Along with Twinkies, Coca-Cola, and a handful of other products, Jelly Belly jelly beans are familiar to just about everybody in America (and most likely the majority of people on earth). These tiny jelly beans, in their dozens of flavors, have single-handedly turned what was an unexciting gummy candy into a “gourmet” product, and they’ve earned the loyal devotion of millions. But even if you eat Jelly Belly jelly beansevery day (like one notable president did), we bet that there are some things you didn’t know about these little beans and the company that makes them.
The company that’s today known as Jelly Belly traces its roots back to 1866, when 22-year-old Gustav Goelitz immigrated to the United States from Germany. His two younger brothers followed a few years later. They set up a handmade candy operation in Belleville, Illinois, called the Goelitz Brothers Candy Company; after they passed away their sons expanded the business, renamed it the Goelitz Confectionary Company, and opened a new, larger plant, in North Chicago, in 1913. Business boomed thanks to the sale of candies, chocolates, licorice, peppermints, and “butter creams” like candy corn, but after a familial falling-out in 1924, one brother headed to Oakland, California, to start his own company, the Herman Goelitz Candy Company. [related]
Both companies kept chugging along as separate entities, surviving the Great Depression and seeing sales skyrocket after World War II. In 1960, a man named Herman Rowland joined the Oakland company and, in order to fend off increasing competition, he expanded its offerings to include Chocolate Dutch Mints, jelly candies, and, yes, jelly beans, which were simply dubbed Mini Jelly Beans. In 1976, at the urging of David Klein, a candy distributor who dreamed of making a high-end “Rolls Royce” jelly bean, Goelitz rolled out a reformulated version in eight unique flavors (Very Cherry, Tangerine, Lemon, Green Apple, Grape, Licorice, Root Beer, and Cream Soda), and renamed the line Jelly Belly. Demand for these unique “gourmet” candies went through the roof almost instantly, and by the late 1990s, when Goelitz’s sales hit $100 million for the first time, Jelly Belly sales were responsible for 70 percent of that revenue. In 2001, both Goelitz branches merged into a single corporation, which was named the Jelly Belly Candy Company.
Today, Jelly Belly is one of the most well-known and beloved candy companies in the world, and continues to turn out its flagship jelly beans along with gummies, gumballs, licorice pastels, and Jordan almonds. The company is also not afraid to get a little silly, testing out “rookie flavors” for Jelly Belly like Tabasco, Cold Stone Birthday Cake, and Draft Beer, as well as “BeanBoozled” flavors including Barf, Canned Dog Food, Moldy Cheese, and Stinky Socks. If you can think of it, their flavor scientists can create it, which is a pretty impressive feat.
Read on to learn even more about this beloved American candy company.
It’s Run by The Sixth-Generation Goelitz Family
Herman Rowland is still chairman of the board, and on April 1, 2015, his daughter, Lisa Rowland Brasher, who has been with the company since first starting as a customer service rep in 1982, came on board as CEO.
Candy Corn Sustained the Company for Years
Candy corn is a relatively ho-hum candy these days, but 100 years ago it was a marvel of its time, and was incredibly difficult to make. All three colors of the scalding hot butter cream (or “mellowcreme”) had to be poured into molds by hand. It was a grueling and dangerous process, but Goelitz never gave it up, and it was sales of candy corn that sustained the company through the Great Depression, during which nearly 900 candy companies folded in a single year.