How Jelly Belly Creates Bizarre Flavors

When it comes to jelly beans, no one does it quite like Jelly Belly. While most brands stick to classic jelly bean flavors like cinnamon, strawberry, and cotton candy, Jelly Belly has made a name for itself by creating some of the most out-there jelly bean flavors known to humankind.

According to Mental Floss, some of the brand's stranger flavors have included Tabasco, chili mango, barbeque banana, and draft beer jellybeans, but the award for "most bizarre" may just go to the flavors of vomit, earthworm, boogers, ear wax, and baby wipes.

Of course, this might have you wondering how on earth Jelly Belly can take something seemingly inedible, like ear wax, and turn it into a jelly bean flavor. Is someone tasting ear wax, analyzing the flavor notes, and choosing the corresponding ingredients? Or, worse, is Jelly Belly collecting ear wax and mixing it into its candy?

Worry not, dear readers –- although the process of making jelly beans does indeed involve coating them with wax, there's no ear wax involved. There is, however, a whole lot of scent science that goes into making Jelly Belly flavors as realistic as possible, so let's get into it.

Jelly Belly flavors are developed using scent-science

Have you ever noticed that when your sense of smell is impaired, it affects your sense of taste? Well, according to the Institute of Culinary Education, this is because our perception of different flavors involves both smell and taste. Jelly Belly uses this to its advantage when it comes to creating the most realistic flavors possible.

In an interview with Mental Floss, Jelly Belly spokesperson Jana Sanders Perry explained the scent-science process. First, the company takes something for which they want to create a jelly bean flavor, such as ear wax. The ear wax is dissolved, then boiled or heated, and the "vapors" it gives off are collected and analyzed by a "gas chromatograph."

By looking at the chemicals that make up a scent, jelly bean scientists can translate a smell to "flavor markers," and use those flavors to create an ear wax jelly bean. Funnily enough, Jelly Belly's vomit-flavored bean was created when scientists attempted to replicate the smell of pizza. Kinda weird, but hey, that's what we live for.

After a new flavor of jelly bean has been created, Perry explains that it goes through as many rounds of tasting and reformulating as necessary to nail the flavor down. Once jelly bean scientists are happy with the product, it goes out to grocery store shelves in hopes of becoming the next most popular jelly bean flavor.