How Jelly Beans are Made

They’re iconic for their shape, cornucopia of colours and astonishing variety of flavours, but have you ever wondered how jelly beans are made? What about why they’re called beans? Let’s jump right in.

Engineering How It’s Made
20 September 2022

They may be small, but jelly beans are giants among sweets. With their glossy shell and chewy centre, these bright, sugary bumps pack a flavourful punch.

And what a selection of flavours. From classics like cherry and tutti frutti to decadent champagne and the jaw-clenching booger variety, there’s surely a taste out there to suit everyone.

The question is, how are jelly beans made? How do they get their distinctive shape and vivid colours? Well, we’re about to spill the beans.

A Brief History of Jelly Beans

The love of Jelly Beans! (Photo: Roy McMahon via Getty Images)

Before asking ‘how are jelly beans made in a factory’, let’s look back at the history of this precocious candy.

Interestingly, nobody really knows who invented jelly beans. Popular lore has it that they were inspired by Turkish Delights. Their bean shape is said to be a reflection of the trend to shape sweets like fruit and vegetables, coinciding with the fact that beans were a major part of the American diet. As for the first known mention of them, this probably dates back to the American Civil War. It’s believed that, in an advert in 1861, Boston confectioner William Schrafft encouraged people to send jelly beans to soldiers as an easy, non-perishable form of energy.

When it comes to the evolution of the product itself, it was a century later when the Goelitz Confectionery Company discovered a way to infuse flavour into the centre of jelly beans. Prior to that, this was restricted to the shell. In 1976, Goelitz bought out the first Jelly Belly® Jelly Beans in just eight flavours. These were green apple, grape, lemon, cream soda, tangerine, very cherry, root beer and President Ronald Reagan’s much publicised favourite, liquorice.

Today, jelly beans are sold worldwide and Jelly Belly alone boasts at least a hundred varieties. So, how do you make jelly beans?

How are Jelly Beans made in a Factory?

Jelly Belly candy factory churns out treats ready for packaging (Photo: David Paul Morris via Getty Images)

It takes between seven to 21 days to make a single jelly bean. But why? What happens in that time? How are jelly beans manufactured?

Sugar is the main ingredient in jelly beans, and what gives the centres their characteristic chewy texture. There are four main steps in making jelly beans, including: (1) Heating; (2) Moulding; (3) Steaming; and (4) Flavouring. Let’s examine each in turn.


When looking at the question ‘how do you make jelly beans’, it’s the chewy centre that’s made first. For this, water and corn syrup are heated to 180 degrees centigrade. Starch and glucose are then mixed in. In some factories, this is the stage where the flavouring is added. At Jelly Belly, they add natural flavours that match the bean’s eventual one. For example, peach puree is used for peach flavoured sweets, jalapeno puree for jalapeno and coconut flakes for coconut.


This sugary liquid mixture is then piped into trays of bean-shaped moulds. The moulds themselves, each holding around a thousand beans, are made of cornstarch to prevent the jelly from sticking. The filled moulds are then left in a curing room overnight to solidify.

Steaming & Flavouring

Once removed from their moulds, the now-solid beans are placed into a tumbler, a machine that looks like a cement mixer. There, they are spun while being showered with granulated sugar. In some instances, the tumbler is used to add flavour and colour to the jelly beans. Then it’s back to the curing room for another night.


Now for the crowning glory in our quest to learn ‘how are jelly beans made’. The time has come for the beans to get their shells. Placed into large kettle drums, they undergo a two-hour process known as panning. This entails spinning the beans within the drums and coating them with four layers of sugar. The first layer applied is granular sugar. From there, each successive layer becomes finer and finer until the final powdered sugar layer. The beans are soaked in flavouring syrup in between the application of each layer. The beans then spend another night resting.

Coating & Curing

The jelly beans are placed in vast bins and sprayed with sugar, boosting their colour. The beans are then left to cure to allow their flavour to develop. Most beans will take at least 24 hours to be considered ready. More intense flavours and sour ones can take up to two weeks to cure.


Finally, the beans must be dried so they’re not sticky. They can then be packaged, usually in mixed bags, for distribution. This is the final step in the process of how jelly beans are made.

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