Jelly Beans Remain Unchanged 100 Years Later

Jelly beans, the chewy candy with a hard shell, was once thought to be related to Turkish Delight but eventually food historians agreed that it is an all-American food item created by William Schrafft, a Boston confectioner. While the price of jelly beans has changed from $0.09 a pound to almost $8 a pound, the shape and form of this little confectionery have remained the same after more than a hundred years. Latest trends call for “natural” food items which translate to food that is healthier and better for us. So, new jelly bean launches now use animal gelatin-free ingredients while still retaining its original shape, flavor, and color. Some manufacturers worry that the candy will never be the same again without gluten, but there are still challenges to reduce the sugar, artificial flavors, and color of jelly beans.


Jelly Beans: Private Label vs. The Brands

The jelly bean has become synonymous with Easter because of its ovoid shape and hard shell. After more than a century in the market, it had been sold in bulk with very little personality. Until 1976, when the jelly bean was re-marketed by The Jelly Belly Company as a new gourmet product. Jelly Belly used natural fruit purees and thus opened the doors for a wide variety of flavors. Have you ever tasted Jelly Belly’s pancake and maple syrup jelly beans? The company’s approach is to encourage customers to create their unique jelly bean flavor by combining different beans.



But other than innovating the flavor of the jelly bean, there were hardly any other changes to the candy. It is believed that the product’s association with the holidays made its innovation slower than ever. Tradition has made it a staple during Easter and Christmas. Therefore, it will less likely be considered a sophisticated candy that needs to be updated and periodically improved.



Private labels have positioned themselves as “gourmet” jelly bean manufacturers. The small private label brands now hold roughly 15% market share in the products launched in the past two years. Private labels may not have as many flavors as the Jelly Belly Company, but the industry has successfully gathered a large following in offering GMO-free, gluten-free and nut-free confectionaries. The claims of getting a gluten-free or allergen-free jelly bean variety may attract some customers especially those that are looking for candies that will fit particular dietary needs.

The jelly bean has seen little innovation over the past 100 years, and it will struggle to find any soon. Reducing the sugars and artificial flavors will be the biggest challenge for even the most forward-thinking companies in the jelly bean category.

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