This year I took a mini “staycation” for spring break week… to the Jelly Belly Factory!
I love taking factory tours. I’ve been to Celestial Seasonings, Budweiser, and Hershey. I guess my first “factory” tour was in elementary school with my Girl Scout troupe, when we toured the local Carl’s Junior kitchen. It is fascinating to see how things are made and where food comes from. Maybe that’s also why I love gardening!
Although spring break week is the busiest week of the year for Jelly Belly Tours, I still opted to brave the hour long line and hordes of families with small children in order to indulge in the seasonal festivity. I did, however, pass up the opportunity to visit the Easter Bunny who was doing his rounds at the factory.
The tour was excellent. The tour circles the factory on the upper level, so you can look down on the staff and machines while they work. The Fairfield factory is a smaller production site, but they still do all the steps there. It takes more than a week to create each bean, and the tour lets you to see the process while the tour guides do an excellent job of explaining everything from the history of the company to the flavors that are most popular in different countries.
All around the lobby, gift shop and tour route are the most amazing food-art portraits, all made out of Jelly Belly beans. From Marilyn Monroe to the Pope, each large portrait uses the bright array of bean colors to create the image, like giant sugary mosaics. Nearly all of them were created by one artist, who takes about six months to produce a single portrait.
Of course no factory tour would be complete without tasting the product. The tour itself included several samples: a new flavor (cantaloupe), several half-finished beans to see what they’re like at different stages of production, and some freebies to take home at the end (plus a cool paper hat).
Naturally, the tour ends at the gift shop, but that’s part of the fun! Walls of colors of jelly beans, a chocolate shop selling fudge in matching jelly belly flavors… I felt like, well, a kid in a candy shop. And of course I had to buy some Belly Flops: Jelly Beans that didn’t meet the standards for shape, color, or were stuck together.
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