- What it is: A guided walking tour with video segments in the Jelly Belly factory. The tour takes place a floor above the factory, and visitors can look through glass windows to see the actual manufacturing from above.
- Location: One Jelly Belly Lane, Fairfield, CA 94533
- Cost: Free, no reservations required. Closed some holidays, so be sure to check the website before going.
- Length: About 45 minutes
- Free Samples: A small bag or two of jelly beans
- Website details: Jelly Belly Website
Jelly Belly Factory Tour Details
Jelly Belly certainly knows their market: children. From the moment you enter the factory driveway (located at the appropriately named One Jelly Bean Lane), you are surrounded by a kaleidoscope of colorful jelly beans: a huge inflatable bean welcomes you, costumed beans walk around greeting you, and enormous portrait mosaics (rendered in beans) are framed on every wall. To arrive at the tour pickup location, you must first walk through the kid-friendly Jelly Belly café, where bean-shaped pizzas and hamburgers are for sale. If you are early and have to wait for your tour, the waiting location is right next to the enormous gift shop. It’s easy to feel bean overload before even setting foot inside the factory proper.
After donning a paper Jelly Belly hat (which is optional but encouraged), the tour follows a knowledgeable guide around the second floor of the factory. The actual manufacturing takes place on the first floor, so visitors can catch distant glimpses of the production through glass windows. The tour guide dispenses some information, and at preplanned stops the group watches a video (with audio accompaniment) that explains the production process and illuminates the action below. Some parts of the tour were very generalized, both because of trade secrets and to simplify the process for the general public. Although it was easy to tune out the television voice, I appreciated the loud audio element, because I found it hard to hear the guide unless I was standing within a few feet of him.
One of the most interesting parts of the tour involved the history of the jelly bean portraits on the walls, especially the several glowing pictures of President Reagan. On the tour, I learned that the founder of Jelly Belly was a devout Reagan supporter, and President Reagan actually had a hand in popularizing Jelly Bellies. He was sent a sample of the candies and loved them so much, he had a special cup holder fitted into Air Force One that held a jar full of his favorite beans. Jelly Belly created a “special patriotic mix” for the President, of red, white and blue jelly beans, and once the press caught word of the President’s favorite candy, the business took off.
The tour lasts approximately 45 minutes, and by the end it seems most of the children in the group were bored. Although it is interesting to watch the process, and the enormous vats of colored beans can be mesmerizing, the physical distance from the factory floor makes it hard to maintain interest in the machines for almost an hour. The tour ends with the distribution of a few small packets of samples, and, of course, a walk through the gift shop once more.