The modern-day jelly bean dates back to the Civil War, when it was marketed to Union soldiers (1860s) by the first-known manufacturer, the Schrafft Candy Company. In the early 20th century,”jelly bean” was slang for a guy who dressed (commonly referred to a”fop”). In other words, your basic man of style but no substance, which pretty much describes the real candy, almost pure sugar, with a bit of flavoring.
Present at all Cabinet meetings were several large jars of jelly beans sitting on the conference table during President Reagan’s administration, in addition to a fixture in the Oval Office and on Air Force One. Guests in Reagan’s 1981 inaugural parties have a whopping 40 million jelly beans (about 7,000 pounds). Gourmet Jelly Belly brand actually made a new flavor, blueberry, specifically for the occasion. Ronnie was clearly the jelly bean president (would not foodie Thomas Jefferson have loved that).
Jelly beans became a regular penny candy in the early 1900s and were the first confection to be sold by weight rather than piece. Later they were packaged in bags and sold in assorted flavors. There are a staggering 16 billion fabricated yearly only for Easter baskets and decorations.
Simple in form and taste, manufacturing is anything but. It may take from 7 to 21 days to produce them, is quite labor-intensive, and a simple bag usually contains 8 different flavors. In honor of this all-American candy, there’s a National Jelly Bean Day annually, which will take place on April 22 this year. Annually, we have about 100 million pounds in the United States alone.
Unquestionably the Rolls Royce of this popular candy is Jelly Belly, which positions itself as the”gourmet beans.” Very Cherry enjoyed the top position in popularity for several decades until 1998, when (drum roll) Buttered Popcorn moved into first place; other unique flavors include Champagne, Raccoon Sounds, Draft Beer, Pancakes and Cappuccino. Much of the allure of Jelly Bellies are their unique, fresh flavors, which provide a burst of sweet joy in their small size and can be purchased in bulk by individual taste. (And because they’re small, you can cram more into your mouth at one time, a definite plus)
So all you fans, do you pick out your favorites or just grab a handful, tastes be damned. Are you influenced by the colors, do you purchase”designer” jelly beans, or simply go for 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 curious kids of all ages for decades. Okay, so they do not have any nourishment, but sometimes we have to forget about intrinsic value and go for it. They’re just good, clean fun.