Jelly Beans

The category will feel the impact of higher sugar prices, but vendors are keeping it interesting for consumers with a myriad of flavorful, fanciful value-added options.
Jelly Beans Estimated U.S. Retail Market Size
$220 million
Source: Confectioner estimate based on input from industry players

The lowly jelly bean is far from lowly — and has been exalted for some time, of course — at least since the 1980s when the leader of the free world also happened to be a jelly bean aficionado!
The category splits between commodity and premium/branded beans, and even includes some options that are considered gourmet. Now the market is segmenting even further. Recent additions include licensed jelly beans; jelly beans positioned for more “mom-appeal” thanks to Vitamin C enrichment; jelly beans enhanced with carbohydrates, vitamins and electrolytes and targeted to athletes; and even delectable fruit flavor combos that duplicate the taste of fruit juice smoothies. Sugar-free options expand the appeal to older consumers who are more likely to be limiting sugar consumption.
In the non-bulk segment of the market, laydown bags and peg bags account for the largest portion of sales, but single-serve options are increasing too. In the gift segment, items priced at less than $10 sell best.  
Bulk display fixtures are a natural merchandising vehicle for the vibrant hues of jelly beans.  The basics of “merchandising 101” apply: retailers need to keep bulk displays clean, full and well labeled with prices and flavors. Gravity-feed dispensers made of high-grade plastic are key to addressing consumers’ expectations for safe, hygienic products.
Seasonal Opportunities
Despite the dominance of commodity beans at Easter, keep in mind that jelly beans are Easter basket staples. Retailers with the demographics to support it should consider tempting consumers to step beyond their commodity bean “comfort zone” by featuring some more upscale jelly bean offerings in in-store basket displays.
Sales of sugar confectionery products have been flat for the past couple of years, but things don’t have to stay that way. The track record of premium chocolate suggests that gourmet jelly beans have growth potential.
Sugar is a primary ingredient in jelly beans, so there can be little doubt that the market will be affected by the surge in price of domestic sugar this year courtesy of Hurricane Katrina and other factors. Margins will be challenged, and retailers and consumers will likely be faced with increased prices at Easter.
Top Flavors
Flavor authenticity is especially important in the jelly bean category, with both the ever-popular fruity varieties and the more fanciful renditions of taste experiences from other food and beverage segments — everything from peanut butter to cappuccino. Here are the top sellers from the category’s market leader: Very Cherry, Licorice, Buttered Popcorn, Juicy Pear and Watermelon.