Bob Simpson ensures Jelly Belly always does right by its product line

Extending the brand

All businesses, including privately owned ones, are under constant pressure to grow. Simpson says the biggest challenge he’s faced at Jelly Belly was progressing from a domestic company to a global brand.

“We’re now selling in 80 countries, but it was very challenging to gear up the company for the ability to deal with the different regulations and cultures,” he says.

The company has been selling candy in England and Germany since the 1980s. But costs of producing the product here and then shipping overseas grew prohibitive, especially when factoring in the duties, tariffs and taxes.

About eight years ago, Jelly Belly built a production facility in Thailand to serve its international markets.

“That’s how we could get competitive and be able to grow our business in some of those markets,” Simpson says.

Growth has also been generated through licensed co-branding of products.

“We work every closely with Disney, and we’re licensed for some of their characters. We have a licensing agreement with Sanrio for Hello Kitty, Sunkist and a few others. The strength of two brands working together differentiates us from competition and makes us unique,” Simpson says.

In considering licensing opportunities, he looks for companies that add value to the equity Jelly Belly has in its brand. The resulting product also has to meet Jelly Belly’s standards.

As part of a recent deal with Unilever for the Popsicle line, Jelly Belly insisted that the flavor ingredients and suppliers be the same used for the beans.

“When you buy a Jelly Belly-branded Popsicle, it delivers that same Very Cherry flavor profile,” Simpson says.

There also are Popsicles with chewy centers based on Blueberry and Tutti-Frutti flavors.

“We when enter into a licensing agreement, it always has to have a high-quality brand image that, when you marry it to our brand, creates an even stronger brand,” Simpson says. “We co-brand with one of the world’s largest retailers, Costco. We have a Kirkland Signature Jelly Belly jelly bean. Very few items in that store are co-branded.”

 

Delivering that ‘wow’ factor

A consistent brand message is critical for any company. For Jelly Belly, that means ensuring that every new flavor of bean created is so authentic and specific that consumers have no doubt about what they’re tasting.

“Our process is usually to identify the key flavor ingredients, the unique profile that makes up the flavor,” Simpson says. “An example would be spaghetti. Everyone has a different taste when it comes to spaghetti. But if you say Franco-American SpaghettiOs, we can knock off that flavor dead-on. If you’re talking about a mango, is it a ripe South American or a Philippine variety? The more specific you can get, the better we can be.”

The research and develop process starts with taking suggestions from consumers and other sources, and identifying which might be workable. One of the most frequent requests was for a draft beer bean. Earlier this year, Jelly Belly released Draft Beer Jelly Belly beans, the product of three years of research.