Jelly beans are a popular Easter candy in the United States and many other countries. They are small, brightly colored, soft candies with a hard sugar shell and gelatin-like interior. Jelly beans are available in a wide variety of flavors, but some of the most classic and original flavors include:
Cherry is one of the most iconic and recognizable jelly bean flavors. It has a sweet tart cherry taste and is typically colored red. Cherry flavored jelly beans have been around since the very beginning. According to the Jelly Belly Company, cherry was one of the first eight jelly bean flavors originally developed in 1898. It has remained popular for over a century and is still one of the most popular jelly bean choices today.
Lemon jelly beans have a strong sweet and sour lemon taste. They are typically colored yellow, sometimes with a little white added. Lemon is another original jelly bean flavor that has been around for generations. Food historians trace lemon jelly beans back to the early 1900s. Along with lime, lemon gave jelly beans a unique citrus taste which helped diversify the flavors beyond just fruit varieties.
Closely related to lemon jelly beans, lime has a sour and tart green citrus flavor. Lime jelly beans are typically colored green or yellow-green. Lime became popular in the early 1900s along with lemon, adding a tangy zip to the classic sweet jelly bean flavors. Lime remains a jelly bean staple today and is often used in assorted mixes.
Grape jelly beans have a distinct purple color and sweet grape flavor. The concord grape flavor gives grape jelly beans a jam-like taste. Grape is a nostalgic flavor that has been around for many decades. It was likely first introduced in the 1920s when grape sodas and candies were becoming popular. The unique color and flavor made grape a standout from the typical fruit flavors.
Raspberry jelly beans have an intense, sweet and slightly tart raspberry flavor. They are colored pink, red, or purple. Raspberry emerged as a distinct jelly bean flavor in the 1960s. Before then, the red jelly bean was typically just a generic red flavor. The introduction of raspberry gave the red bean a more specific fruit taste. It also complemented other fruit flavors like lime, lemon, and grape which had become popular over the preceding decades.
The Evolution of Jelly Bean Flavors
While cherry, lemon, lime, grape, and raspberry were among the first and most original jelly bean flavors, many new flavors emerged throughout the 20th century and into the 21st century. Here is a look at how the flavors evolved over time:
|New Jelly Bean Flavors
|Grape, Root Beer
|Popcorn, Cream Soda
|Grapefruit, Black Licorice
|Raspberry, Watermelon, Piña Colada
|Pear, Bubble Gum, Strawberry
|Peach, Blueberry, Pina Colada
|Cappuccino, Margarita, Firecracker
|Mango, Green Apple, Blood Orange
This overview shows how jelly bean flavors expanded from basic fruit and spice flavors to a huge variety of creative flavors. By the 21st century, almost any flavor imaginable could become a jelly bean thanks to advances in food science and flavoring.
The Most Popular Jelly Bean Flavors Today
While the original flavors are still classics, new favorites have emerged over the decades. Here are 5 of the most popular jelly bean flavors today:
- Buttered Popcorn
- Green Apple
- Cotton Candy
Surveys show that watermelon and green apple tend to top the charts for favorite jelly bean flavors. The sweet fruit flavors have beating out classics like grape, lemon, and cherry in recent decades. Cotton candy, buttered popcorn, and blueberry have also become modern favorites due to their fun, unique flavors.
However, popularity will likely continue to change over time as jelly bean companies innovate new flavor experiences. For example, Jelly Belly has recently introduced flavors like mango, blood orange, toasted marshmallow, and draft beer to keep pushing boundaries.
The Impact of Flavor Innovation on the Jelly Bean Industry
The evolution of jelly bean flavors has shaped the growth of the jelly bean industry over the past century. A few key innovations really propelled the popularity of jelly beans worldwide:
- The invention of “gourmet” jelly beans by the Herman Goelitz Candy Company (now Jelly Belly) in 1976. This introduced wild new flavors never before seen in jelly beans, like buttered popcorn, cream soda, and root beer.
- The development of intense and accurate fruit flavors like raspberry, green apple, and blueberry. This took jelly beans beyond generic fruit flavors.
- Flavor customization – allowing customers to mix and match their favorite flavors in each package.
- The use of all-natural flavors and improved colorings to appeal to health-conscious consumers.
- Exotic and tongue-in-cheek flavors like draft beer, toasted marshmallow, and Krispy Kreme Original Glazed donut.
Thanks to these innovations, the jelly bean has surged in popularity to become the #1 selling Easter candy. Americans now consume over 16 billion jelly beans each year, most of them around Easter. The global jelly bean market is estimated at over $3 billion and growing. The future of jelly beans looks bright thanks to our collective love affair with these bite-sized flavor bombs.
Cherry, lemon, lime, grape, and raspberry make up the original flavors that put jelly beans on the map around a century ago. But the history of jelly beans is a story of flavor innovation. Today, classic flavors like orange and licorice live alongside buttered popcorn, margarita, and toasted marshmallow inspired by food, cocktails, and nostalgia. While original flavors will always have a special place, food science promises to keep supplying jelly bean lovers with new tastes to enjoy. The flavor revolution shows no signs of stopping.