All in good taste: Sacramento has a really odd sweet tooth | Crain's

All in good taste: Sacramento has a really odd sweet tooth

America’s fondness for jelly beans runs the gamut – from traditional varieties such as apple, watermelon and cherry, to acquired tastes such as black licorice and buttered popcorn. | Photo courtesy of CandyStore.com

With Easter coming on Sunday and National Jelly Bean Day landing on April 22, it’s no surprise that Sacramentans are gearing up for a sugar rush. It’s what they’re craving that’s the eyebrow raiser.

According to bulk candy retailer CandyStore.com, the Capital City’s favorite flavor of jelly bean is … buttered popcorn. Cherry and licorice followed as No. 2 and No. 3, respectively. Sacramento’s taste is similar to the state as a whole (buttered popcorn, black licorice and cotton candy) and nationally (buttered popcorn, black licorice and cinnamon).

Clair Robbins, CandyStore.com’s director of outreach, jokes that the results may be the result of “the Hollywood Effect” – people who have transferred their love of movie theater popcorn to one of America’s favorite candies.

“Buttered Popcorn is definitely a divisive flavor,” says Robbins. “There has been some strong emotional feedback against it. But the numbers don't lie. It is loved and hated, apparently.” 

Arkansas, Connecticut, Georgia, Michigan, Missouri, New York, Ohio and Texas were the other states where pseudo-movie theater fare ranked No. 1. Black licorice, last year’s champ nationwide, was still tops in Alaska, Colorado, Kentucky, Minnesota, New Jersey, North Carolina, North Dakota and Tennessee.

CandyStore.com used jelly bean sales data from the last 10 years, and SurveyMonkey and Facebook polls of more than 12,000 candy customers and followers to create the survey. The retailer ranked the top 30 flavors out of more than 100.

Cream soda, raspberry and pomegranate were the three bottom flavors (Nos. 28, 29 and 30) nationally.

Between National Jelly Bean Day and Easter, Americans chomp down 16 billion jelly beans, according to CandyStore.com.

Bin-based jelly beans – as opposed to the boxed over-the-counter variety – have long been popular in the Sacramento area. Jelly Belly Candy Company, identified by Candy Industry Magazine as the world’s 66th-largest candy maker, lists 141 retailers within a 25-mile radius of downtown. Several stores in Old Town are duking it out with various brands. A handful of sweet shops in downtown alone. They’re a staple at stores such as Cost Plus, Bel Air, Safeway and Party City as well. And the Jelly Belly Candy Company itself is headquartered just down I-80 in Fairfield.

In the past, the company has reported that its best-selling items were combination packages – 49 flavors, 20 flavors and sours – but buttered popcorn is its top-seller among the single flavors, followed by cherry.

Andy Paul, owner of Andy’s Candy Apothecary in downtown Sacramento, understands the appeal. “Buttered popcorn is one of those flavors people pick out, like black jelly beans, because its flavor is such a mismatch with the other sweet and fruity ones,” Paul says. “When you taste one, you do say, ‘Wow, that tastes like hot buttered popcorn!’ It was a remarkable food science achievement.”

Still, Paul admits that such unusual flavors aren’t his cup of tea. He prefers classics like cherry or cinnamon.

“I've noticed a trend where the ‘really weird’ or gimmicky flavors get a lot of attention – but mostly as a novelty or because they taste bad,” he says. “I'm old school in this way I guess, but I want every candy you buy to taste amazing. That is why our store exists.”

March 21, 2018 - 3:26pm