April 19, 2019
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Earwax, beer and buttered popcorn: America’s taste for jelly beans

Do you have any idea what Americans buy 16 billion of each year? This product even has its own holiday celebrated on April 22. I have to admit this was news to me. I was not aware that National Jelly Bean Day existed.

One of the most popular flavors sold by Jelly Belly is buttered popcorn. I find this really hard to believe. Out of all of the great flavors available – strawberry cheesecake, cappuccino, coconut, peach, watermelon, strawberry daiquiri — it just doesn’t seem possible that buttered popcorn would be up there near the top of the list of favorites.

Easter is the time when the most jelly beans are consumed. Christmas comes in a close second.

So why discuss jelly beans? Are they nutritious? No, but remember that all things in moderation are acceptable. The good thing about Jelly Belly beans is that each one contains only four calories. A handful of 25 beans gives you a 100-calorie treat. Think portion control.

In 1966, Ronald Reagan, at that time the governor of California, discovered Jelly Belly’s, according to the company’s website. In 1973, he wrote to the Herman Goelitz Candy Co. (now the Jelly Belly Candy Co.) and expressed his delight with the product and explained that hardly a meeting could be started until the jar of beans was passed around. President Reagan is credited with a huge surge in the company’s sales. Blueberry jelly beans were created specifically for him so he could offer red, white, and blue jelly beans to guests at his inaugural celebrations. In 1983, President Reagan even sent jelly beans into space to the astronauts of the Space Shuttle Challenger.

Jelly beans are believed to be derived from a confection known as Turkish delight, which originated in Istanbul, Turkey in the late 1700s. Turkish delight is a jellied candy coated with powdered sugar that lacks the semi-hard outer shell of jelly beans. In the early 1900s, jelly beans were a popular “penny candy.” They first became associated with Easter in the 1930s, because of their egg-like shape that makes them a symbol of birth and fertility.

The difference between Jelly Belly beans and traditional jelly beans is that traditional beans are only flavored on the outer shell. Gourmet jelly beans are flavored on the inside and outside. They are also smaller and softer. In 1976, the first eight flavors of Jelly Bellys were born: cream soda, tangerine, green apple, very cherry, lemon, root beer, grape and licorice. Licorice and very cherry are still at the top of the favorite flavor list. Jelly Bellys were initially a flop and the candy distributor couldn’t give them away, the company website states. With the help of an AP reporter willing to do a short story and friends that lined up to get Jelly Bellys, Marshall Field’s department store ordered $20,000 worth of beans and as they say, the rest was history.

Jelly Belly makes 50 traditional flavors. But they also have Rookie Flavors — which include 7-up, grape crush, orange crush, Tabasco and birthday cake remix — that hope to become traditional flavors someday. There is also a jewel bean collection of shiny, sparkling beans. Then there are the Beanboozled flavors and the Harry Potter collection. These two collections include beans flavored such as lawn clippings, barf, moldy cheese, baby wipes, canned dog food, booger, skunk spray, rotten egg, black pepper, vomit, soap, dirt, earthworm, and if none of those really entice you there is always earwax. Ugh! Who did the taste testing?

For those concerned about natural flavors and colors from natural sources, Jelly Belly’s Snapple flavors line and super fruit flavors are naturally flavored and colored.

There is one very popular flavor missing from Jelly Bellys: peanut butter. After two decades, peanut butter was retired to make room for other flavors and also to allow the factory to be free of peanuts for those with allergies, according to the company.

The year 2014 marks the debut of the beer-flavored bean. It took scientists three years to get the right balance of sweet and bitter, but there is no alcohol in the bean. The flavor has been described by one taster as “flat Bud Light.” Others found it reminiscent of the scent of a dive bar at dawn.

Maybe the earwax wouldn’t be so bad.

Georgia Clark-Albert is a registered dietitian nutritionist and certified diabetes educator at Penobscot Community Health Care in Bangor. She provides nutrition consultant services through Mainely Nutrition in Athens. Read more of her columns and post questions at bangordailynews.com or email her at GeorgiaMaineMSRDCDE@gmail.com.


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