Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Jelly Belly named 'best company tour'

Article Published: Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Jelly Belly named 'best company tour'

Reader's Digest bestows honor to candy maker

By Rachel Raskin-Zrihen, Times-Herald staff writer

A visit to see how Fairfield's Jelly Belly Candy Company makes its treats was named Reader's Digest's "Best Company Tour in America," it was announced Monday.

The Pleasantville, N.Y.-based magazine's May issue, available now, contains its editors' choice of the "Best of America" in a variety of categories.

"The editorial team of reader's Digest scoured the country to compile the second annual "America's 100 Best" issue, naming the 100 best people, places, ideas and innovations found only in America," according to an official Reader's Digest statement.

Jelly Belly spokeswoman Tomi Holt said she was contacted by Reader's Digest officials early this year and was asked a number of questions.

"They seemed to be impressed by the fact that the tours are free and by the sheer number of people who come," Holt said. "Everyone at Jelly Belly is over the moon about this."
Rosie Miles of Fairfield is general manager of Jelly Belly's visitor center. She said learning of the Reader's Digest honor was a "wonderful surprise."

"They apparently just came in on their own and didn't tell anyone who they were, and the next thing we learn we're going to be featured. It's a very nice compliment," said Miles, who's said she's been with the firm for almost a dozen years.

"I'm a decorator by trade, and I helped design the building the colors," Miles said. "This was just an empty plot of dandelions seven years ago."

During the 40-minute walking tour, Jelly Belly tour guides show visitors through a real working candy factory where more than 150 different sweets are made, Miles said. Visitors walk along a catwalk above the action, and are treated to samples, she added.

The visitor center also features a caf, one element Holt and Miles said they think sets the Jelly Belly tour apart from the "hundreds, if not thousands" of other firms offering tours. Holt said that between 400,000 and half a million visitors from all over the world take the tour each year.
"The numbers were increasing every year, but after 9/11 it leveled off. The numbers are climbing back up now," Holt said. "Some 30 percent to 40 percent of the visitors are from out of state, and we get international visitors, too. And not just children. Seniors are the second largest group after school kids."

"You'd be surprised how many children come through here," Miles added. "It's not unusual to have eight to 10 buses of little ones at once. It's a very lively, very happy place."

Jelly Belly's roots are traced back to the Goelitz family of Germany.

Two Goelitz brothers, Gustav and Albert, immigrated to the United States in 1867. Two years later, Gustav Goelitz bought a Belleville, Ill. ice cream and candy store, and his brother Albert sold their wares from a horse drawn wagon.

The family's second generation continued the candy-making tradition, creating "buttercream" candies, including Candy Corn, which the firm's made since about 1900. Today, Gustav Goelitz' great-grandsons carry on the tradition, the company Web site says.

The Web site says that though the first modern jelly bean ancestor appeared in the 1800s, jelly candies have been around for thousands of years.

The Jelly Belly Visitor Center is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, and factory tours operate about every 15 minutes daily from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., except major holidays. The factory will be closed for maintenance this summer.

For more information 1-800-9-JELLYBEAN (1-800-953-5592), or visit www.Jellybelly.com

The idea for the jelly bean, which owes much of its fame to being the late president Ronald Reagan's favorite candy, was born in Los Angeles in 1976. That year a candy distributor contacted the Herman Goelitz Candy Co., (now Jelly Belly) with his idea for a jelly bean made with natural flavorings. The rest, as they say, is history.

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