A slow pacing days before the 4th of July I decided to take my Mom, Aunt Gie and Sam to the jellybean factory at Fairfield, the Jelly Belly. Its almost two hours away and the freeway was busy with traffic and I was lost for a little bit but it was easy to find. Your GPS will be able to get you there in no time. Once parked underneath the shade of a tree we went down and proceed to the entrance of the Jelly Belly building, where a giant, green jellybean greeted us.
Since its a holiday weekend the factory was filled with people. Once inside by the shop a booth in the middle is the information and the person there will tell you to join the line for the tour. We didn’t wait for too long and as rule each of us were given a Jelly Belly paper hat. Then we were instructed to climb the stairs and we follow the line and there we were told to watch the history of the Jelly Belly factory in the tv screen in front of us. It was an interesting story from the humble beginnings of the Goelitz Family immigrating from Germany.
The Early Years
“Shortly after the Civil War, two young brothers came to America from their family home in the Harz Mountain region of Germany. There were thousands like them, part of the huge wave of European immigration that began in the 1830s and would well into the 20th century.
Gustav Goelitz and his younger brother Albert traveled to Illinois to join an uncle who had emigrated in 1834. Within two years, Gustav, 24 and Albert, 21 opened a candy making business in a Belleville, Illinois storefront. Gustav made the candy and handled store operations. Albert sold the candy to the surrounding, towns and villages from a horsedrawn wagon. The business did well, they raised families and opened additional plants. In time, Gustav’s sons worked in the business learning the trade.”
But economic upheaval intervened when the Panic of 1893, one of the worst depressions in American history, plagued the country for the next four years. Paper money was double the value of the gold backing it. Widespread unemployment, falling prices and labor unrest affected the Goelitz Brothers Candy Co. as it did thousands of businesses.
Gustav and Albert were forced to assign assets to creditors and sell the business. Albert stayed on the road selling candy for another company until his death at the age of 80. Gustav never recovered. He died in 1901, a week short of his 56th birthday.
That was only the beginning. In 1898, Gustav’s sons continued the family tradition and established the candy making company we honor and celebrate today. For the following generations of the Goelitz family and their partners and in-laws, the Kelleys, making the highest quality candy is a tradition.“
Very Cherry Lane
The first station we went to was the Very Cherry Lane where one can see the packaging area and some history of the company. There was also a collection of “paintings” of individuals made of jelly beans. Including the most famous customer, former President Ronald Reagan whose favorite jelly bean flavor is Licorice. Also a nice trivia is the world’s first savory flavored of the jelly bean is Buttered Popcorn. Here is the continue journey of a family to build the jelly bean empire.
The Second Generation: Candy Corn Fame
“The two eldest sons of Gustav had worked in their father’s candy business, then set out on their own. Adolph opened a Cincinnati based candy company with the help of his friend and neighbor William Kelley. Soon his brothers, Gus Jr. and Herman, would join him there. In 1901 they hired Will Kelley’s cousin, Edward Kelley, as a bookkeeper. Ed fell in love with one of the Goelitz sisters, Joanna, and married her, formally joining the Goelitz and Kelley clans into a family partnership. These family members would build the company beyond the wildest dreams of the previous generation.
The turn of the last century was a good time for the candy business. Over a thousand candy manufacturers in the country employed an estimated 27,000 workers. Goelitz Confectionery Co. was one which prospered. By 1912, the company was turning away orders for lack of production capacity.
A factory town along the north shores of Lake Michigan offering rail service and affordable land was selected for a new plant. The move to North Chicago was a good one. When the income tax was introduced in 1913, it forced many mom-and-pop candy makers to keep business. Many failed, but Goelitz was already firmly established. Butter creams, later known as mellocremes, were the primary products of the company.
While licorice, chocolates and peppermints were also available, butter creams kept the business growing for the next five decades. The single best seller? Candy Corn.According to tradition, candy corn was invented in the 1880s. Company records show Goelitz making candy corn by 1900.”
They turned it into a runaway success, and became known for the finest candy corn on the market.
Green Apple Road
Our next stop on the tour was the Green Apple Road where once can see the Kitchen-Mogul-Bean Soccer game were included. We were first greeted by the list of equipment use for making those sweets. The equipment varies from different era of the factory’s production.
We also caught a glimpse of the Kitchen area but today its all dead. Everything was on a standstill maybe because its the weekend. Then after that there was a small corridor leading to another glass case of the company’s equipment such as the mould impressions of the Jelly beans and candy corn. There is also a diagram of how the jelly beans are blended together. Here is the third part of the family/company history.
Candy Making: Life in the Factory
“The factory was generally hot, particularly through Midwest summers. Air conditioning had not become prevalent and even electric fans were not much in use. In the kitchen, where more heat was generated, the men often removed their white shirts in an attempt to stay cool while they cooked up as many as 50 batches of candy a day.
The typical worker put in six days, ten hours a day. For that effort the average salary in 1900 was $5.22 a week. By 1917 the weekly salary rose to $11.18.
Large kettles were used for cooking sugar, water and corn syrup into slurry. The butter cream recipe required whipping in fondant for smooth texture, and marshmallow for a soft bite. The hot candy was then poured into “runners,” hand-held buckets, each one holding 45 pounds.
Men working as “stringers” would walk backward pouring the steaming candy into trays of cornstarch imprinted with kernel-shaped molds. For candy corn, three passes were needed for the orange, white and yellow colors, a strenuous job by any standard.
Finally, customer orders had to be filled and shipped. Originally, wooden buckets, tubs and cartons were used to pack the candy. Labels were affixed with paste the workers made themselves. Wagons delivered the orders to customers in the area, while railroad cars handled the longer distances. Still, shipping candy very long distances was not attempted because of perishability.
Although candy production is now aided by computers and machinery, the essential process and the secret Goelitz Candy Corn recipe remain the same today.”
After seeing the mould impressions on glass cases we moved and passing by cases of jellybeans. I think there were thousands of them. We turn right and finally entered a new avenue.
It said this was where the robots and the finishing line was. There weren’t plenty of people on this avenue and maybe because its short and there’s really nothing to see. We walked around and saw more cases of different colors all stack up high to 16 cases each. Here is the continuation of the history.
Five Decades: Best of Times, Worst of Times
“During World War I anti-German sentiment ran strong in America. It was likely a difficult time for the family, but the company supported the war, and at least one son served in the Navy.
It was also a time of turmoil within the company. Each of the family members had a turn at the helm. Ultimately, Gus Jr. left the business altogether, while Herman went West to open his own company. The Herman Goelitz Candy Co. began making what Herman knew best-candy corn. Since the confectionery industry was regional, his business was not in competition with the rest of the family.
Another 58 years would pass before the family would be reunited into a single candy making company.
The 20s were good years for the two companies, but then the Great Depression spread across the country sweeping up businesses and jobs. In one year alone 878 candy manufacturers went into bankruptcy. Cash in banks was lost, and sales plummeted. Candy corn, which sold for 16¢ a pound in the 20s, was going for 8½¢ ten years later.
While consumption of candy declined during the Depression, it soared 30% during World War II, even as production was limited by sugar rationing, transportation difficulties, manpower shortages, and price controls. Goelitz was making candy in the face of all obstacles, and selling as much as they could make. One desperate customer even offered trading nylons for a candy shipment. Then, a post-war boom saw demand zoom up another 60%. It had been the worst of times and the best of times.”
There wasn’t really a lot to see on Tangerine Avenue so we moved to Lemon Way, where Bean sorting game and packaging is located. We saw some interactive games and me and Sam played with a game on screen of picking out jellybeans. For me this was the most fun part because we saw a very long conveyor belt that cross around the area. The workers were throwing different colors of jellybeans and it moves on and up the mixer where it would be mix together and put in a box. Here is the continuation the history.
The Third Generation: From Crisis to Diversification
“As the third generation of the candy making family began to work in the California and Illinois companies, other manufacturers had moved into the candy corn category and began undercutting prices. The limited product line was hurting the businesses.
William Kelley and his California cousin, Herman Rowland, descendants of Gustav Goelitz, were young and energetic. Both knew expansion was the key to the future. It was clear that the time had come to either diversify the product line or get out of the business. Herm had already been advised by one banker to sell the company’s assets and walk away, rather than expand. Expansion plans continued anyway.
In 1975, skyrocketing prices for sugar squeezed the candy business as buyers held back orders in hopes of waiting out the crisis. The bottom fell out of the market, and many in the industry went out of business.
Bill shut the North Chicago plant for a couple of months to buy time. In California, Herm had already begun branching out and borrowed heavily to buy sugar to continue to produce.
Through grit, determination and a vision for the future, the cousins each weathered the storm. They began to make more than mellocremes, and found willing buyers. It was in this environment that the biggest change in the history of the family was bout to take place.”
We waited on this avenue for Mom and Tagie and they finally managed to catch up with us. The whole tour was a loop and we went back to where we started, the Very Cherry Lane. Then we walked out of the tour area passing the statues or figures made of jellybeans. We were also given a bag of samples which is very nice.
On our way, we have passed by the jellybean gallery. Where famous pictures or paintings were recreated using jellybeans. It was funny and amazing at the same time. I wonder if ants can penetrate to those glasses if the frame has small holes in it. Anyway, Mom, Tagie and Sam hand their picture taken with Jelly Belly’s famous customers The Reagans. By the way here is the rest of the history.
Hitting the Big Time: The Jelly Belly Rocket
“A request for a new kind of jelly bean came to Herm Rowland one day in California. David Klein, a driver for a candy distributor, had a childhood dream to create “the Rolls Royce of jelly beans.” Since the Goelitz name enjoyed a reputation for quality, David knew Goelitz candy makers could make the vision into a reality.
Eight flavors of this small, intensely flavored jelly bean were crafted in the summer of 1976. Unusual flavors, such as root beer and cream soda had never before been made into a jelly bean. They were called Jelly Belly’s jelly beans, the name derived from a rhyme with Leadbelly, the 1920s blues singer. And, they would be sold as individual flavors, a novel change from the usual mixed bag of jelly beans.
Sales grew, then grew some more. Jelly Belly beans were tolling out the door at a faster and faster rate. California needed additional production to meet the sales. Herm turned to Bill Kelley in Illinois, and the two cousins reunited the candy making family into a single company for the first time in five decades.
America learned about the Jelly Belly bean in a big way during the 1980 presidential election.
Soon they were seen in the White House, and the public glamored for more. Round-the-clock shifts worked to meet the demand. Orders from current retail stores were booked two years in advance of being able to ship them.
After the media attention died down, the company went on to post double digit growth for the next two decades. Jelly Belly beans, a seeming fad, had become a solid product with a loyal and enthusiastic following.
Today, Jelly Belly jelly beans are known around the world as an uniquely American candy. The company nakes over 150 gourmet candies, building on the tradition established by the ancestors who have gone before. And, the family looks toward a bright future for the next generation of Goelitz candy makers.”
After looking at their art gallery we all went down through the stairs. We went straight to the shop where there was a long line of people choosing individual jellybeans they want to try out. For us to save money we bought the bags of defective sizes, they don’t have the logo and their sizes varies but still cheaper. I also bought a box of the unique, nasty tastes such as dead fish, rotten egg, fart, and so on. Sam bought a lot of things I can’t recall. They also sell some Harry Potter food merchandise such as the chocolate frog.
Then, we went across where they sell the chocolate and I bought 3 rounds, chocolate, marshmallow and Mom some chocolates I cannot recall.
The factory or the whole building was almost closing so we left and the four of us drove out of Jelly Belly Factory and to Highway 12 where we would look for a place to eat. All in all it was a fun experience because I have never been to food factory tour before and being FREE was a plus in my list. The place wasn’t also crowded, yes there were people all around but the tour line moved fast and so was in the shop. Seeing jellybeans being made was unique because you can see what was going inside a factory. It was so colorful and wonderful at the same time. The history of the place is also good because we got the chance where they came from and how did the company evolve.
Here is the link for more information: