Jelly Belly, which is headquartered in Fairfield and one of that city’s largest employers, announced the bittersweet sale to Chicago-based Ferrara Candy Company Wednesday.
In a bittersweet twist, one of Fairfield’s biggest hometown companies, Jelly Belly, has been acquired by the Chicago-based Ferrara Candy Company, which owns several candy brands such as Nerds, Laffy Taffy, SweeTarts, and Trolli gummies.
It's a pivotal moment in the history of the company, which was founded in Illinois in 1896. Jelly Belly has been owned by the same family for six generations and expanded its reach to California and even Thailand, according to SFGATE. Founder Gustav Goelitz reportedly first opened the company’s original candy shop in Belleville, Illinois, after which his son Herman moved the company to Oakland, and was somewhat surprisingly endorsed by California celebrity and politician Ronald Reagan in the 1960s. He apparently replaced his smoking habit with jelly beans, and particularly loved the licorice flavor (controversial). In 1985, the company reportedly moved its headquarters to Fairfield.
As the release reads, “Once the acquisition closes, nearly 800 global Jelly Belly employees and its facilities in California, Illinois, and Thailand will join the Ferrara organization.”
While the financial details of this deal are yet to be disclosed, the acquisition is projected to conclude by the end of the year, pending standard closing conditions, according to the Mercury News. And Jeff Brown, the current Executive Vice President of Global Operations and Distribution for Jelly Belly, is reportedly set to become the CEO upon finalization of the deal.
The vibrant and quirky Jelly Belly factory has been an emblem of Fairfield, alongside landmarks like Travis Air Force Base and the Budweiser plant. The mayor acknowledged to the Mercury News that the company represents a significant part of Fairfield's identity and charm, and that while she was nervous to see one of the city’s most famous companies acquired, she was relieved by reassurances that employees' jobs will remain secure.