10 Questions for Jelly Belly’s Lisa Brasher

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GL: What has it been like developing Harry Potter–themed beans?

LB: It has been a stretch in flavor innovation, and it’s made taste testing a little downright scary. We’re known for using real ingredients in our products whenever we can, but we promise that some of these wild and wacky flavors in the Harry Potter BeanBoozled line don’t use real flavorings—like earwax, vomit, or dirt.

I have to admit that when we came out with the Harry Potter line, I wasn’t really excited about it. I wasn’t sure if my grandma would’ve appreciated those flavors. But over time, we’ve sold millions and millions and millions of dollars of those beans. People love them and they make everyone laugh. I’ve definitely eased up on the feelings of “Should we be doing this?”

GL: What’s the most unique flavor?

LB: It’d be hard to pin down just one. I guess I’d have to say that one of the flavors not in the Harry Potter line that’s stood the test of time is Buttered Popcorn. People love it, hate it, or love to hate it. There’s so much passion around this bean. We have people writing us all the time saying that we have to discontinue the bean because it’s so disgusting. But that’s our number two most popular bean, and the only one that’s ever surpassed Very Cherry in the history of the beans.

GL: What leads to the discontinuation of a Jelly Belly flavor?

LB: It’s based on pounds sold. If a flavor doesn’t sell a lot of pounds, it’ll likely be one we let go. But I will say that over the years there have been some flavors that haven’t really been on fire, but they’re just classic and we hate to let them go. One of those was Jalapeno. It didn’t have great sales, but we used it in recipes [which mix multiple beans to create a “dish”], like a pineapple salsa that used Mango, Jalapeno, and Crushed Pineapple. We didn’t want to take out Jalapeno, but after quite a bit of sadness, we let that flavor go. But then we came out with Chili Mango, which is an absolute home run.

We also discontinued Peanut Butter. We absolutely loved that bean and used real peanut butter in the center. We finally ended up cutting it out of the line, and we were really sad to do it. But because it’s an allergen, it takes a lot of work in manufacturing to keep it separate. So now we’re a peanut-free facility.

Kelly Senyei is an associate editor at Gourmet Live and author of the forthcoming Food Blogging for Dummies (Wiley, Spring 2012).

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