All Jelly Belly flavors, from toasted marshmallow to cappuccino—there are around 100 on the market at any given point—grow from ideas submitted by company employees, members of the public, retailers, and others, but the execution depends on a four-person team of food scientists, led by head of research and development Ambrose Lee and aided by the company's marketing and executive teams.
The development process begins with a very specific idea.
Hopefully some of those working, cooking, and caring days are just as fulfilling as the days you have left to fill with fun, art, and adventure.
In an echoing, high-ceilinged chamber in Northern California, there spin row upon row of what look like small cement mixers.
"[When] we were developing a pumpkin spice flavor and added cloves, that rang the dentist office bell for me," he laughs.
"I hate that flavor." It just brings back too many memories.Even the buttered popcorn flavor (loved by many, hated by many), was the result of his tinkering in the lab with corn, butter, and salt flavors, just to see what he could come up with. To those in the business of building flavors, memories of tastes and scents can be especially poignant.Brasher, who grew up eating pomegranates on a family farm, sent early pomegranate beans back to the kitchen because they lacked the distinctive tartness.Sometimes they work backward from a sample of, say, pomegranate juice, which they run through a gas chromatograph and mass spectrometer, a pair of instruments that heat up the fluid and vaporize the juice's molecules one by one.The temperatures at which the molecules break down help the scientists determine what kinds of compounds are in the juice and guide them in constructing a faithful flavor.Once the team decides exactly which version to mimic, the scientists retreat to their labs.They work to determine what mixture of juices, purees, and any of a huge variety of compounds can best call to mind their target.Jelly Belly even has a secret ingredient that suppresses the sweetness of the bean so that savory flavors, like buttered popcorn, can show through.The most promising permutations are incorporated into small batches of beans for taste-testing.In a poignant new video, online performance artist Ze Frank physically illustrates how most people spend the majority of their life using jelly beans to delineate time.Starting with 28,835 beans representing days of the average human lifespan he slowly subtracts the time spent sleeping, working, eating, and commuting to arrive at a much smaller square by proportion that represents our “free” time that suddenly puts things in stark perspective.