When you’re a candy person, your text messages are frequently punctuated with delightful confectionery news: the friend who alerts you to an exciting new peanut butter cup at the local candy shop; the cousin who snaps a picture from the candy aisle of Target, where the best flavors of Lindor truffles have finally debuted for the holiday season; the aunt who conspiratorially divulges that she only eats Circus Peanuts once they’ve gone good and stale and encourages you to try it out for yourself. I love living a life of candy with these folks—and I was positively floored when a friend texted me last week about Belly Flops, big bags of irregular Jelly Belly beans sold in bulk at a steep discount.
While a 16-oz. bag of Jelly Belly beans costs approximately $9.99, a 32-oz. bag of Belly Flops costs only $11.99. The only downside seems to be that you have to opt for the mixed bag, as opposed to selecting customized mixes of certain flavors—but doesn’t pretty much everyone go for the classic mix, anyway? The entire appeal of Jelly Belly seems to be picking out one bean at a time, trying to guess the flavor, and consulting the detailed chart on the back of the bag to see if you were right. (Oh, and arguing about which flavors are best, and proudly declaring oneself a Buttered Popcorn jelly bean enthusiast just to freak out everyone around you. That’s part of the fun, too.)
As seen in the video below, the process for making Jelly Belly candies is admirably involved; the amount of manual labor involved in the days-long curing, resting, and coating processes is not far off from the loving attention that might be paid by cheesemongers or winemakers as they carefully rotate bottles and wheels throughout their cellars.
At about 3:45 in the video, irregular Jelly Bellies are mentioned: “Get this: only the perfect beans get the Jelly Belly stamp of approval. The rejected beans are called Belly Flops.” But that’s it; no further information is provided. The Belly Flops page of the Jelly Belly website similarly dances around the particulars:
This 2-pound bag of Belly Flops from Jelly Belly contains irregular jelly beans in peculiar shapes, sizes and colors. These jelly beans might be shaped strangely, but they taste just as good at about half the price! Our mistakes are your gains with these bags of “oopsie” Jelly Bellies.
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At the very least, the above passage clears up the matter of pluralizing Jelly Bellies. But still... when is the irregularity introduced? When the beans are first set in their molds? When they’re coated with layers of sugar syrup in their flavoring tumbler? Or is it an error that occurs while a bean is resting, the result of being jostled and squashed by its thousands of neighbors? Do random stray beans within a batch turn out irregular, or does this happen by the batchful?
Whatever the case, it happens often enough to fill endless orders from thrifty customers. Really, a whole lot of the beans in a bag of Belly Flops look perfectly fine; as seen in the photo at right, there are plenty of beans that seem to have the right shape, but perhaps didn’t get an even distribution of speckles on its shell, or got a white logo stamp that came out blurry. Then, of course, there are the many, many beans stuck together in twos, fused by their outer layers of coating. And yes, it’s clear why these couldn’t be sold with the Jelly Belly seal of approval: they look like little butts. Can you imagine the giggles from the company’s pre-adolescent customers? It would be pandemonium.
So there you have it: you and everyone you know can enjoy gourmet jelly beans at half the price, just by enduring a little ugliness. And by the way, there’s an entire Bargain Outlet section of the Jelly Belly website, which provides a fascinating window into both consumer habits and shrewd candy marketing. It’s December, so I get why a product clearly released before Valentine’s Day 2020 is selling at a steep discount (would definitely buy). These gummi worms, though? More of a mystery. And this lonely metal tin, seemingly devoid of any candy at all, made me laugh out loud. Did Jelly Belly perhaps overestimate the amount of Slytherins among its customer base?