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10 Secrets of the Jelly Belly Warehouse

We've always loved these flavorful jelly beans, but we had no idea they had such a fascinating backstory. Until we rode the Jelly Belly Express. Toot! Toot!

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jelly belly tourPhoto: Jelly Belly

Most people have eaten jelly beans at some point in their lives, whether as an Easter basket goodie, or as an ingredient in recipes like Jelly Bean Bark and Jelly Bean Cookies.

Me? I like my jelly beans straight up—but only if they are Jelly Belly gourmet beans. These teensy, chewy treats lights up your taste buds—mostly for good, but there are also intentionally gross flavors that bring an entirely different type of joy to the candy consumption experience. Find the best-selling jelly bean flavor in your state.

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jelly belly tourPhoto: Jelly Belly

I had the chance to tour the Jelly Belly Warehouse just outside Milwaukee, Wisconsin, with a few colleagues from Taste of Home. There we had lots of laughs and left with an even greater appreciation for the company because of the things we learned. Here are a few Jelly Belly secrets. If you’re ever in the area, make time for a visit. (Yes, you will get free Jelly Belly samples!)

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jelly belly historyPhoto: Jelly Belly

Jelly Belly Has Been Around for More Than a Century

Jelly Belly’s history dates back to 1869, when German immigrant and entrepreneur Gustav Goelitz opened a candy business in Belleville, Illinois. He and his brother, and later their sons, transported their sweets via covered wagons from factories set up in regions throughout the country. Their specialty at the time was candy corn and “royal buttercreams.” They started making jelly beans around 1965.

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jelly belly historyPhoto: Jelly Belly

It’s Still a Family Business

The fourth, fifth and sixth generation of Goelitz’s family now run the business, with Lisa Rowland Brasher at the helm as CEO. Brasher is the great-great-granddaughter of founder Gustav Goelitz. She’s part of a leadership team that has helped the company go global, with distribution in 80 countries, including a major factory in Thailand.

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jelly belly beans in the factoryPhoto: Jelly Belly

Jelly Belly Produces 15 Billion Jelly Beans Annually

Yep. You read that right—15 billion Jelly Belly jelly beans make their way through the manufacturing lines each year. That’s enough to circle the planet over five times, according to our tour guide. Equally mind-boggling? Beans come in 100 flavors and each is stamped with a tiny Jelly Belly logo.

Learn about all our favorite food factory tours.

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jelly belly historyPhoto: Jelly Belly

The 40th President of the United States Made Jelly Belly Famous

This was our favorite tidbit from the tour: Jelly Belly created the blueberry jelly bean in 1981 by replicating the blue in the U.S. flag. It then shipped a half-ton of red, white and blue beans to Washington, D.C., for President Reagan’s inauguration in 1981. He had bowls of them on his desk. He ate them. All. The. Time! Photographs of Reagan and his Jelly Belly beans are part of a timeline in the warehouse tour.

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jelly belly artPhoto: Jelly Belly

There Is a Jelly Belly Art Collection

In 2009, Jelly Belly commissioned California painter Kristin Cummings to create a tribute to the American grizzly bear using Jelly Belly jelly beans. Since then, Cummings’ detailed mosaics have become international sensations. In addition to creating a Harry Potter-themed piece, she crafted the “Masterpieces of Confectionery Art” series, featuring replicas of famous paintings like Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa and The Starry Night by Vincent van Gogh. Each mosaic requires about 10,000 to 12,000 Jelly Belly jelly beans.

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jelly belly dressPhoto: Jelly Belly

You Can Wear Jelly Belly Couture

OK, maybe you can’t buy the gowns and dresses. But the Jelly Belly Express train passes the company’s “Candy Couture” collection, created in partnership with the French Pastry School of Kennedy-King College at City Colleges of Chicago.

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jelly belly flavorsvia jellybelly.com

Jelly Belly Beans Are More Than Just Sugar

Many of the flavors are infused with natural ingredients. For example, my favorites, peach and pear, use fruit puree in the center for flavoring. And there is a line of Jelly Belly beans that is 100 percent organic; every element, from the flavors to the colors, is made with natural, pesticide-free ingredients.

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popcorn jelly beansPhoto: Jelly Belly

Very Cherry Is the Most Popular Flavor

I wasn’t surprised to learn this. It’s a tart, tangy treat—and my hubby’s favorite. The second favorite flavor is Buttered Popcorn (more surprising!), followed by Licorice (which I love). The newest flavors are inspired by Krispy Kreme donuts: Original Glazed, Strawberry Iced, Glazed Blueberry Cake, Cinnamon Apple Filled and Chocolate Iced with Sprinkles. We had to taste test them!

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jelly belly rejectsPhoto: Jelly Belly

The Shape and Size Must Be Precise

Remember the scene in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory in which the nasty Veruca Salt goes down “the bad egg chute”? Well, there are “bag egg” Jelly Belly beans. These are the ones that don’t meet the size and shape standards as detected during the uber precise manufacturing process. But rather than junk the “fails,” Jelly Belly has turned them into a line extension called “Belly Flops.” These misshapen treats taste just as good as the perfect beans. But there’s something that feels pretty special about eating rejects.

You can buy the Belly Flops here.

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jelly belly tourPhoto: Jelly Belly

No Jelly Belly Beans Are Actually Made in the Warehouse

It stores all the ingredients for making Jelly Belly beans in factories in the United States. Plus, it’s the main warehouse for shipping orders placed on jellybelly.com.

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gross jelly belly flavorsPhoto: Jelly Belly

Fart Tastes Nasty, but Dirt Is Good

When you finish the tour, there’s a store where you can enjoy lunch and buy every type of Jelly Belly known to man. There’s also the highlight of the day: the sampling bar. Of course, we zeroed in on the nasty Bean Boozled flavors, like Fart, Vomit, Rotten Eggs and Dirt. Our tour guide told us they arrive at these flavors by recreating the smells. I wondered out loud if the staff that has to create—and taste test—these “fun” flavors get special compensation. I was told they do not. But I’m sure it’s a laugh riot getting to the finished product. We certainly had fun, as you can see in our video.

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