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Sunday, June 28, 2009

Day Trip: Jelly Belly Tour in Fairfileld

The Jelly Belly Factory in Fairfield has been on my bucket list for a long time. I’m a sucker for factory tours, and this one is a biggie. I insisted we stop by on our way home from a trip up north, even though Mark would rather spend his time poking his eyeballs out with pins.

There’s a contest at the end to win Jelly Bellies, so make sure to read all the way through!

The executive summary: Eh. I was a little disappointed. It wasn’t horrible, but I wouldn’t go out of my way for it. If you plan to do the Mrs. Grossman's Sticker Factory tour, it's about 45 mintues away so you can do them the same day.
Even though we went in the summer, we didn’t have to wait more than 10 minutes in line. We were shuffled in with maybe 50 others, and had to don factory hats (California factory law). Then they made you suffer further indignity by taking your pictures wearing said hat, and trying to sell it to you. We bypassed that line at the end, but it attracted quite a crowd. I always wondered who buys that crap, and now I know.

While waiting in line for the tour to start, the guide generously handed out ONE Jelly Belly each. Zack promptly dropped and stepped on his. Oops.

The bad news – no photography allowed in the factory tour. Bummer for me, but Mark was happy I had to put my camera down.

Our good fortune – the factory wasn’t producing any candy that day – they were closed for summer cleaning. So we got to see the factory floor, but the machines weren’t working. At the end of the tour, some of the packing facilities were operational, so we did see a conveyor belt full of colorful beans, and the quality assurance guy picking through tan ones to separate the good stuff from the Belly Flops (yes, this is what they call the rejects, which are sold at half price in a mix at the store - $9 for 2 pounds).

Amazingly, some of the boxes were being packed into bigger boxes by hand. And the sport beans (jelly beans with vitamins) were also packaged into boxes by hand. I'd figure they'd have machines for that type of thing.

There were videos at various stops to learn how the candy is made (the company actually makes 150 different candies, including candy corn, gummies and marshmallow Easter stuff). The tour guide did her canned speeches through a loud speaker (which was good because we were at the end).

A few interesting facts:

--They make 50 flavors of Jelly Bellies including some apparently flavored like mucous (how would they test that out?).

--Blueberry was introduced when Ronald Reagan became president, so they could have a red, white and blue mix. (You might recall that the Great Communicator was a big fan...and probably the company's favorite president, since he was responsible for upping their sales to a huge degree).
--It takes 7-21 days for a Jelly Belly to reach maturity.

--Their Belly Flops in the store came from their new Thailand factory. Go figure.

The videos were up high, but Zack and Dori had difficulty getting close enough to see (too many adults on the tour). The factory had some windows at their level to see the factory floor, but again, too few of them, and too many adults in the way.

Zack’s favorite part was seeing the crane that brought trays of Jelly Bellies to the machines that counted them out and sorted them. Dori’s favorite part was the sample bar at the gift shop.

While they have the Belly Flops in the factory store, there’s a smaller store (near the Jelly Belly CafĂ©) with sale items (like a bag of Valentine Jelly Bellies for $2). Head there for better deals (but less selection).

The real bummer is that we weren’t able to combine it with trip to the Anheuser-Busch factory tour, just a short distance away. Mark had happy memories of this tour from his bachelor party and thought the kids might enjoy a trip into his nostalgic past. Or maybe not.

Okay, the contest. To win a bag of Jelly Belly candy (one that they give out after you finish the tour), post with your guess for the three best-selling flavors of Jelly Bellies. The person who comes the closest wins (and if there’s a tie, I’ll pick a name from a hat from those who guess correctly).
Make sure to either put your email address on the posting, or email me ( with your email address and your guess (but you also have to post your guess to win). I'll only ship to a U.S. address. Contest ends July 1st.

The Jelly Belly Factory is open daily except major holidays. Check their website for more details, or call 1-800-9-JELLYBEAN


  1. I would guess that the top three flavors are bubblegum, buttered popcorn, and watermelon.

    Brad is sure that one of them should be tutti fruitti...

  2. Oooh, huge Jelly Belly fan. I'm going to guess blueberry, very cherry, and tutti-frutti. (I think your husband might be onto something Wojo!)


  3. Very cherry, buttered popcorn and chocolate pudding.
    And now I have to go buy some.

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. Very cherry, buttered popcorn, and licorice, but you can give my Jelly Bellies to Tracy if I win.

  6. very cherry, licorice, and watermelon

  7. tutti-fruiti, toasted marshmallow and cotton candy.

  8. maybe cherry, lemon, and buttered popcorn?

  9. Thank you for the interesting article. by the way I am the man who invented the Jelly Belly bean in 1976.....a documentary is coming out on my life any day now by Costa blog is and our website is again for a great article.........david klein