Spinning the Jelly Bean

This is a guest post by Carol Harvey, Director of food/nutrition labeling and product development at Palate Works.

This fall, Jelly Belly will be starting “voluntary front-of-package nutrition labeling on its most popular packaged products,” according to a press release last month.

“The new front label will highlight information such as calories and fat content.”


This is the same calorie and fat data that has been on food packages since the mid-‘90s. It is easy to find on the (required) full Nutrition Facts panel located on the side or back of packages. By showing only calories and fat on the front, Jelly Belly basically will be putting their “best foot” forward, because jelly beans get almost all of their calories from sugar, and none from fat… meaning fewer calories in the same FDA serving size (40g) as a candy bar or other fat-containing confection. There is no mention of whether sugar content will be shown on the front of the package.

“Transparency and clear communication on the part of the manufacturer allow consumers to make informed choices when the moment for a sweet treat strikes.”

This is in contrast to what a consumer currently will find on Jelly Belly’s extensive web site, where there is no Nutrition Facts data and no ingredient listings for their products. Type “nutrition” in the search box and you are presented with a blank screen. Perhaps that will change this fall in the name of transparency.

“Jelly Belly beans are four calories per bean, with an average 40g serving size of approximately 140 calories. In addition to their low calorie count….”

U.S. nutrition labeling regulations define “low calorie” as 40 calories or fewer per serving (the FDA-defined serving is indeed 40 grams for candies of this type, as well as for candy bars), so 140 calories cannot be described as “low calorie.”

Here is one serving of jelly beans:

“Get Real… We use real ingredients whenever possible to create our famous true-to-life flavors….”

While many Jelly Belly varieties use fruit concentrates for flavoring (along with other natural and artificial flavors), artificial coloring is still used in their products. Apparently the company has decided that consumers prefer artificial/bright/neon colors rather than the natural colors from real food/plant sources (widely available and used in many other candies, especially in Europe). It is a business decision, and, of course, consumers can choose what they prefer.

Carol Harvey has been a nutrition labeling and product development consultant for over 15 years. She can be reached at palatemail@yahoo.com.



    Thanks you for being the first person to blow the lid off the shocking underbelly of the jelly bean trade. Who knew jelly beans were mostly sugar? SHOCKING! Who knew jelly beans are not nutritious? GASP! Good job slamming a company for doing any kind of volunteer front package labeling…especially for a product so easily confused with a health food. I see a Pulitzer in your future.

    • Brianne

      Do I detect an undertone of sarcasm? Lol

    • http://www.fooducate.com/ Fooducate

      The company did not volunteer to do anything in consumers’ interest. This is just another example of “health-washing” – yes, even for jelly beans…
      But thanks for the late night humor RONTHINK ;-)

  • insomniac

    Um… They’re jelly beans. CANDY. They aren’t being touted as healthy by the manufacturer. We appreciate the hard work Fooducate does, but there are millions of other suspect products out there being touted as healthy. Why not spend time on those instead of wasting time on the obvious?

    • Carol H.

      They make a “low calorie” claim that is incorrect. The blog post is addressing the press release, web site claims, and the appropriateness of front-of-package labeling for this particular product… and concerns food labeling regulations. No issue with the product itself or anyone wanting to enjoy it. If you are aware of millions of products mislabeled as healthy, feel free to send in your candidates. We can only get to a few hundred.

  • Jelly Belly

    Tomi at Jelly Belly here. We are happy to learn you like the plan to add front of label info. We did want to point out we have extensive Nutritional information on the site accessed through the FAQs at the bottom of the homepage. We provide answers to commonly asked nutritional questions and have a direct link to our Consumer Affairs group for personal attention or questions not located by searching. Or consumers can call 800-522-3267 M-F 7am-5pm PST.

    • Carol H.

      Hi Tomi. No, we didn’t actually like the plan to add front of package labeling… you might want to read the piece again.
      Also, it would be greatly appreciated if you could provide a direct link to an actual Nutrition Facts panel on the Jelly Belly web site for one of your products. There don’t seem to be any… only general info about calories and carbs… no other nutrition data. Thanks.

    • DarrellH

      Tomi, you’d better read the article again. Also, get rid of the artificial colors.

      • Tomi

        We have quite a few confections made with colors from natural sources. Check out Snapple Mix, Superfruit Mix and one of my favorites, Sunkist Dark Chocolate Sticks.

  • Dr. Kathleen Fuller

    Jelly Beans were one of y favorite sugar addictions in my teens, 20′s and 30′s into my 40′s. Through proper treatment I’ve been free of bingeing on these little treats for 20 years. Thanks for the information that can raise our consciousness.