- Looking to capitalise on the seltzer boom of recent years, Jelly Belly Candy Company recently launched its own sparkling water based on flavours of its beloved candy jelly beans.
- The fizzy drinks are currently only available in select markets, and mark the first major effort in the seltzer game by Joffer Beverage Company – the spinoff venture created by the family-owned Jelly Belly Company.
- I reunited with fellow members of Business Insider’s retail team in Brooklyn’s Fort Greene Park for a socially distant taste test of the eight available flavours. Here’s what we thought.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Just when it seemed like there was simply no room left for another seltzer brand in the market, Jelly Belly has changed our minds.
The more than 150-year-old, family-owned, candy company launched Jelly Belly Sparkling Water in January through its recently launched spinoff venture: the Joffer Beverage Company.
The inspiration for the new seltzer came from a recent family gathering, during which discussion arose over a need for more vibrant seltzer flavours. In turn, Joffer Beverage Company – and subsequently Jelly Belly Sparking Water – was born.
The sparkling water is available in eight flavours, including lemon lime, orange sherbet, and piña colada. At launch, the beverage was made available at Hy-Vee stores, a chain of more than 265 retail locations across eight Midwestern states.
While jelly beans and seltzer might not seem like an obvious pairing, the idea isn’t that bizzare, given the explosion in popularity of sparking water in recent years. While hard-seltzer notably dominated the market last summer, non-alcoholic versions are seeing steady growth.
Caleb Bryant, associate director of food and drink at Mintel, told Beverage Industry that sparkling water is “one of the fastest-growing non-alcoholic beverage categories,” noting the segment saw a 118% increase in sales from 2013 to 2018. The market research company also found that much of this growth is equally split between leading brands like LaCroix and Perrier as well as emerging companies in the “prviate label” category.
In pre-pandemic times, the Business Insider retail team loved nothing more than to take a break for a taste test, so when the opportunity arose to get my hands on Jelly Belly Sparkling Water, I convened three of my fellow New York-based colleagues for a socially distant sampling in Fort Greene Park. Here’s a closer look at what we thought.
Though Jelly Belly Sparkling Water first made its debut January, the fizzy drinks have only been available in select markets and are just now being rolled out to major cities like Chicago.
When I first heard about the beverage, I was sceptical. Does the world really need Jelly Belly-flavored water, let alone more seltzer to begin with?
There are currently eight varieties, and each is based on an original Jelly Belly flavour: French Vanilla, Lemon Lime, Orange Sherbet, Piña Colada, Pink Grapefruit, Tangerine, Very Cherry, and Watermelon.
But with more than 100 Jelly Belly flavours to choose from, the company expects to roll out more options in the future.
Stephen Joffer, co-founder of Joffer Beverage Company, said earlier this year that the idea for Jelly Belly Sparkling Water came when the family was discussing their favourite seltzers together during a family outing.
“The lightbulb came on when my dad suggested ‘why not our own Jelly Belly flavours? We are known for flavour innovation after all,'” Joffer said in a press release earlier this year. “We were on the back patio, drinking a couple of the more popular sparkling water brands, when I said out loud ‘if only someone could nail a sparkling water with really standout flavours.'”
To warm everyone up after a month-long taste test hiatus, I opted for the less obscure flavours first and eased in with traditional varieties like Lemon Lime.
However, we were quickly off to a rough start when my colleague Irene Jiang said the Lemon Lime reminded her of soap.
Once she said it, I simply couldn’t get the image of sipping on a cup of Dawn dish soap out of my mind.
Tangerine didn’t fair much better. Aine Cain, another colleague and taste tester, said the Tangerine flavour reminded her of “the worst Capri Sun flavour.”
She couldn’t recall which specific Capri Sun flavour exactly, but upon further investigation based on her recollection of the packaging, I believe she is referencing either Pacific Cooler or Surfer Cooler.
By the time we got to Pink Grapefruit, I was hopeful we might just turn a corner. However, this did not end up to be the case, given we collectively decided this flavour unsettlingly evoked Bath & Body Works products of our youth.
Still, upon pouring these first three flavours, we couldn’t deny they had a nice effervescence and refreshing body, even if the taste was lacklustre.
Next up was Watermelon, which was an unexpected fan favourite and one of the most flavorful of the bunch.
While I personally thought it tasted like a liquefied Dum-Dum lollipop in an unpleasant way, the rest of the crew admired its bold flavour.
Orange Sherbet was the most notable, not only because all of us learned we’ve been pronouncing sherbet incorrectly our entire lives, but also because it was undeniably our favourite flavour.
My colleague Kate Taylor said the flavour reminded her of a Creamsicle in a pleasant and nostalgic way.
“Orange Sherbet is good if you want to drink Creamsicle water,” she said. Strangely enough, it turned out we all wanted to do just that.
Coasting on the high of Watermelon, we were quickly brought back down to reality by the horror of Very Cherry, a medicinal tasting concoction that was unanimously our least favourite.
“It tastes like a crummy Flintstones vitamin,” Cain said. I strongly concur.
After the pain of Very Cherry, we took a break for a celebratory toast to socially distant park hangs and the first time we had seen each other beyond a screen in months.
The penultimate flavour was Pina Colada, which we were surprised to find ourselves sipping happily.
“I feel wrong for loving this, but I do,” Cain said.
The final flavour was Vanilla. I had low expectations for this one, which it ended up surpassing — ultimately maybe a life lesson about the benefits of not having high hopes? Hard to say.
Still I felt it should be mixed with something, perhaps alcohol. We decided it was not a beverage we’d opt to drink by itself.
While a couple of the flavours were truly brutal on the senses, we were ultimately pleasantly surprised by many of them.
“These were more subtle flavours than I expected,” Cain said. “I enjoyed these, and none – except Very Cherry – were obnoxious. A lot were tasty.”