Jelly Belly Used To Be An Obscure Delicacy
When America gets a new president, but not during one of those elections that has the nation teetering on the edge of civil war, the media like to talk about the new leader’s endearing quirks. The news might mention that “Bill Clinton really likes pickles,” with absolutely no one remembering this fact in the years to come. During Ronald Reagan's reign, they pointed out the man’s love of jelly beans.
His bean obsession was interesting enough, sure. But looking back, the really interesting part is seeing reports introduce people to his preference for a hipster brand of beans named Jelly Belly.
“The type most esteemed by the President,” wrote Time, “is brand-named Jelly Belly, which — addicts vow — is to the ordinary jelly bean what foie gras is to liverwurst.” You probably know Jelly Belly as the leading brand of jelly beans, and the company was long established by 1981, as it had been making candy since the 19th century, but reporters still had to explain the nature of these strange, flavorful beans.
“Their manufacturer,” the report continued, “Herman Goelitz Co. of Oakland, maintains that the flavors are so delicate that the beans should be eaten one at a time, not by the vulgar handful.” Wait, eating mixed beans by the handful — is that a thing people used to do? Do people not care about the taste of candy at all? Are these the same people trying to get us to believe that all Skittles are the same flavor?
About flavor, Time listed some of the exotic ones Jelly Belly offered: “the richness of the coffee mocha, the tang of the pińa (sic) colada, the bouquet of the strawberry daiquiri.” These are some of the most famous jelly bean varieties currently in existence, but if you hadn’t heard of them, they really would sound weird and snobby, wouldn’t they?
Reagan’s tenure, predicted Time, would lead to a new taste for beans among Americans, that beans were “fated to achieve luster that the praline of sugar and nuts enjoyed in the court of France's Louis XIV.” They were right. Not only did Reagan order hundreds of thousands of beans a month, but Jelly Belly sales also doubled in Reagan’s first year. They were still growing by 25% each year in the 2000s. Plus, Jelly Belly is the manufacturer behind Bertie Bott's Every Flavour Beans, a review of which would have sent any 1981 reporter to an early grave.
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