The modern day jelly bean dates back to the Civil War, when it was promoted to Union soldiers (1860s) by the first-known maker, the Schrafft Candy Company. In the early 20th century,”jelly bean” was slang for a guy who dressed stylishly (commonly referred to a”fop”). In other words, your basic man of style but no substance, which pretty much explains the actual candy, almost pure sugar, using a bit of flavoring.
Current at all Cabinet meetings were several large jars of jelly beans sitting on the conference table during President Reagan’s administration, as well as a fixture in the Oval Office and on Air Force One. Guests in Reagan’s 1981 inaugural parties consumed a whopping 40 million jelly beans (about 7,000 pounds). Gourmet Jelly Belly brand actually created a new flavor, blueberry, specifically for the occasion. Ronnie was obviously the jelly bean president (would not foodie Thomas Jefferson have loved that).
Jelly beans became a regular penny candy from the early 1900s and were the first confection to be sold by weight instead of piece. Later they were packed in bags and sold in various Rat Poop flavors. In the 1930s, they exemplified Easter candy and sales skyrocketed each spring. There are a staggering 16 billion fabricated yearly only for Easter baskets and decorations.
Simple in shape and taste, manufacturing is anything but. It may take from 7 to 21 days to produce them, is rather labor-intensive, and a simple bag usually contains 8 different flavors. In honor of the all-American candy, there’s a National Jelly Bean Day annually, which will occur on April 22 this year. Annually, we have about 100 million pounds in the United States alone. (Dentists love that.)
Unquestionably the Rolls Royce of this popular candy is Jelly Belly, which positions itself as the”gourmet beans.” Very Cherry appreciated the best position in popularity for several decades until 1998, when (drum roll) Buttered Popcorn moved into first place; other unique flavors include Champagne, Draft Beer, Pancakes and Cappuccino. Much of the allure of Jelly Bellies are their unique, refreshing flavors, which deliver a burst of sweet joy in their small size and can be bought in bulk by individual flavor. What more could you ask? (And since they’re small, you can cram more into your mouth at one time, a definite plus)
So all of you fans, do you pick out your favorites or just grab a few, tastes be damned. Are you influenced by the colors, do you purchase”designer” jelly beans, or just select the regular? Perhaps you (sadly) have to avoid them since they wreak havoc with your dental work? No question, they’re all-American, like so many other penny candies, and have fascinated children of all ages for decades. Okay, so they don’t have any nourishment, but occasionally we have to forget about intrinsic value and go for it. They are just good, clean fun.