A Peek Inside the Jelly Belly Factory

Jelly beans can be sweet, savory, disgusting and even polarizing. People love these tasty treats deformed or perfectly shaped. And an artist can cleverly assemble them into depictions of former presidents Ronald Reagan and George Washington.

I never thought too deeply about the Jelly Belly jelly bean until I gave into the desire to tour the candy company’s factory in Fairfield. My excuse? Its visitor center just rolled out an updated interactive self-guided tour featuring new HD/4K videos, games and incredibly popular “smell stations.”

Also, they give out free samples.

Push through a crowd of enthusiastic children to take a whiff of America’s favorite jelly bean (Very Cherry). Lean in to smell the world’s first savory jelly bean flavor (Buttered Popcorn). Do you like things that taste gross? Learn about the game BeanBoozled, featuring such flavors as Barf and Lawn Clippings.

The most controversial jelly beans amongst candy aficionados are Buttered Popcorn and Licorice, according to Jana Sanders Perry, communications manager for Jelly Belly.

“They are our most polarizing flavors,” she said, “People either love them or hate them.”

Perry accompanied me and my 5 year old on our journey through this land of sweets, but the new tour is actually meant for guests to explore without a guide. Visitors can go at their own pace through a quarter-mile long elevated corridor and watch the jelly bean in its various stages of creation on the floor below. Factory workers ignore their audience as they diligently guide a rainbow of confection through machines and into boxes.

Plan to spend at least a half hour to 45 minutes experiencing the full tour. Make a stop at the computer-generated soccer-type game called Bean Blitz and test your Belly Flop IQ with a hand-eye coordination activity to find misshapen jelly beans.

Interactive elements and videos were not available in the previous tour, which staff guided through the factory every 20 minutes. Perry said visitor attendance is up 30 percent since the candy company launched the updated tour on June 18.

The Jelly Belly Visitor Center receives about 500,000 guests a year.  

Since the 1980s, the company has commissioned artwork created entirely of jelly beans. Spot pictures along the tour and in the gallery by resident artist Kristen Cumings portraying famous presidents and actors, endangered species and re-creations of masterpieces.

Some grown-ups might be ready for a drink after taking such an in-depth look at the jelly bean. Jelly Belly also makes its own chocolate and provides a room at the end of the tour to pair chocolate with local wine from the Suisun Valley between 11am-4pm.

The wine and chocolate pairing is $15 (with nonalcoholic options for kids) but the Jelly Belly Factory Tour is free. It’s offered every day between 9am-4pm at 1 Jelly Belly Lane in Fairfield. 

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