What a Difference a Year Makes: Jelly Belly Grows with the OU

Since Jelly Belly Candy Company converted its entire 190 confectionery delights to become OU kosher certified in 2008, the company has seen whole new markets open. “It’s a sweet world,” reports Herman Rowland, Sr., chairman of the board and fourth generation candy man.

New distributors have signed on and new points of distribution have opened to Jelly Belly Candy Company’s flagship product line, Jelly Belly® jelly beans. The company, headquartered in Fairfield, CA, has enjoyed sales increases in the U.S. and international markets among large populations of vegetarians who seek out kosher products, as well as among consumers around the world who are committed to religious dietary laws.

“OU certification has opened doors for us. It is an extremely well-recognized sign and consumers seem to feel safer eating products that carry the mark,” Mr. Rowland said.

The company has increased distribution by opening new channels previously unavailable, such as kosher grocery stores. Jelly Belly signed on kosher distributor Klein’s Naturals of Brooklyn to carry the entire line of confections made by the company.

In addition, retailers in the general marketplace where large ethnic populations reside look for OU products to add to their production selection, Mr. Rowland said.

Jelly Belly has supported its outreach to the kosher marketplace with advertising and promotions. The company recently announced plans to participate in a program with the Jewish Children’s Museum of New York that helps educate children on shopping for kosher products.

“OU certification has opened new international channels of distribution in new markets for us and within markets where Jelly Belly was already doing business,” Mr. Rowland declared. “We’ve had great response in Australia, France and the United Kingdom.”

Being OU certified allowed Jelly Belly to distribute in Israel since last year, an option that was not available before. As soon as the OU mark was cleared a new distributor placed an order for the first shipment.

The company operates three manufacturing facilities in California, Illinois and the newest plant in Thailand. The international marketplace is serviced with products made in the Thailand plant which is also OU kosher certified.

“It was very challenging to convert thousands of ingredients in three plants to kosher. We’ve had terrific cooperation in solving the challenges from the Orthodox Union and we look forward to continuing that excellent relationship,” Mr. Rowland said.

The company also reports the licensed Sunkist® Fruit Gems® and Fruit Slices manufactured and distributed by the company are phenomenally successful with the OU certification. The pectin jells with real fruit juices are particularly popular for celebrations from bar mitzvahs, bat mitzvahs, and weddings.

Among the other candies made by Jelly Belly Candy Company, the iconic fall sweet Candy Corn is a tradition. The company has made Candy Corn since 1900 as well as other “mellocreme” type confections. Those made by Jelly Belly are among the few brands of mellocremes on the market certified OU Kosher, a fact that has brought success to one Los Angeles area candy purveyor.

An online store called The Sweet Spot located in southern California is dedicated to candy catering. The husband and wife team of Jay and Shana Sokol cater all sorts of events from corporate parties, to bar mitzvahs, birthdays, baby showers, retirement parties, and weddings with custom designed candy buffets.

Each event is special and unique. Some clients want candy in a color theme, particularly brides planning their reception. Others want a collection of nostalgia candies or kids’ favorites.

The Sweet Spot provides containers, scoops, design and a custom selection of candy. Take-out boxes, printed with the date and name of the event, are provided for guests to choose their favorite candy to go.

“Jelly Belly is one of our favorite brands, particularly because it is kosher. We’ve developed quite a bit of business because Jelly Belly is one of the few companies with kosher certification for Mellocremes and all their confections,” Jay Sokol said.

Sidebar: Herman G. Rowland Sr.

Herman G. Rowland Sr. is Chairman of the Board of Jelly Belly Candy Company, makers of Jelly Belly® jelly beans and 100 Confections® by Jelly Belly gourmet candies.

Mr. Rowland is the great-grandson of Gustav Goelitz, a German immigrant who launched the family’s candy making tradition in this country in 1869. Herman Rowland went to work in the business at the age of thirteen. Weekends and holidays were devoted to doing anything that needed to be done, from sweeping floors to candy making.

His personal admiration for Ronald Reagan had a profound impact on the company when Reagan ran for President and the Jelly Belly bean name became renowned worldwide. In the years since, Mr. Rowland has been an innovator for many “firsts” in candy making, such as the nine-inch long Pet Rat®, Prehistoric Eggs™ and the biggest gummi candy ever brought to market, a two-and-a-half-foot gummi snake.

He was honored for lifetime achievement in 1988, was inducted into the Candy Hall of Fame and has received numerous industry awards.

His story is told in Chicken Soup for the Entrepreneur’s Soul and he was invited to write the introduction to Reagan The Hollywood Years by Caroline McGivern.

Rowland’s children and grandchildren have positions in the company and are learning the candy business from the ground up, just as he did.