With Easter fast approaching, candy companies are vying for consumers' bunny bucks. Some, like Gimbal's Gourmet Jelly Beans, appeal to our paranoia about childhood allergens, while others, like Jelly Belly, forgo gimmicks and bank on name recognition to strike it rich in the hunt for consumers' golden eggs.
Today Gut Check seeks to discern whose candy is the sweetest of them all. It's Battle Gourmet Jelly Bean, featuring flavor-to-flavor match-ups between Gimbal's and Jelly Belly.
The Contenders The first Jelly Belly jelly beans were introduced in 1976, and the company now boasts 50 official flavors. Like L'Academie Française of classic candies or a major-league baseball team, Jelly Belly often introduces "rookie" flavors, giving them a shot to be called up to the big club. These include collaborative lines like citrus flavors made with Sunkist or "Ice Cream Parlor" with Cold Stone Creamery. Some flavors unique to Jelly Belly include A&W Cream Soda, Chili Mango, Chocolate Pudding, Dr Pepper, Wild Blackberry and Plum.
Gimbal's, a family-owned business that has been making candy since 1898, offers a respectable 41 flavors of jelly bean. Varieties unique to Gimbal's include Boysenberry, Tiramisu, Wow! Chocolate and Blue Hawaiian, as well as, somewhat surprisingly, Raspberry and Grape. In addition to special bagged mixes for "Cherry Lovers" and "Honey Lovers," Gimbals' website suggests "recipes" for combining jelly-bean flavors to create a themed mix like "Mocha Latte" (Java, French Vanilla, Wow! Chocolate), "Georgia" (Peach, Boysenberry, Orange 'N Crème) and "Happy Hour" (Baja Margarita, Blue Hawaiian, Pina Colada, Strawberry Daiquiri).
Watermelon Jelly Belly: Nails the singular sweet-sour nexus of actual watermelon, with a lasting chewy texture and a flavor that lingers on the palate like a fine...jelly bean.
Gimbal's: Shell seems harder than it should be, and the sugar flavor is overpowering. In no way whatsoever does this bean suggest watermelon.
Advantage Jelly Belly
Buttered Popcorn Jelly Belly: True pop of popcorn, then turns sweet when the tongue meets the flavor at the bean's center.
Gimbal's: Bland. Doesn't really taste like popcorn.
Advantage Jelly Belly
Peach Jelly Belly: Fruit flavor present but not distinctive.
Gimbal's: Very "juicy" -- suck it off the shell, then again at the center. Tastes like a dialed-up candy interpretation of peach, which, given the competition's flaws in this area, ain't a bad thing.
Roasted/Toasted Marshmallow Jelly Belly: Could be the power of suggestion, but this jelly bean tastes...squishy. Almost gooey and gelatinous, really, with a dominant vanilla flavor.
Gimbal's: More saturated in vanilla and sugar, but very much suggests marshmallow.
Strawberry Cheesecake Jelly Belly: Tart fruit juice vies for prominence with sweeter sugar. All well and good, but nothing in here tastes like strawberry cheesecake.
Gimbal's: Strongly and soapily reminiscent of fruit-scented shampoo. DNPIM.
Tie (for worst)
Licorice Jelly Belly: Blunt anise flavor. Gimbal's: Suggests licorice, but gently.
Advantage Gimbal's (full disclosure: Gut Check isn't a big fan of licorice)
The Verdict Tight race here. Jelly Belly comes on strong with authentic, enjoyable renditions of Watermelon and Buttered Popcorn. But Gimbal's fights back by knowing when to dial it up (Peach) and when to dial it down (Licorice). Roasted/Toasted Marshmallow is a straight-up draw, and Strawberry Cheesecake proves to be a massive fail for both beanmakers.
Overall, we're going to come down on the side of Jelly Belly, because its beans taste less artificial.
Feel free to weigh in on the comments threat with your jelly bean preferences.