Jelly Belly interview at iSM 2014

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jelly-bellyAngus Kennedy: A lovely and very lively stand again Sharon, as usual a hype of activity. This place is buzzing there are people everywhere! Something’s cooking here, I can tell. So Sharon excuse the pun but spill the beans! Could you tell me a bit more about the new developments at Jelly Belly?

Sharon Duncan:  Thank you Angus, it’s been like this every day, we are really busy and really happy with how it’s all going. Yes you are right we have been working extremely hard over the last 12 months and we have a lot of innovations for this year. This is probably the biggest year that we’ve ever had in terms of new introductions for the international market. We’ve got new products, new flavours, new packaging, new inbound licenses, and new outbound licenses. We’ve introduced at this show, over 50 new SKUs (stock keeping unit) so there are different items that the distributors from around the world can use.
AK: Does that mean that the products that you’ve got in the US are available now on the international market?

SD: Yes it does. So as you may know Jelly Belly was actually founded by the Goelitz family back in 1869 and in 1898 the second generation of the Goelitz family started Candy Corn. We’ve not been able to sell that product internationally because of compliancy issues so we’ve actually taken our entire domestic line of confections and reformulated them so that they are now globally compliant. There are a lot of people at this show who are happy with that.

We have introduced those flavours in bulk, into our Grab & Go bags, which are re-sealable pouch bags. They are our no. 1 selling item worldwide, so we’ve been able to get the confections into that line. We also have a brand new line of beautiful gift bags that offer kaleidoscope colour on our stand for display and so all of the confections will be available in that gift bag.

AK: So why is Grab & Go so popular?

SD: I think because it’s for sharing and it’s something you can grab quickly in the store. Also because it’s in a re-sealable pouch you don’t have to eat all of it in one sitting. It’s a nice item at a good retail price point.

AK: Is that a big thing, the re-sealable bag?

SD: Well interestingly our Grab & Go bags in the US are not re-sealable! Only in the international market. International customers consume less than Americans do and then also because of the global weather issues that you have in terms of heat and humidity, the re-sealable pouch is much better for these situations.

AK: I understand on the iSM grapevine that there is a new beer bean. Can you tell me about the Beer Jelly Belly?

SD: Yes you are right Angus. That is the very first beer-flavoured jellybean in the world. It took us three years to develop that bean, it was very difficult to get the flavour in and we’re very happy with it. It’s a beautiful gold colour that’s been enabled because of our finishing that we’re starting to put on some of our beans to make them glisten. And it actually is inspired by German draft beer. And with draft beers, they are very popular in the world, a lot of micro-breweries are making their own beers and so moving into the gourmet food area in the world wide trend and that’s kind of what we do, we make gourmet jelly beans.

AK: Do you think this is opening up a new trend, Champagne jellybeans and chardonnay, now this is getting interesting. Though give me the real Champagne any time Sharon!
(both laughing)

SD: Absolutely yes! We do over 130 flavours and we have offerings for all different age groups. We have our cocktail classics: our Margaritas and Pina Coladas. The Beer Jelly Belly obviously falls right into that category and certainly Champagne and chardonnay can’t be far behind.

AK: Does the beer flavour open up new retail opportunities for you, I can see them in pubs and clubs and getting quite popular?

SD: Actually it really does because now you can go into the pubs; you can go into the bars and some of the fine restaurants. Every market in the world has been talking to our distributors at the show, it opens a whole new retail channel for them. And it opens up a pile of promotional opportunities.

AK: There is always so much going on at this stand. Is there any limit to your expansion, where do you get your ideas?

SD: They come from all over the world. Herman Goelitz Rowland, who got the lifetime achievement award last night at the iSM, he is kind of a visionary. But we get ideas from our consumers, we have a hotline that they can call and we get probably 50 flavours a month from our consumer’s ideas.

AK: You’re quite strong with your Internet marketing. How does that work, for example with the Beer Jelly Belly, did that get research online?

SD: In the first three days we had over 20 million people leaving impressions that they had picked up on the beer. It was amazing and it was actually our first global launch. Normally we introduce them in the US and then a year later we bring it into the international market but with our draft beer we launched last Saturday in the US with our press releases and our websites, our tweets and our Facebook pages and we followed it up four days later here at iSM and launched it as well. And we have over 20 Facebook pages around the world so each one of those also markets the flavour.

AK: Could we discuss the other new products that are available?

SD: We have Chocolate Dutch Mints. They are little peppermints, chocolate and then a candy shell. There are the Raspberries and Blackberries, which we talked about and the Candy Corn. We have our Liquorice Bridge Mix and we have our Gummy Bear selection as well and so actually in that whole gift bag line we’ve released 12 new units. The confections, we have our Chocolate Dips in orange flavour, we have our Sunkist Fruit Gems, which are all natural. And then we have five new Jelly Belly products, including our 20 Flavour Mix, Sours, Tropical Mix and Fruit Bowl Mix plus our Jewel Collection (shimmering). So that’s also available.

AK: Is there anything else you would like to talk about?

SD: Always! The other thing I wanted to talk about was our continued expansion. We are in 80 countries now. We just opened Jelly Belly Canada this year. We’re doing our own sales and marketing directly into Canada, we operate one in Vancouver, one in Toronto. We started the operation in April 2013. Jelly Belly is very global, we have Jelly Belly operations in Shanghai and Thailand, we have European based operations in Hamburg and our corporate office in California and another office in Chicago.

AK: Why do you think Jelly Belly is so successful?

SD: Jelly Belly is fascinating because I do a lot of travelling and no matter where I go in the world, if I say Jelly Belly it elicits a smile from the person I’m talking to. They will tell me their favourite flavour, they will tell me how five years ago they took the factory tour in California and it was one of the best things they did. They just know us and I think we’re a very lifestyle type brand that people are very loyal to. We’re a high quality candy, they know they can count on us to be the best, and they know they can count on us for true-to-life flavours. So I think all of that together makes us strong as a brand.  

AK: A lot of it kicked off with Ronald Reagan, how was that a big moment for you?

SD: Well it was really interesting because we were making mini jellybeans long before Jelly Belly was born and in 1976 we started the Jelly Belly line of jellybeans. And we used true-to-life flavours and natural ingredients, flavour on the centre and the outside, which was very unusual for the time. Mr Reagan had been using our mini jellybeans and as soon as Jelly Bellies came out he started using those. He was using them to quit his pipe smoking when he was governor of California. Then when he moved into the White House he continued to use our product and it became very famous after that point. But the interesting thing is, prior to that, Jelly Belly has been around since 1869 and all of our confections are what the company was known for at the time, so Jelly Belly was the thing that exploded.

AK: Excellent, well thank you Sharon, it has been a real pleasure catching up with your future plans. I expect 2014 will be just as successful as your previous years.

SD: Thank you Angus, it’s always great to have you here.

Source: Kennedy’s Confection