Over the last couple of weeks, there has been a ton of stuff to do in and around the Bay area. We wanted to take in the Chinatown Autumn Moon Festival but we were all feeling a little under the weather so opted for something a bit more low key. So off we went to Fairfield, California to check out the Jelly Belly factory.
Our family loves jelly beans so this was a real treat to see, learn, and most importantly, sample, what they had to offer. Here’s what you can expect when you visit the Jelly Belly factory.
Free, Self-Guided Tours
The tour starts upstairs and follows along an enclosed walkway above the factory floor. Before entering, video recordings of Jelly Belly employees give you the Company’s history. As you start the self-guided tour, more TV screens, as well as posters, tell you about what you are seeing and its purpose. We went on a weekend so the factory wasn’t running at full capacity, but you still get an idea of how things work.
As you meander along the hallway you learn about the history of the company as well as the processes involved in making and shipping the jelly beans. The bonus for me was the history of the company.
A History Lesson
I am a history dork so it was really interesting to hear the story of how Jelly Belly came about, as well as how their popularity exploded as a result of Ronald Reagan. As the Governor of California in 1966, Reagan wrote to the company expressing their love of the jelly beans (then Goelitz Mini Jelly Beans). Later, as President, he would keep a jar in the Oval Office as well as on Air Force One.
The company has also built portraits of past presidents and the Statue of Liberty out of jelly beans. You can walk past and examine many of the portraits along the hallway as you move through the tour.
What Makes Jelly Belly Different
Acting as inspiration for today’s Jelly Belly jelly beans, Goelitz Mini Jelly Beans had their centers infused with flavour. This is what makes Jelly Belly so much better than other jelly beans. They also aren’t afraid to try new things! And even failures can end up winners down the road. Back in the day they tried to make a pepperoni pizza flavoured jelly bean and it was an epic failure. Years down the road while they’re brainstorming Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Jelly Bean, they decide to take the recipe for the pepperoni pizza bean and add more citric acid and bam, they came up with the vomit flavour.
Samples + Hard to Find Flavours = Total Suckers
After the tour, you pick up a small bag of their original jelly beans and a specialty sample. We got to try their draft beer jelly beans. They weren’t bad but we wouldn’t buy a bag either.
Once you head downstairs, you come face to face with the sample bar. They only allow 3 samples per person since there are long lines for the samples. It was a great touch because the end of the sample line funnels into the store. DUN, DUN, DAAAAAAA! First up, the whole reason why I wanted to go – seasonal stock! Jelly Belly Candy Corn! It has become my favourite Halloween candy treat since I accidently found a small bag in a specialty store a month ago. We definitely got a couple of bags of those! We also got some gummi bears, champagne flavour, and then, metallic beans with a Batman theme. That was chosen by our little super hero fanatic. The prices were lower than groceries stores and they had special buy one get one deals.
We also managed to pick up a bag of Belly Flops. These are the Jelly Belly rejects that weren’t considered good enough for retail. They still taste the same and, probably most importantly, they are offered at a discount! So we had to get some of those too.
Overall, we had a good time. A lot of the information we learned at the tour can be looked up online on their website but it was still really cool seeing the crates and crates of jelly beans lined up getting ready to go. There are a few specialty items available in the store but those can be purchased online.
We are pretty big jelly belly fans so I don’t know if this trip is for everyone but they definitely make it worthwhile.
What is your favourite flavour? Let me know in the comments below! Mine is candy corn but juicy pear is a close second.