Friends in high places

Friends in high places

Christmas is a time when lots of sweets (or candies depending on what side of the Atlantic you live on) get eaten, so with the big day fast approaching a ‘sweet’ little brand tale for you

Friends in high places

The Jelly Belly Candy Company owes a lot of its success to friends in high places. 

And they don’t come much higher than the President of the USA, unless you count the astronauts who made them the first jelly beans in space. 

In 1967, Ronald Reagan was serving his first term as California’s governor and was in search of something to help him quit smoking. He wanted something low in fat, not too high in calories but with enough flavour to ward off his nicotine cravings. He found the perfect snack in jelly beans. 

For nine years just about any jelly bean would do, but that was to change in 1976 when a San Francisco company started to make a new kind of jelly beans, one that was both more intensely and all-naturally flavoured. Reagan converted to the new Jelly Belly jelly beans made by the H.G. Candy Company. He became their most famous fan.

When Regan was elected president in 1981, he wanted the beans served at his inaugural festivities but there was a problem. Not surprisingly the colour scheme for the inaugural was red, white, and blue and while there were red, yellow, white, orange, and black Jelly Bellies, there wasn’t a blue one. 

H.G. Candy Company immediately started work on developing a new blue variety and after much testing a blueberry Jelly Belly was agreed.


In the end a total of 3 ½ tons of red, white, and blue Jelly Bellies were shipped to Washington, D.C. for the festivities and with roughly 800,000 candies per ton, that was some 2,800,000 Jelly Belly beans

They were served in the Oval Office and were a must have for cabinet meetings. They travelled with the president on Air Force One and a special holder was designed for the plane so the jar would not spill during turbulence. 

In 1983 President Reagan sent a surprise gift for the astronauts on the Challenger shuttle – Jelly Belly beans of course. They became the first beans in space. 

When Reagan died in 2004, black ribbons were attached to the large jelly-bean mosaic portraits of Ronald Reagan which hang at the Jelly Belly Candy Co and mourners left little packets of jelly beans in his presidential library.

H.G. Candy Company chairman is in no doubt, Reagan’s love for the candy “made us a worldwide company overnight,” 

Footnote : While blueberry remains one of the most popular flavours, it was not Reagan’s favourite. That honour goes to the black liquorice -flavoured bean.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *