Sorry for the long absence from Bay Area Weekend, folks! I’ve been very busy the last few months with work and my new blog that recently launched (Thoughtsicle: A place to defrost your brain).
I promise that I’m going to make an effort to keep up with Bay Area Weekend more in the future, though. You have my word! 🙂
Jelly Belly Factory Tour
Last weekend, Jon and I decided to spend our Sunday at the Jelly Belly Factory in Fairfield, CA. We enjoyed blue skies and blasted the AC on the way up because it was a sweltering 89 degrees Fahrenheit outside.
Upon arrival, we laughed at the Jelly Belly themed vehicles parked around the parking lot.
Because of the heat, we didn’t want to stop long for lots of photos, but we did happen to snap a few.
Jelly Belly used to offer guided tours of the factory every 15 minutes, but now everything is self-guided. We approached the help desk at the front of the atrium and the man working the desk handed us two super fashionable hats (you are required to wear them when inside the factory!) and instructed us to go upstairs to start the tour.
Jon and I loved the wall decorated with jelly beans so we stopped for a selfie before starting.
Right at the beginning there was a photo op where we got our picture taken with Mr. Jelly Belly by a professional photographer. Unfortunately, they are not allowed to take cellphone pictures since there is a copyright issue, but we were given the option to buy the prints at the end of the tour.
The tour began in the packaging department.
All along the way there were videos, which lasted about 30 seconds to 1 minute each, that took the place of a tour guide. The videos were very high quality as well as informative about what was happening in the factory below.
(Please note that if you go on the weekend, like we did, there will not be anyone working on the factory floor. The videos still show you what would be going on so it’s not too big of a deal.)
After the packaging department, we made our way into the cooking area. Here there were giant, round barrels that looked like cement mixers. These are used to mix the ingredients to make the gooey inner bean.
We took a quick detour down a hallway that had the moulds used for the jelly beans as well as many other forms of candy they produce at the factory.
I loved seeing the mould for the gummy rats because those were my favorite when I was a kid!
Once the candy slurry (inner part of the jelly bean) finishes hardening into its proper shape, the beans are tossed into more of the round mixers. At this point, the professional Jelly Belly makers add syrup and sugar in alternation until the inner coating is complete.
Next, the beans are left to cool off for a while until they are ready to gain their shiny gloss coating. We loved seeing all of the muted colors.
The next step is for the glossy coating to be added. It was a little hard to see this part of the factory floor since the lights were off, but it looked like the beans go through similar mixers again, except this time the ingredients for the shiny coating are added.
The last step of bean creation for packaging is to let the finished beans cool. There was a MASSIVE room in the factory dedicated to just this.
Along the way there were lots of trinkets, fun facts, and Jelly Belly art to look at. Jelly bean art is actually a very popular thing. There must have been around 50 different creations to look at along the tour!
We had a little bit of fun using Snapchat’s faceswap feature…
There was a glass case full of special US government-themed Jelly Beans.
According to the Reagan Library Archives, that all started in 1966 when Ronald Reagan was running for governor of California. He began eating Goelitz Jelly Beans (which later became Jelly Belly jelly beans) in order to stop smoking. Goelitz always sent Reagan shipments of jelly beans while he was in office, a tradition which continued through all eight years of Reagan’s presidency.
Besides just watching videos and observing the factory floor, there were lots of other things to enjoy on the tour as well. One hallway had a smell-test game. The game involved reading the hint printed on the bean book, pressing the button, and then taking a whiff in order to guess the flavor. After guessing, we opened the little bean booklet in the front to see if we got the answer right.
Jon and I were 9/10 for bean smells!
There were also some arcade-like games on the way that looked like fun, but there were lots of kids in line and Jon and I didn’t feel like waiting so we didn’t play.
At the end of the tour we got a bag of 20 flavor jelly beans to enjoy and also got to see our picture with Mr. Jelly Belly. We decided not to buy the photo since it was a little pricey and we wanted to save our money to buy jelly beans at the store!
If you want to learn more about how Jelly Belly jelly beans are made, watch this Youtube video!
Jelly Belly Store and Cafe
After the tour, Jon and I went to the Jelly Belly Cafe to sit down and enjoy our free beans.
The hats we were given doubled as a great way to hold the beans and pick out flavors.
After finishing our bags, we headed to the taste testing section. Sadly, we were only allowed to sample 3 beans each. I tried the Pancakes & Maple Syrup, Cranberry, and Pumpkin Pie and I loved all of them! The Pancakes & Maple Syrup flavors really tasted authentic. Jon tried the Cranberry, TOBASCO, and Beer. He didn’t really care for the latter two.
And now, let me share with you the best part about visiting the Jelly Belly Factory: Belly Flops. What are Belly Flops? Well, they are all of the jelly beans that didn’t quite make the cut. Some are too small, some are too big, some are stuck together, some didn’t get the right coating. But fret not, they are still delicious. And what’s even better, they are much cheaper than buying regular jelly beans! While we were at the store, the 2lb bags were $10 each, and they had a special deal where if you buy 3 bags, you get 2 free.
Of course, we tried to only buy one bag, but then we decided to buy my parents a bag for letting us use their car, and then of course it would have been stupid to not buy one more bag so we get two extra free. I’m not really sure what we’re going to do with the 8lbs of jelly beans we now have, but I’m sure we’ll figure it out! I’m thinking they’ll make great gifts and party snacks!
Beware when plugging this into your GPS! We accidentally ended up about 15 minutes away from the factory in downtown Fairfield because that’s what came up first on our GPS. The location you’re looking for is on Jelly Belly Lane (adorable, right?).
There is a huge parking lot with plenty of parking, so no need to worry too much about that. If you’re coming from the bay area, you will be crossing the Benecia Bridge so remember to bring your FasTrak!
The Jelly Belly Factory is a great activity for all ages. We saw lots of families with children, but we also weren’t the only adults sans children. Since the tour is free, this is a great way to save money while staying entertained for an afternoon (as long as you can stop yourself from spending $$$ on Belly Flops!). Everything about the tour is indoors so no need to worry about the weather either.
You can visit Jelly Belly’s website for more details on hours and tours!
Jon and I had a fabulous time at the Jelly Belly Factory and are hoping to go back sometime during the week with his niece so we can see the factory in action!
Have you ever been to the Jelly Belly Factory or any other kind of candy factory? Give me some recommendations! I remember going to the Hershey factory in Modesto, CA as a kid, but sadly they don’t offer tours anymore. Maybe someday I’ll make it to Pennsylvania to see the real thing! In the meantime, I’ve got to finish my 8lbs of jelly beans…