The bowl of jelly beans sits on the table in front of you. Grape… cherry . . . apple … tangerine . . . root beer! The aroma is tantalizing. And these aren’t just ANY candies. These are Jelly Bellies, the KING of jelly beans. If you can’t pass by a bowl of these luscious, tempting treats, how will you handle being surrounded by them? Test your willpower by taking a tour of the Jelly Belly Factory in Fairfield, California.
Ronald Reagan made Jelly Bellies famous when he was President. There were bowls of the candy in red, white and blue, all over the White House. In fact, the blueberry flavor was created just for him. But Jelly Bellies have been around since 1976, starting out with only 9 flavors. Today, there are 50 different flavors, with 1.25 million beans produced every day and over 14 million Jelly Bellies eaten each year.
We learn these interesting facts during a tour of the factory. After donning the white paper hats required by law, we follow the perky guide up and down stairs and over walkways, observing the factory in full production. It is fascinating to see how these delicious little tidbits are produced. The first stop on the tour is the Mogul Station where the centers of the Jelly Bellies are created using a secret recipe that includes natural fruit puree and cornstarch. Then they are ‘engrossed’ (actually fattened up), tumbling through what look like small cement mixers with sugar and syrup. After they have dried, they are engrossed again and again — six times in all. Last but not least, they are dipped in a sugary glaze and when they are completely dried, they get a Jelly Belly Logo tattoo before being packaged up in the robot room.
Our guide tells us that it takes between 7-10 days to make each Jelly Belly and plump it up so that when you put it in your mouth you first experience the hard outer core but then you bite down into the soft juicy interior that excites your tongue and has you reaching for more. She also points out all the Jelly Belly art — portraits of notables such as Ronald Reagan and Princess Diana as well as the All-American Buffalo — made entirely from the multi-colored candies.
At the end of the tour, our guide hands us some free samples which are devoured immediately. These do nothing more than prepare you for the gift shop where thousands and thousands of JellyBellies and all the associated gifts await you. Don’t miss the Jelly Flops, those Jelly Bellies that didn’t make the grade during an inspection. They taste as good as the five-star ones. We defy you to walk away without at least one bag of these mouth-watering treats.
IF YOU GO
The Jelly Belly Factory is at 1 Jelly Belly Lane, Fairfield, CA, (800-953-5592. Take Rt 80 North from San Francisco towards Sacramento. The Visitor Center is open daily from 0900 to 1700 with free tours departing every 15 minutes. If you want to take a tour of the factory at work you need to visit Monday to Friday. No photography is permitted inside the factory.