The Jelly Belly's rise to fame

Prior to these days of Jelly Bellys' recognition as the gold standard of jelly beans, Jelly Belly Co was a tiny, family-owned business in the San Fransisco Bay Area. Interestingly, it was Ronald Reagan, serving his first term as California's governor, who rocketed the Jelly Belly to fame.

The year was 1967. Ronald Reagan had been a big fan of the candies for years; he was trying to quit smoking, and Jelly Belly Co supplied their confections to help the process along. The candy and the company enjoyed a great deal of publicity as a result. In 1973, in a letter to Herman Rowland, owner of Jelly Belly Co, Reagan wrote, "It's gotten to the point where we can hardly start a meeting or make a decision without passing around the jar of jelly beans."

This continued to the Reagan years of the White House. If you look closely at photos taken of Reagan's oval office, you'll see a jar of Jelly Bellys stamped with the Presidential Seal. Reagan actually ordered 7,000 pounds of Jelly Bellys for his first inauguration. (One more fun fact for the road: Jelly Bellys are the first, and probably only jelly beans to have been sent on a space flight: Reagan sent them on the 1983 flight of the space shuttle Challenger).

My brother Paul (chomps) and I had the chance to visit the Jelly Belly factory in Fairfield, California, not too many years ago. In their cafeteria, they serve pizza in the shape of a jelly bean. We also noticed a minimum of three collages made entirely from Jelly Bellys, in Ronald Reagan's likeness. "Well, now this is just over the top," I said. Paul echoed that sentiment in the factory guestbook:

"You guys sure love Reagan."