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10 Jelly Bean Facts That Will Surprise Candy Lovers

Jelly Beans aren’t just for Easter anymore. The sweet little candies are beloved by kids and adults alike. Popular brands like Jelly Belly, with its dozens of exotic flavors, have helped make them an enduring hit. However, you may know less about the colorful little candy beans than you think. 

10. A Matter of Taste

Everyone has a favorite flavor of jelly bean whether its cherry, licorice or orange. On some lists Jelly Belly’s buttered popcorn flavor is ranked as the most popular flavor in America. However, there are other lists that show cherry as America’s favorite jelly bean flavor. There are some generational differences that show up in the rankings with older adults preferring buttered popcorn and coconut. Kids, on the other hand vote for flavors like berry, green apple and watermelon. With so many flavors this seems like an odd choice, but then again there’s no accounting for taste. Jelly beans are popular around the world and different parts of the world have their own jelly bean favorites. For example, South American enjoy cherry flavor while Asians prefer refreshing lemon lime. Australia likes to go its own way so the Aussies say they like bubble gum flavored jelly beans. Apparently Europeans like to show off their sophisticated palates because they indulge in the multi-flavored jelly beans called tutti-frutti. This choice seems like a little bit of a cop out because you could probably get the same effect if you put a handful of different flavored jelly beans in your mouth all at once. We all do this – don’t we? Whether you eat raspberry jelly beans one at a time or mix a dozen flavors together the sweet treats continue to please snackers around the world. 

9. Let’s All Go To The Movies

Americans don’t always agree on everything so it should come as no surprise that they don’t agree on what the best jelly bean flavors are. Different parts of the country prefer different flavors than other parts. Another fact to take note of is that people’s and country’s tastes change and the favorite flavors have changed over time to reflect this fact. Cherry has been ranked as America’s favorite jelly bean and, perhaps surprisingly, so has black licorice. Black licorice is one of those flavors that you either love or hate. In any event, a survey of America’s tastes in 2017 showed that Americans now prefer – buttered-popcorn as their top jelly bean flavor. Although, in this survey black licorice still came in strong at number two. The top five were rounded out with the following flavors: cinnamon, cherry and watermelon. Apparently, jelly bean lovers respond to the combination of sweet and salty goodness that buttered popcorn offers the taste buds. There could be a nostalgia aspect as well because many people grow up with fond memories of going to the movies and enjoying big buckets of buttery popcorn as part of the movie going experience. But whatever the reason for this choice – buttered popcorn is Americas most popular jelly bean flavor – for now. 

8. Taste the Controversy

Although its unclear how official these designations are, at least by some criteria Skittles brand candies are in fact jelly beans. Skittles brand fruit candies have long been a popular choice for kids looking for something other than chocolate candy bars, but they probably didn’t know about this candy controversy. “Experience the Rainbow, Taste the Rainbow” has been part of a successful marketing campaign for the candy, but it offers no clues of how they compare to jelly beans. This marketing highlights the candies’ colorful fruit flavors that includes flavors like orange, lemon, lime and grape. Skittles debuted in 1974 in Britain from The Wrigley Company. The bright colored candies were introduced in North America five years later. Due to their success the company began manufacturing Skittles in the United States in 1982. The official Skittles web site does not address the issue of whether or not the candies are in fact jelly beans. The Oxford dictionary definition of  jelly beans is: a bean-shaped candy with a gelatinous center and a firm sugar coating. Working from this definition it appears that Skittles fit the description of a classic “jelly bean.” It’s also unclear whether most people think of Skittles as jelly beans or as just a chewy fruity candy with a stiff, shiny exterior. If course this does describe jelly beans to a T, but does it really matter?

7. Tis The Season To Be Jelly

Back in the 1930’s someone noticed that jelly beans resemble little eggs and so began the sweet treat’s association with Easter. Today it would be hard to imagine an Easter basket full of candy that doesn’t include a generous helping of colorful jelly beans. Jelly beans are as much a part of the Easter candy experience as chocolate rabbits. This wasn’t always the case however. For decades the little candies were most associated with Christmas. This isn’t too surprising since Christmas is the king of festive candy. Even with candy canes, chocolate coins and other traditional favorites there is plenty of room for Christmas-themed jelly beans. The many colors you can choose from, including green, white and red make them perfect for tasty decorations and stocking stuffers for kids of all ages. Companies like Jelly Belly have recognized the holidays are a great opportunity and have come up with speciality Christmas jelly beans developed around classic holiday themes. Obviously, colors like red and green are clear choices for Christmas jelly beans, but candy fans will probably agree that any colorful combination of jelly beans will work just fine for a tasty gift. Maybe we should be putting out a bowl of jelly beans for Santa Clause instead of milk and cookies. it couldn’t hurt.

6. Not Suitable For Consumption

Language changes over time like tastes. Slang might become accepted into everyday conversation or perhaps disappear all together. In the early decades of the twentieth century if you said “jelly bean” you likely were NOT referring to the small, colorful candies. During this era you might have been a concerned parent or friend warning a young woman about the low character of  a young man she had expressed interest in. “Jelly Bean” was slang for a slick dressed young man who wanted to impress young women with his style, but usually had no substance underneath. This was similar to the warning in later times to beware of the “bad boy” type of guy that some women can be attracted to in their youth. The origins of this slang term remain unclear, but perhaps these flashy men became associated with jelly beans because of their bright, candy colors and their sugary sweetness. This unfortunate association has faded away and by the middle of the century a “jelly bean” was a sweet little candy that filled Christmas stockings and Easter baskets for children. Unfortunately, more recently “jelly bean” has become a slang term in some circles to refer to a couple of different kinds of illegal drugs. But for most of us jelly beans are still just those small, colorful candies we love to eat by the handful.

5. The Jelly Bean Gets Its Due

April 22nd is national Jelly Bean Day. Is it a coincidence that it falls around Easter when there are plenty of jelly beans to be had? It doesn’t matter because any time is a good time to celebrate the sweet little candies with the colorful shells. Jelly beans are made mostly from basic ingredients like sugar and corn syrup but these simple little confections have loomed large for American kids of all ages since they first appeared in America. They showed up in their rudimentary form around the time of the Civil War fought between the Southern Confederacy and the Northern Union from 1860 to 1865. Fortunately jelly beans have been associated with better times like Christmas, Easter and parties. To celebrate this National Jelly Bean Day lovers of the sweet candy are encouraged to use jelly beans in a wide range of delicious recipes including in cookies, fudge and yes – even drink recipes. When you’ve had your fill of the candy you can still celebrate with the classic jelly bean game “guess how many jelly beans are in the jar.” What does the winner of the contest get? The awesome jar of jelly beans of course! You may or may not realize that April 22nd is also Earth Day, which is fine, but National Jelly bean Day is much more fun and a lot tastier. 

4. Good Things Come To Those Who Wait

The colorful little candy known as the jelly bean may seem to be a simple thing that is easy to produce, but nothing could be further from the truth. Jelly beans are such a popular candy that almost 350 million of the tasty beans are produced every second. This is a lot of jelly beans, but they are consumed almost as fast by a hungry public who can’t seem to get enough. It takes even more work than you might imagine to produce this huge number because it takes at least a week to make them. In fact, it can take up to three weeks. The simple recipe consists of sugar, corn syrup, corn starch and water. This mixture is cooked slowly until it has a gelatinous consistency and then the batch is poured into tiny bean shaped molds where they rest for at least twelve hours so they can harden. After they cool and harden they are sprayed with a sugary mist then they rest again so they can harden once again. You might have guessed by now that much of the reason the process takes so long is that the jelly beans have to rest for a while between many of the steps. It depends a lot on the flavor of jelly bean being manufactured. Some flavors require several days of rest between steps. Flavors such as sour cherry and sour apple tend to take the longest to make because they need to rest the most because of their unique composition. But regardless of your personal favorite jelly bean perhaps you will have a bit more respect for what it takes to get these sweet little treats to your lips.

3. Origin Story

It seems that the exact origins of the sweet little candies known as jelly beans has been lost to the sugary mists of time. However, most candy historians believe there is some evidence that the popular American candy owes its existence to a popular candy from Turkey called – Turkish Delight. This sweet confection traces its long history back to before Biblical times. It’s true that jelly beans have a sweet, gelatinous center that is similar to Turkish delight, but the bright little candies might owe their hard candy shells to another candy. Jordan Almonds were invented in 17th century France for the royal court. Their hard candy shell is made by a manufacturing process called panning that French candy makers invented. This process involved rocking the almonds back and forth in a pan filled with sugar and water. Candy made by this process first appeared in America in 1861, early in the American Civil War. A company in Boston, MA circulated advertisements around the city encouraging people to send a candy that was similar to what would become jelly beans to the troops. But when did the name “jelly bean” show up? Shaping candy like common fruits and vegetables was common in 18th and 19th centuries. An unknown candy maker in the 1800’s started making little bean shaped candies and and the rest is sweet history. 

2. Incredible, Inedible Jelly Beans

Some of us might think that butter-flavored popcorn jelly beans are pretty unappetizing, but it has been ranked as one of Americans’ favorite flavors. Some beer lovers might like the taste of beer flavored jelly beans, but at least they’re not outright disgusting like some flavors. Hopefully, most of us can agree that vomit flavored jelly beans are a bad idea. Some other jelly bean flavors that should fall into the “bad idea” category include such tempting treats as “Earthworm” and “Booger.” One can assume that flavors like this are marketed toward kids who enjoy grossing each other out. These are not flavors that your casual jelly bean eater would want to snack on. These flavors beg the question: who at the jelly bean factory is in charge of making sure the booger jelly beans taste like boogers? Booger flavor is bad and ear wax and lawn clippings flavored jelly beans don’t sound much better. Why would someone want to eat candy that tastes like ear secretions? Again, we can blame kids for these? And lawn clippings? Are these for people who love to mow their lawns? Compared to some of the worst flavors a tooth paste flavored jelly bean doesn’t sound that bad – it would have a minty taste? Hopefully jelly bean lovers will stick with the favorites like cherry, lime and yes – even buttered popcorn.

1. Win One For The Jelly Bean

Ronald Reagan is known for some impressive accomplishments including a successful Hollywood actor, governor of California and a two-term President of the United States that helped win the Cold War against the Soviet Union. But the former president is also known for is tremendous love of jelly beans. His brand was Jelly Belly and the sweet little candies helped him kick his longtime smoking habit when he was governor of California. Since that time Reagan could usually be seen with a bowl of jelly beans within arms length. When he was elected president he brought his love of jelly beans to Washington with him. Jelly Belly jelly beans were a prominent feature of Reagan’s inauguration festivities. So much so that the company invented their popular Blueberry flavor for the occasion based on the president’s preferences. Jelly beans remained a feature of President Reagan’s 2 terms in Washington D.C. and bowls and jars of the sweet candies can be seen in many old photographs within Reagan’s reach. They were available at the White House and even on Air Force One when he flew around the world to meet other national leaders. President Reagan would often give these visiting leaders a supply of jelly beans as gifts because after all who doesn’t like a handful of tasty jelly beans? Hopefully the sugary little gems made their own small, but sweet contribution to the Cold War and the advancement of world peace. 

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