kit, they mentioned some upcoming products that candy lovers can get excited about including new beanboozled flavors, cocktail classics, chocolate jelly beans, and even new Harry Potter items!
I'll ask again, what’s your favorite jelly bean?
Since the beginning, Jelly Belly and the Goelitz Confectionery Company have always prided themselves on making some of the best sweets in the candy industry. For over 120 years they have made it their priority to deliver sweet candy experiences even in the smallest of forms, a simple bean.
Whether you are a fan of only a few flavors or you are someone who likes to grab a handful of and stuff your face full of every kind, it’s clear that jelly beans and Jelly Belly have made a massive impact not only on the candy industry but also on the culture of America as a whole.
And if you find yourself craving some jelly beans after reading this, go ahead and check out our entire jelly bean collection right here.