Tuesday, May 22, 2007
Jelly Belly is introducing a new product to their Confections line. Not quite a jelly bean and not quite a gummi bear, these are Licorice Bears. I previewed these little guys at the Fancy Food Show in January but it was nice to have more than three to give them a real taste drive.
These sassy, spicy and soft bears aren’t quite like black vine licorice either. The texture is rather like a smooth gumdrop. They’re made with corn syrup and a potato starch base, which makes them softer on the tongue and easier to dissolve than a wheat & molasses based vine. (All that ingredient talk really takes the magic out of it, doesn’t it?) The natural and artificially flavored bears are super sweet but have a nice woodsy and clear licorice/anise flavor to them.
The size and shape is rather close to the Haribo bears I’m so fond of.
I would find these irresistible in a bowl or jar in front of me. The bag I got as a preview sample from Jelly Belly is just about gone (and I just got it on Friday, which is saying a lot about my lack of control). I much prefer these to the black jelly beans, something about the consistent texture that I really like. Unlike Black Crows, they don’t stick to my teeth in the same way, either.
I’m not sure how easy these are going to be to find, I even had trouble finding them on the Jelly Belly site at first . But the price is decent enough, only a little more than Jelly Belly beans at $4.99 for the half pound bag. I’m rather fond of Licorice Pastels and I’m wondering if these could be panned with a crunchy candy shell ... that might be heavenly.
There’s no gelatin in this product, so it’s suitable for vegetarians (and I’m pretty sure they use American-grown beet sugar as well in all their products, so these would be okay even for vegans). There’s also no wheat in there.
(As a silly side note, I took that photo of the bag of Licorice Bears seen at the top. Later I went to the Jelly Belly site and found that while my photo looks lovely and professional, it also looks exactly like theirs which led me to wonder why I bothered taking mine. Oh well.)
UPDATE: It looks like Jelly Belly sent these samples out to a few places. Candy Addict’s Caitlin just posted her thoughts as well.
Monday, March 19, 2007
I found a great new candy store over the weekend. At the suggestion of a reader (thannks Jenny!) I journeyed to City of Commerce to visit Garvey Nut & Candy. It’s a warehouse, mostly wholesale, but they also sell retail. The bulk (and I mean bulk) of their products are sold in full cases, but it’s cash & carry, so no shipping costs incurred.
They had a small selection of items that were sold from open boxes. Just about all of it was from their Easter inventory. At FANTASTIC prices. One of the finds was the Jelly Belly Deluxe Easter Mix ... at $2.35 for a 9 ounce bag, it’s unheard of. The Jelly Belly online sells the same bag for $4.99 (in a prettier store, I’ll admit). If you’re planning a big party or wedding and live in the LA area, this might be just the place for you. High end chocolates and mints to bulk wrapped candies to nuts and nut mixes. For the Easter goodies they had the large packages of Peeps of all kinds for 99 cents, jelly beans (all sorts of Jelly Belly seasonal products), deluxe chocolate eggs (fudge, peanut butter, vanilla), baskets, tins and foil eggs by the kilo (some by Madelaine, which are quite tasty).
You may have to ask them for prices on many items and you may need help finding things. (Their website isn’t very good, so don’t bother.) They have funky hours too: 8AM - 4:30PM on weekdays and Saturday 9-2 (until Easter, then they’re closed on Saturdays until August). I’ll probably head back down there for a look at their Halloween goodies in the fall.
Garvey Nut & Candy
Okay, enough of that, you came here for some candy, didn’t you?
The Deluxe Easter Mix contains assorted pastel Jelly Bellys, bunny corn, mellocremes, gummi eggs and malted chocolate eggs. (It’s also supposed to contain chocolate eggs, but I picked through the bags to find one that had more malted eggs ... which I promptly ate. If you want a full account of them, check out Sera’s review at Candy Addict.)
The bulk of the mix seemed to be populated by these friendly fellows: Mellocremes. (Click on the photo for the full shape assortment.)
They’re flavored lightly: grape, lemon, lime, strawberry and vanilla. The flavors are light (especially light for a company that built itself on extra flavor). I didn’t care for lime at all, but the lemon and strawberry were quite nice. I don’t know which color was supposed to be vanilla (maybe there are white ones, I didn’t have any in my mix).
This is the Bunny Corn, and it’s pretty much the same recipe as the Mellocreme but a different shape. They tend to be a little firmer and as you might guess, they’re just like Candy Corn. They’re not flavored.
If the Mellocremes in white taste like this, I might be more fond of them. I rather like candy corn, in small doses.
There are only two colors on these, which seemed a little skimpy. Candy Corn usually has three colors (orange, yellow and white). But I guess Bunnies travel light.
The Jelly Belly website calls these Orange Creme Non-Pareil Eggs, which doesn’t really sound like much fun. So I’m going to call them Crunchy Gummi Eggs. They’re super-cute, with pastel colored crunchy spheres (non-pareils) on the outside and a tangy orange gummi on the inside. They’re larger than a jelly bean, about the size of a foil wrapped chocolate egg that you can often find in Easter baskets.
They’re much like the Crunchy Bears I reviewed a while back, except these only come in orange, which is fine by me. The gummi is super-soft and the crunchy coating gives it some fun ... it’s the crunchiest thing in the bag. Jelly Belly also makes a slightly related product with the Champagne Bubbles and Berries.
There were also some Jelly Belly scattered in, they came in Berry Blue, Cantaloupe, Cotton Candy, Island Punch, Lemon, Lemon Lime, Pi?a Colada, Pink Grapefruit, and looked oh-so-coordinated with everything else. (I picked out all the pink grapefruit while shooting the photos.)
Overall the mix was very pretty, and attractiveness is important with holiday candy. But I wasn’t really that keen on some of the elements (the Mellocremes, especially). It was a good introduction to the whole line of Easter treats, so now I know what to buy in a solo bag - the Orange Creme Non-Pareil Eggs. At normal mortal prices of $4.99 a bag, I’m not that wild about the whole shebang (so they get a 6 out of 10) as a sub-$2.50 find, they’re a 7 out of 10.
Friday, February 23, 2007
They’re premium lollipops in Jelly Belly flavors. I tried a good assortment of their current line, courtesy of many visits to their booth at the Fancy Food Show and rummaging around in the samples bin.
Sizzling Cinnamon - a pretty sassy flavor. Not too hot, but a little too “flavory” for me without the burn that I was hoping for. I mean, they put “sizzling” in the name.
Cotton Candy - sweet and plain and delicious.
Tangerine - softly orange with a subtle zesty hit. No tart ring to make it juicy.
Bubble Gum - this one is the most alarming looking, it’s a bright, opaque pink. A slight tutti frutti element to it, but not really that unlike Cotton Candy.
Lemon - I’d call this light lemon. It’s sweet and fruity but has no tangy element to it.
Root Beer - I was really looking forward to this one. It smelled sweet and earthy. It’s smooth, like a really dense Root Beer Barrel (but no sharp voids to cut your mouth). I was not disappointed, this is a real winner.
The quality of the candy is great. It’s very dense, ultra smooth and lasted a long time. However, the size and shape of the pop is a challenge. The bean is perpendicular to the stick, so it’s pretty wide (1.75”) for placing comfortably in the mouth. Sucking on them, because of the shape, also tends to be a little noisy, it took me a few pops before I got my consumption tactics honed to the point of silence. Another small pet peeve of mine with premium pops like this is that the stick is paper and you can suck air through when you dissolve far enough down on the stem, for reasons I don’t quite understand, this results in more slobber.
If you’ve ever had Linda’s Lollies, these are very similar. I think I still prefer the fruit flavors in Linda’s because they’re a little more rounded and of course there’s a much larger variety ... but she also has a 20 or so year head start.
The other flavors I didn’t try were Watermelon, Grape, Strawberry Cheesecake & Very Cherry.
These should be hitting stores soon, though there’s still nothing about them on the Jelly Belly website. You can order them on the web, but you have to get full cases of single flavors. Retail they’re supposed to go for 79 cents to 99 cents.
Thursday, October 19, 2006
Today there was news of TWO candy companies swallowing up others:
Jelly Belly has released word that they’re buying Ben Meyerson Candies based right here in Los Angeles. Ben Meyerson is known for their Big Cherry and line of Sunkist Fruit Gems. The manufacture of the Fruit Gems seems like a natural fit for Jelly Belly and facilities will migrate to Fairfield and/or Illinois. Ben Meyerson is a third generation family company and seems to be selling as Robert Meyerson, the current head, is retiring. Link to full story.
Hershey also announced today that it’s buying Dagoba, the Ashland, Oregon based chocolate company. This is the third small chocolate company Hershey has bought in the last 18 months (Joseph Schmidt and Scharffen Berger are the other two). No word in the articles I read as to whether Dagoba will fall under the Artisanal Chocolates umbrella that was formed to encompass JS & SB. Hershey has been making great strides towards more responsible cocoa growing, with their sponsorship of educational and outreach programs, especially in Africa. Hopefully their purchase of Dagoba will enable them to make Hershey the largest ethical chocolate company in the world (a girl can dream). Link to story.
Tuesday, August 01, 2006
One of the problems with getting “preview” candy from a trade show like All Candy Expo is that I never know what it’s actually going to look like in stores. One of the new products that I thought was pretty cool in concept was a new flavor assortment from Jelly Belly called Soda Pop Shoppe.
The flavor assortment includes: 7 Up, Dr. Pepper, A&W Root Beer, Orange Crush, and Grape Crush. What I find a little odd about this soda pop assortment is that there’s no cola in it. But it seems that the variety is determined by some sort of flavor licensing from the Cadbury Schweppes people.
I got this little 3/4 of an ounce packet as a sample, but the fun part about these is that they’re going to be packaged in soda bottles (1.5 ounces in a bottle). Sounds like a good way to share and to reseal them.
7 Up: a nice lemon lime with a good zesty hit at the front that gives it a slight bitter bite. There’s no tangy component though.
Dr. Pepper: I’ve never been a fan of Dr. Pepper (or Mr. Pibb) but these seem to taste pretty faithful.
A&W Root Beer: these look almost like the Dr. Pepper, so be careful. Nice root beer flavor with a little creamy finish to it, like a foamy head.
Orange Crush: This one’s a real winner. Tangy with a slight effervescent quality and a nice fake orange flavor.
Grape Crush: a little too sweet and not tart enough for my tastes, but then again I outgrew my appreciation of grape soda when I was twelve.
I’m a little confused if the A&W Cream Soda flavor is supposed to be in this mix or not, but it would sure fit well, but I wouldn’t miss it if it doesn’t make it.
These should be available in stores next month and might make nice stocking stuffers for Christmas. I like all of the flavors in here except for the Dr. Pepper, which could easily be plucked out and set aside for someone else. I think the real surprise flavor here is the 7 UP which was far more complex than I’d figured it would be.
Thursday, March 16, 2006
The traditional icon for Easter candy has always been Jelly Beans. I’m not sure when they were invented, but they’re a great candy because they are their own wrapper. You can hold them in your hand and unless you’re exceptionally sweaty, they don’t melt. Back in the day jelly beans were like gumdrops and came in spice flavors. Sometime late in the last century this changed and spice beans fell out of favor and now just about all jelly beans are fruit flavored.
The Starburst Jelly Beans are really fruity flavored jelly beans. A little smaller than the old fashioned spice ones but not as small as a Jelly Belly. They come in Cherry, Strawberry, Green Apple, Orange, Lemon and Grape. Like Jelly Belly, the Starburst beans use both a flavored center and flavored shell to maximize the taste. The Starburst beans are zesty and fruity, with a nice ring of tart. The shell, though a little grainy at first when you chew it, dissolves nicely. The whole candy dissolves very well instead of sticking like the Jelly Belly tend to do. (Note: Starburst Jelly Beans are made in Mexico.)
Here’s the array to match up the flavors of (Jelly Belly) and Starbursts for my taste test. From top left to lower right it goes: (Green Apple) Green Apple, (Blueberry) Grape, (Orange) Orange, (Strawberry Daquiri) Strawberry, (Lemon) Lemon, (Very Cherry) Cherry.
I’ve already said lots about the Jelly Belly. I think they’re fantastic jelly beans. I don’t really care for the flavor mix boxes, I prefer to pick out my own jelly bean flavors. I usually go with a citrus mix of the various lemons, orange, tangerine and grapefruit and maybe a little pina colada.
What I prefer about the Starburst is that there’s just fewer flavors, and the colors are pretty easy to distinguish so there are no surprises. I found the cherry flavor okay and if I had to drop a flavor, it’d be the grape.
When I was at the store it was obvious that there’s been an explosion of jelly bean brands. Everyone is making them now. You can get Lifesaver branded ones, Ferrara Pan, SweeTarts, Starburst has several other flavor mixes ... I could go on and on. If you’re looking for value, well, the Starburst are FAR less expensive and with Easter candy half the fun is the insane quantity. Really, you can’t go wrong with jelly beans. What I always liked about jelly beans is that they were a candy you could leave out, unwrapped, in a bowl or in the grass of your Easter basket and as long as they didn’t get wet, they seemed to stay fresh forever. Well, I’ve never tested forever ... a jelly bean never lasted long in my house.
If you’ve tried these or one of the other brands of jelly beans, like SweeTarts or Lifesavers, what did you think?
Monday, January 23, 2006
I saw this article today about Jelly Belly chairman, Herman Rowland.
It’s an interesting profile of the man, who is of course a little unorthodox. I’ve found in my reading and research that most candy folks are a little unusual in one respect or another.
The saddest thing mentioned in the article though is that Rowland is now a diabetic, which must be especially difficult for a sugar candymaker (instead of one that makes chocolate which is often better tolerated by diabetics). Other interesting notes in the article is the recent announcement that Jelly Belly is opening a factory in Thailand. What’s surprising about this is that the factory will make candy only for non-American venues. The Jelly Belly factory in Fairfield, CA, will continue to supply America will Jelly Bellys even though it’d be cheaper to take the factory overseas and not be subject to America’s backwards domestic sugar regulations.
The way Nestle is getting around the American sugar problem is they’re manufacturing most of their candy in Brazil and importing it.
The other announcement in the article is that Jelly Belly will be introducing new flavors at the Winter Fancy Food Show in San Francisco. I got to taste the newest one, Pomegranate, when I was at the factory last month, I’m not sure if that’s one that’s getting its new release now. (It’s still not on the website.)
Finally, JellyBelly.com just relaunched late last week with an all new site. The navigation is much improved over the old one which had some things that I wanted buried in submenus. But I’m a little annoyed by the height of the header graphic/menu (which means more scrolling for main content even on my big screen, but then again CandyBlog.net readers probably do a lot of scrolling, too). The other sad thing is that they have these great downloadable desktop images but nothing new for January. But the news section includes info about their new company store and they’ve filled out their section on visiting them at these locations. The cool thing about visiting an official Jelly Belly store? They offer their comprehensive tasting bar. Never get a Jelly Belly you don’t like again.
Monday, December 19, 2005
One of the best things about candy is that the manufacture of it is as delightful as the shopping and tasting part. It’s not at all like the whole “where does meat come from” thing, knowing how the candy is made actually makes me appreciate it more. I was in San Francisco a few weeks ago and set some time aside to head out to Fairfield to visit the Jelly Belly factory.
The location is rather ordinary, right off the highway in an industrial park that holds a few other confectionary concerns and an olive oil place, too. As unassuming and corporate as the outside looks, as we all know about jelly beans, it’s the inside that matters.
Jelly Belly has an exceptional free tour for anyone who makes the forty minute trip from San Francisco, but I was lucky enough to get a personal tour from Tomi Holt, the publicist for Jelly Belly.
Or first stop was actually the tasting bar at the factory store. This is actually the best reason for the drive. You can try EVERYTHING they make here. They have all of their candies available for tasting, every jelly bean, every JBz, all of the licorice, the fruit jellies and even the gummis and sugar free assortments. If you’ve ever been curious about anything that they make, this is the place to try it. I had a few JBz and some of the new mint trio Jelly Bellies before we donned our hairnets.
I got the star treatment with full access to the factory floor (regular visitors are restricted to balcony area that still gives an impressive view of all aspects of the process and of course the smells). Jelly Belly built the factory in 1986, but what’s really fascinating is that the Goelitz, owner of Jelly Belly, has been making candy since 1869 and has been in business since 1896. Goelitz is best known for their excellent candy corn, which is made by many companies, but Goelitz is often credited as the first one to make they layered orange, yellow and white version which has certainly become the standard.
The Jelly Belly factory is a huge facility that produces hundreds of different kinds of candy (most of them jelly beans) but they also do panned nuts (Jordan almonds), chocolates (JBz, Chocolate Malt Balls, Dutch Mints), gummi bears, licorice (pastels & bridge mix) and jellies (raspberries, fruit jellies & peach jells). Just about all of their candies are panned. Panning is a process where a candy center is created and then tossed into a huge pan that looks like a cement mixer. Syrups, flavors, colors and/or chocolate are added to coat the candy center, layer upon layer, until the candy is just right and can be polished up and packaged.
First, just about all Jelly Belly candies start as a sugar/corn syrup and corn starch mixture that’s boiled to the appropriate temperature and mixed with whatever flavors the recipe requires. Many recipes contain real flavor ingredients - so blueberry Jelly Bellies have blueberry puree in there. The biggest difference between Jelly Belly jelly beans and most others is that they flavor the center. An ordinary jelly bean is just a plain sugar jelly. A Jelly Belly will have a specific flavored center and then an additionally flavored shell.
On the day I was there, they were making jelly beans. Lots and lots of jelly beans. We started in the kitchen which is a hot room with several large machines side by side. Okay, it doesn’t look much like my kitchen, but it did smell like pina colada. It was here that Tomi showed me the secret to most the jelly candies that we all know and love. Corn Starch Trays. Each bean is molded by depositing the hot candy soup into a tray made from plain old powdered corn starch.
Picture a deep cookie pan filled with corn starch, then it goes through a conveyer where a mold of the centers is pressed into the corn starch (1,260 per tray). The starch is just stiff enough to hold the form and a little further down the line the depositor squirts the little center in there. While I was there watching one of the candy makers was there watching the consistency of the jelly to assure the quality. The starch trays are unloaded from the conveyer onto open racks where they set up for a day in the climate controlled room.
Next the trays are then dumped out—each tray is turned over where the corn starch falls apart and the centers are sifted to remove the corn starch that clings to it. The corn starch is sifted and reused for new trays. Then they go onto a conveyer where they get a quick steaming to get them a little sticky and they are “sanded” with sugar. For some candies like a fruit pectin, this would be the end of the line. But the Jelly Belly is just getting started. Tomi pulled some of these out for us to try (they were still warm from the steaming)—they were orange. Instead of the zesty tart flavor, these were must mellow and sweet with a nice boost of orange essence. I knew it was going to be interesting to see how a Jelly Belly is built.
The Jelly Bellies get loaded intro trays where they cool, set and wait for their next coat. As most of the centers can look the same, each tray is marked with codes and dates. Different centers get different treatment as some get more rest or less rest before and after their engrossing. Each tray weighs 25 pounds when filled with the Jelly Belly centers. At their appointed time the centers are sent to the engrossing pans. 10 trays of 25 pounds of centers are dumped into one of the pans. Then a master confectioner mixes up the elixir that becomes the candy shell. It’s a tricky process that involves a bit of art as they tumble the centers and pour in pitchers of the mixtures and sometimes use air blowers to speed the process.
It takes four coats over about two hours to make the shell and they keep dozens of these panning machines going at any time. So, have you been wondering how much of a Jelly Belly is shell? I asked one of the confectioners there as he was turning off the rumbling, tumbling machines and he said that they put in ten trays of centers, which weigh 25 pounds each. And when they’re done, they get about 375 pounds of beans out—that’s right, one third of the weight of a Jelly Belly is its shell. What’s more, that confectioner added more than 125 pounds of syrups and flavors to the engrossing beans—you’d have to account for evaporation, which is part of the shell making process. It’s a grueling job, if you ask me. There they are, all day pouring and managing these tumbling pans. There are fifty different standard Jelly Belly flavors alone, so the list of possible combinations is huge. It’s a really interesting process. While we were on the floor one row of pans was making Sizzling Cinnamon and the other was working on Tangerine. The smell of the cinnamon was pretty overwhelming. I’m just glad they weren’t making their newest flavor, Roasted Garlic.
You may have noticed that some Jelly Bellies have mottled colors. Those are added at the very end with special coloring agents that don’t integrate into the whole shell.
The beans are then tumbled again in another pan to polish them up with a confectioner’s glaze. It’s kind of like a rock tumbler.
Then the trays go back to the warehouse to wait. The beans’ flavors integrate while they cure and then when they’re ready to go they get loaded back onto a conveyer where they are sorted into a tray that places them in a huge printer that gives them their white ‘brand’ of Jelly Belly. All Jelly Bellies get printed in white, even the white ones. It’s this extra step that you can use to make sure that the bulk beans that you’re buying out of a bin at a candy shop are real Jelly Bellies.
Once the beans are branded, they’re boxed. The beans are stored in the cardboard boxes until they’re called for, for whatever mix they’re making. They un-box the beans onto a huge conveyer that sends them to a tumbler that mixes them together. The tumbler we got close to was making a combo that looked like sour lime and orange—kind of like peas and carrots. It’s mesmerizing to see them tumbling in mesh drums that must be four feet high with little holes in it that keep the air moving and the rejected small jelly beans will fall through. The noise is incredible, you wouldn’t think that so many jelly beans just rustling around could be so loud, but most of the crew on the floor in this area of the factory wears ear protection.
All along the way are the factory personnel assuring the quality of the beans, but there are mechanical methods as well. If a bean makes it all the way through the process to be a “complete” bean but is rejected for size or shape, they’re called a “Belly Flop.” Belly Flops can be purchased in one place, the Jelly Belly factory. When I was there they were selling them in various mixes for half the price of real Jelly Bellies.
At the end of the factory part Tomi and I went back to the lobby where she took me through the wall of history that detailed the rise of the company, the family history and of course the Ronald Regan memorabilia (he was a huge fan of the confections since they started and could be credited for bringing them to national attention in the early eighties).
Of course at the end of that Tomi and I adjourned to the factory store again and spent more time with Barbara at the tasting bar where she continued to feed us whatever we wanted to taste. I even gave some of the Bertie Botts(tm) flavors a try and rather liked the grass, black pepper and soap flavors. But what impressed me most after tasting such a wide range of the products they offered, no matter whether they were to my liking or not, the quality is excellent. The amount of flavor they pack into such small bits of candy is amazing and obviously is what sets Jelly Bellies apart from other jelly beans. The strange thing is that when I went on the tour I was pretty much neutral on Jelly Belly. They’re good, I never argued with the quality, but now that I’ve seen them made and tasted the full range of flavors, I’m hooked on some of their other products. See my full review for an exhaustive list of some of the things I’ve tried in the past few weeks.
They run the tours six days a week, but the factory doesn’t operate on Saturdays, so try to make it on a weekday for the full experience. Check their website or call ahead for hours. They also have a cafe on site (and a room you can rent for parties).
Also, if you’re in the Midwest you can tour their Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin warehouse too, which also has a full store and tasting bar.
(All inside the factory photos courtesy of Jelly Belly.)
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.