I can’t remember the last time I ate a jelly bean, but I know I won’t be eating one ever again. This morning we made a quick day trip to Wisconsin and instead of sampling cheese or admiring the natural beauty of the Midwest, we opted for what seemed like a wholesome, unique, fascinating experience: The Jelly Belly Factory Tour.
Start with a rough sketch of Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, the stuff of childhood and candy legend. Now, make it smaller, empty, vaguely gothic, and condensed into a showcase warehouse in which you board a jelly belly themed train to circle around and view various video screens explaining how the candy is made. As it turns out, the making of a jelly bean is diametrically opposed to the experience of making a Ford F1-50. After leaving the Ford Rouge factory, where you could see the product’s assembly, complete with lasers and rock music, the lackluster video projections and plastic displays at Jelly Belly were underwhelming and creepy.
The script of the video detailing the factory’s ownership added to the sense of unease pervading the building. With 3 different generations of ownership saying that their relatives worked there until their deaths, there seemed to be some correlation between jelly belly employment and untimely ends. This did not result in a good appetite. Touring the factory felt like visiting Disney World 1 month into it being built, with no other visitors, just plastic molds of the charming characters and decorations to come. On the upside, they did provide us with paper hats, which were mandatory attire in order to board the Jelly Belly train.
There was exactly one employee at the factory, and the train ‘conductor’ asked him to wave; he did. I’m still not entirely convinced he wasn’t animatronic.
Another area of significant concern to us was the information that ‘natural flavors’ were used in the specific jelly bean varieties depicted below.
The final, tragic takeaway from this experience is that I don’t actually like jelly beans, nor does my mom. We concluded that the best thing the tour had to offer was the fetching hats. Following our taxing excursion to this failed candy land, we took a road trip cheat day and flew from Chicago to Kansas City, Missouri, where we are now staying. As always, thank you for reading.