“He had a broad face and a little round belly,
that shook, when he laughed,
like a bowl full of jelly.”
– Clement Clarke Moore
No, it isn’t Christmas, but it IS Jelly Belly art! I never knew there was such a thing as Jelly Belly art, not until I took a tour of the Jelly Belly Factory in Fairfield, CA.
Who knew that those tiny little jelly candies could be anything but sweet and tasty (unless of course you are eating a package of those weird Bertie Bott’s), but they are as interesting as they are chewy and flavorful! Did you know Jelly Belly has the largest variety of flavors in the world of candy? Come along as we tour the factory, learn some of the history behind Jelly Belly and check out everything the factory has to offer!
Don’t forget to wear your hat!
Located just a short distance from I-80 and Hwy 12 in Fairfield, CA, the Jelly Belly Factory can be found nestled amongst other Jelly Belly buildings (Administration offices, a (future) museum) at One Jelly Belly Lane.
Looking at the building from the outside, you would never imagine what awaits you on the inside!
Enter the doors, and you are instantly greeted with amazing Jelly Belly art on display. I don’t care who you are, when you walk through those doors, you are instantly transformed back to your childhood, being released on your own in a candy store!
For the low price of just $5 (price is current as of my visit recently), you get a Jelly Belly hat, a package of Assorted Jelly Belly Beans and a self guided tour of the factory upstairs (the factory isn’t upstairs, but the tour is).
I resisted the temptation to shop until after the tour. Anyone who knows me and a candy shop, knows this was not easy.
Up we go….
The first stop is just outside of the official start of the tour. Here, the friendly greeters have you watch a brief video on the history of Jelly Belly and the family behind it. They answer any questions you might have going in, they ask you to wear your hat, they also explain that the tour is actually in reverse, and that is just because of the way the hall takes you around the factory. They remove the rope, and let you in (I feel like I am still excited about this factory tour!).
Second stop is a photo op. Have yourself a seat with Very Cherry Jelly Belly Bean, and they will take your photo. You will have a chance to purchase your photo at the end of the tour. I’m not positive of the price, as I did not purchase mine.
A Brief History of Jelly Belly
Before we get walking around the factory, I want to share with everyone, a brief history of Jelly Belly. I found some of it really interesting!
The beginning of Jelly Belly dates back to the mid 1800’s, when the founder, Gustav Goelitz opened a candy shop in Belleville, Illinois at the age of 24. While he wasn’t actually making Jelly Belly Beans at the time, this is how it all started. By the late 1800’s his sons were also making candy (this is second generation Goelitz). The sons started making Mellocremes, which included candy corn. Eventually, third and fourth generations got involved in the family candy business, and by the 1960’s they were making jelly beans, orange slices and spice drops. I just want to say here, that I had no idea Jelly Belly made so many of the candies I enjoy! I thought it was just beans!
By the mid 60’s the Goelitz family took their beans to a whole other level when they started infusing the centers and the candy shells with real fruit flavors!
They didn’t stop here though! In the early 70’s, they made a mint, covered it with chocolate and finished it off with a hard candy shell. Today we know them as Chocolate Dutch Mints.
In 1976 they expanded their flavor variety to the first 8 flavors of Jelly Belly Beans – Very Cherry, Grape, Tangerine, Lemon, Cream Soda, Root Beer, Licorice and Green Apple. They kept on expanding their flavors into the 1980’s.
In 1980, President Ronald Reagan made it known his love for Jelly Belly! He even invited members of the family to the White House. He always had a jar of Jelly Belly Beans on his desk. In fact, they estimate that over 3 tons of Jelly Belly Beans were sent to D.C. for his inauguration.
In the early 80’s Jelly Belly made its first appearance overseas. A year later, Mr. Jelly Belly- the little plush jelly bean- is designed, and it takes off in sales (they never come out and say it, but I’m pretty sure it is Very Cherry).
By the mid 80’s, the Fairfield, CA factory is built. The Illinois factory still remains the “mothership” for factories, but it is both the Illinois factory and the California factory that are responsible today for the Jelly Belly candies in the U.S. (there is a separate factory overseas that fills the overseas orders).
By the mid 90’s, the Jelly Belly logo was being stamped onto the beans.
Up until 2001, the candy company had been named after the generations of the family that had been running it – Goelitz Confections. In 2001, they changed their name to Jelly Belly Candy Company (after the infused center of their beans). Today Jelly Belly makes over 100 different candies and they have the largest selection of flavors in jelly beans!
Can you guess the favorite flavor?
As I mentioned earlier, the tour through Jelly Belly is actually done somewhat in reverse, due to the way the factory is laid out. They have short videos at each stop to help explain the process you are looking at. It begins in the packaging department.
The packaging department is where the Jelly Belly Beans go from their giant container (each container is about 1700 pounds), to individual packages, into the boxes.
The beans go through a counter into their individual package.
The packages are then placed into their boxes by way of a “Spider Packer”. The Spider Packer picks each individual bag up and places it precisely in the box for shipping. The Spider Packer can pack about 240 bags per minute!
For the larger boxes of assorted flavors, each flavor is counted and divided into compartments before being packaged into their boxes.
As you get to the part of the tour where they are actually making the Jelly Belly Beans, it smells amazing!
Here you will see pallets of sugar and cornstarch, buckets of flavor,
and bin after bin of Jelly Belly Beans in the process of being made.
Dozens of drums that resemble concrete mixers, are filled with beans (250 pounds of beans in each drum!). This is known as the “Panning Department” – the department where the outside of the bean is made (remember, we are going backward). This is where they add the sugar and syrups that form the outer shell. They have to time it perfectly, or they end up with a gooey mess! By the time the shell is finished, each bean is 40 percent larger than when it started!
Every Jelly Belly Bean starts out with what they call a “slurry”. Each bean is made from the same slurry.
Different purees are added to the slurry to create the different flavors of beans. Jelly Belly always uses real flavors (fruit puree and fruit juices) to make their beans. The flavored slurry is fed through a machine called a “mogul” and placed on molds to create the “centers of the beans”. At the Fairfield factory, they can make up to 800 centers per second.
From there, the bean centers have to dry for 24 hours.
The last step in the making of the Jelly Belly Bean are the drums where the candy shells are formed. Finally, they are coated with beeswax to give them their shine, and imprinted with the Jelly Belly logo.
Jelly Belly ships over 15 billion beans a year!!
Each bean takes up to 14 days to make, start to finish.
After the tour, you can walk through the Jelly Belly Art Gallery.
I was really impressed with all of the different art that has been created using just Jelly Belly Beans!
They also have a chocolate and wine tasting room set up (I had no idea Jelly Belly made chocolates until I visited the factory).
No tour of a candy factory is complete without a trip to their candy store! The Jelly Belly candy shop is huge, with everything Jelly Belly makes! I probably spent as much time in the candy store as I did taking the tour!
The entire visit lasts as long as you want it to – from the self guided tour, to visiting the candy shop, art gallery and wine tasting. Spend as much, or as little, time here as you wish. If you ever find yourself near one of the Jelly Belly factory locations though, I highly suggest stopping in – it was surprisingly a pretty sweet visit!