Getting to know Bob Simpson
Stricker: How do you make the jelly beans the flavor that you want them to be?
Simpson: Well, the flavor is a secret; the flavor is what makes Jelly Belly unique and different from the rest. And the secret is we use natural ingredients where ever we can, concentrates, purees, and pure fruit juices and then we use those natural ingredients and we mix them in the center as well as the outer shell so you saw how they were made and so the flavor is there throughout the entire bean and thatís why they are so intense. We call it really, really real flavor.
Stricker: How many people work for you?
Simpson: As of last week 740, we have the two plants here in California, and one in the Chicago area. There are about 350 back in Chicago and pretty close to 400 here.
Stricker: What are your favorite flavors?
Simpson: I have two favorite flavors, one is pink grapefruit and the other is juicy pear. But I have to say I really love the sours, Iíll eat the sours all day long.
Stricker: Did you ever get to meet Ronald Reagan?
Simpson: You know I did not get to meet Ronald Reagan, but my boss, Herman, has met with him at the white house and when he was the governor of California and were are big fans of Ronald Reagan needless to say.
Stricker: Are there any oversized Jelly Bellys?
Simpson: Great question by the way, we have them in product development, and if we go back over to my office I will show you some giant Jelly Bellys that I think you will get a kick out of. We havenít marketed them weíre thinking about it, maybe you should tell us if we could do that or not.
Stricker: Is this what you wanted to do?
Simpson: I think I have the greatest job in the world, I donít know if I really set out to do this, but it is an opportunity that I had been given a few years ago and I am really excited to be with Jelly Belly. Being the president of a candy company is not really something I think anyone would ever dream of doing, but it has been a lot of fun and it is just nice to have a product that everybody enjoys so much and to be associated with. The company is fabulous and it is privately owned and we have a kind of Jelly Belly culture around here and I like the way that we treat out employees and I just like the way we do business.
Stricker: Do you sell Jelly Belly all over the world?
Simpson: We sell Jelly Belly in over 35 countries. Our most popular markets, our strongest markets, are Canada, the UK, Germany, Japan and Australia; we do some other markets in China, South Africa and some other European countries. We call that our international sales and that is our fastest growing areas.
Stricker: Do you ever go to some of those places and see your stores there?
Simpson: One of my favorite places to go in the world, where there is a huge Jelly Belly display is Harridís in London.
Stricker: What is one thing that makes you successful?
Simpson: I enjoy having our employees and other people be successful, so I enjoy their success. I like to see people work up to their full potential, so for me to motivate someone to go beyond what they are capable of doing gives me a great deal of pleasure and I think that is one of my best attributes.
Stricker: How many flavors are there?
Simpson: There are 50 official flavors, but we have made over 90 different flavors to date. Some flavors we retire and then there are seasonal flavors that we bring out just for the holidays, for instance during Christmas time you will see flavors such as Pumpkin Pie and Apple Cider and a couple of others like that, that you wouldnít normally see during the rest of the year.
Stricker: Which flavors have you retired?
Simpson: I can tell you some flavors were recently brought out of retirement by popular demand and those are plum and strawberry jam, people wanted them back so now they are official flavors.