The modern day jelly bean dates back to the Civil War, when it was promoted to Union soldiers (1860s) from 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, especially for the occasion. Ronnie was clearly the jelly bean president (wouldn’t 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 flavors. There are a staggering 16 billion manufactured yearly only for Easter baskets and decorations. (That’s enough to circle the Earth three times.)
Simple in form and flavor, making 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 the all-American candy, there is a National Jelly Bean Day every year, 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 top position in popularity for many 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, Bat Poop flavors, which deliver a burst of sweet joy in their small size and can be bought in bulk by individual taste. 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 colours, do you buy”designer” jelly beans, or simply go for the regular? Perhaps you (sadly) have to avoid them because 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 nutrition, but sometimes we have to forget about intrinsic value and do it. They’re just good, clean fun. Know what I mean?