Who doesn’t enjoy Jelly Belly brand jellybeans? (You? Fine, whatever.) They’re good. I’ll stand behind them as a tasty low-fat, high-sugar treat. The company improved the jellybean market as a whole, turning it from a four-flavor, once-a-year, mostly boring treat into an industry powered by odd flavors that taste strangely like what they’re supposed to: coconut, watermelon, popcorn, etc. Jelly Belly has even gotten into super-strange jellybeans, marketing Harry Potter-branded beans that taste like earwax and vomit. And there are the Beanboozled flavors (endorsed by Spike Lee*), including skunk spray and toothpaste.
But each one is supposed to mimic a flavor in the real world—good or bad—and most do a pretty remarkable job. This is what the Jelly Belly company is good at: one level removed from a sort-of “actual” flavor. Their beans are like scratch-and-sniff stickers, but you can eat them, and who doesn’t want to do that?
But a strange package arrived on our doorstep not long ago, sent in by reader Sean McGrath. It contained two flavors of Jelly Belly brand pudding cups. Here’s where the meta-meta action comes in: This is a company that makes small candy beans that are supposed to mimic a real-world flavor. Now they’ve come out with a product that mimics their jellybean flavors. It’s a copy of a copy, delivered in sloppy starch form, given a serious dose of food coloring, and packaged in a tiny cup. Show this cup to the caveman who first controlled fire, and he would be struck so dumb that the fire would have time to go out and all evolution would be halted.
The two flavors our friendly reader sent in: Buttered Popcorn and Bubblegum. Digest that for just a second. The former is a small cup full of yellowish goo that’s supposed to taste like a jellybean that’s supposed to taste like a grain that’s been heated to the point of popping, then covered with butter. There is something terribly wrong with this idea. (Same goes for bubblegum, but to a lesser degree.)
It turns out that our reader only sent us the most disgusting varieties, so I tracked down the rest of the flavors, for science. These were: Very Cherry, Watermelon, Blueberry, and Green Apple. Sure, these flavors sound much more pedestrian, but their insanely artificial colors betray any sense of normalcy, particularly the Green Apple, which looks like toxic sludge. Now I know you’re thinking (because eating green sludge gave me the power to read your mind): “These are clearly aimed at children.” And maybe you’re right, but I can’t think of a child in the world who would be interested in eating buttered-popcorn pudding. Or an adult, for that matter. Which raises the question: Is this intended (like some of the weirder Jelly Belly flavors) as sort of a gag gift? Or just as a gift that makes you gag?
Taste: Jelly Belly pudding ranged from ridiculously sweet to shockingly horrible. Is it any wonder that most of our Taste Testers had to hold their noses while consuming the popcorn pudding? Only web guru Jesse actually seemed to like it: We challenged him to eat the whole cup, which he was able to—as long as he wasn’t smelling it while he ate it. Other varieties ranged from crazy sweet (Very Cherry tastes exactly like Ludens cherry cough-drops—you know, the ones with no medicinal properties) to bland (watermelon) to just plain wrong (Bubblegum).
But none of them were actually any good. Not a single Taste Tester could honestly say, “I would eat a whole cup of that.” Granted, we aren’t pudding experts here, but it’s a very specialized item. Not just any flavor works, Jelly Belly—or whatever weird company Jelly Belly licensed its name to. I predict that truckloads of these will be lining the shelves of dollar stores before summer hits.
In an effort to make things more exciting, we mixed up a “suicide” of all the flavors for Internet Eating Sensation Dave Chang. Guess what? The suicide actually tasted better than any of the individual flavors. And it was beautiful while we were mixing it, though the final product looked poopy. You’ll hopefully see these brilliant colors in the accompanying video, which was shot and edited by our new video-intern-helper-friends, Joe Hanson and Hassan S. Ali. Thanks, fellas.
Ooh, I just found this at Dairyfoods.com, and I need to share it, unabridged: “Advanced Food Products LLC, New Holland, Pa., a division of Bongrain Cheese USA, has entered into a licensing agreement with Jelly Belly Candy Co., Fairfield, Calif., to produce Jelly Belly Pudding Snacks. These dairy-based desserts are scheduled for a January roll out in Wal-Mart stores nationwide. Described as having ‘authentic Jelly Belly flavor,’ the puddings come in six varieties: Blueberry, Bubble Gum, Green Apple, Peach, Very Cherry and Watermelon. Fortified with calcium, fiber (in the form of inulin) and the omega-3 fatty acid docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), the puddings are sold in packs of four 3.5-oz cups. According to the companies, the Jelly Belly brand has 94% brand awareness.”
A division of Bongrain Cheese USA? Fucking amazing. And notice how Buttered Popcorn is absent from that list, replaced by Peach. Hmmm… There’s something fishy going on at the lab. (Which reminds me, you should all be watching Better Off Ted.)
• “I know you can’t expect any sort of ‘natural’ flavor from Jelly Belly pudding, but these just seem so half-assed. It’s like they expect the eye-searing colors to do most of the work. They all have a dull, unpalatable taste—I expected some tartness at least, but these were all just grossly bland.”
• “The color reminded me that this must be how the imaginary food tastes in Hook.”
• “I had this Pavlovian response to chew the bubblegum flavor. It felt wrong to swallow it.”
• “It tastes like that flavored numbing stuff dentists give kids.”
• “This isn’t popcorn-flavored; it’s abomination-flavored. My stomach actually cramped a bit swallowing this. I need gum immediately.”
• “All of these were crap. Too sweet, artificially flavored, and unnaturally colored. The carbonated yogurts were slightly better, thanks to the novelty factor.”
• “Can I say that cherry reminded me of menstrual blood? Tasted like weak Kool-Aid and milk.”
• “All of these are a little runny, but watermelon lives up to the ‘water’ part of its name. It’s even runnier. And grosser.”
• “Cherry could be worse. I can’t imagine eating more than a small spoonful of any of these, but this is less repugnant than the others.”
• “Green Apple would have been better if the yogurt had been more tart, but too much sugar made the flavor very light.”
• “Just another stop on the express train of grossness. Really, does anyone eat this shit? I’d feel guilty giving it to starving people in Third World countries.”
• “The blueberry color is really unappetizing. Can’t say the taste did much to improve my opinion.”
• “These are all just variations on the same dull, gross taste. Only this is slightly blueberry-flavored. It also has a chalky flavor underneath the pudding sliminess.”
• “Others say bubblegum was the most accurate of the bunch. I thought it tasted a lot like the cherry.”
• “Hey, who wants to swallow thick, sorta creamy bubblegum? Oh right, no one. I know some gum tastes so good you want to eat it, but in pudding form, that’s a terrible idea.”
• “Buttered Popcorn is the most faithful to its Jelly Belly counterpart, and so it manages to be just as revolting.”
Where to get them: Wal-Mart, apparently, though we got ours from a website called www.tasteofamerica4u.com.