Inspiration for some of the best business ideas comes about when you least expect it.
John Jamison, vice president of Retail Operations at Jelly Belly, was having a quiet dinner last spring with his wife Diane when she suggested that Jelly Belly look at wine-tasting as another option for its thousands of annual visitors.
Jamison has been married for more than 30 years and thankfully he has learned to listen to his wife. The Jelly Belly Candy Co. Chocolate and Wine Experience is the result.
Jelly Belly has offered a daily event since last June for wine pairing with chocolate in the Very Cherry room at the Visitor Center. The Visitor Center’s handmade chocolates . . . and wine; now that’s a combination that may not immediately come to your mind. That’s just because people are usually so smitten with jelly beans, it is easy to forget, Jelly Belly Candy Co. makes some tasty chocolate.
Your Economic Notes reporters spoke with Jamison this week to get the fermented story.
“We love collaborative efforts, and our Chocolate and Wine Experience is a great way to promote our chocolates as well as Suisun Valley products at our Visitor Center,” he said. “Many people don’t realize we make our own fresh truffles here, and that’s been of great interest when tasting an exquisite dark chocolate truffle with a wine, the reactions are amazing.”
Interested imbibers enter the Very Cherry tasting room on the second floor, where guests are invited to sample five wines (for a small fee). Each wine is paired with a chocolate from the Chocolate Shoppe, Jelly Belly’s specialty line of chocolates available at the Fairfield Visitor Center. The Chocolate and Wine Experience currently focuses on the wines of Wooden Valley Winery, the stalwart Suisun Valley vintner.
During the peak summer tourist season, more than 3,000 people per day visit Jelly Belly. The wine-tasting event offers visitors another option for their visit to Fairfield. Jelly Belly can even accommodate larger groups, including corporate parties and events.
“If you pair the right food or cheese with wine, you can enhance both the food and wine taste,” Jamison said. “We suggest a wine-chocolate-wine pairing for our guests as this allows someone to taste the wine, then the chocolate, and then notice the change in the profile of the wine when they immediately taste the wine again. Our Wooden Valley 2012 Riesling, paired with a dark chocolate raspberry stick, has been the most popular.”
Jelly Belly has doubled its expected sales volume during the time since it began hosting the Chocolate and Wine Experience. This activity has kept its wine pairing subcommittee busy collaborating on new combinations for sampling. Jelly Belly is now one of Wooden Valley Winery’s biggest customers.
Jelly Belly believes that in addition to being a bargain and a showcase for some of their own fine confections, the Chocolate and Wine Experience is another opportunity to promote another local industry, an industry that is of growing importance and will help preserve the agricultural heritage that contributes to Fairfield’s quality of life.
As the wine industry continues to boom in Northern California and wine industry-related companies locate in Fairfield industrial and office parks, it only makes sense that one of our largest and oldest industrial citizens should try its hand at the wine-tasting business. Given the huge number of visitors who come to the Jelly Belly headquarters and our proximity to Suisun Valley, it’s a natural fit.
Jelly Belly has been in Fairfield since 1986, with the Visitor Center opening in 1999. In fact, June 14-15 is the 15th anniversary of the Jelly Belly Visitors Center (and Jelly Belly will certainly be celebrating appropriately).
In Jelly Belly’s tasting room, Fairfield and the Suisun Valley are promoted through marketing materials and maps, coupons and special deals. Jelly Belly is an active participant in the Fairfield Conference and Visitors Bureau’s activities and also has a seat on the board of directors.
Jelly Belly can be a good launching pad to educate newcomers to Fairfield about other attractions in the area, and has also partnered with Sepay Groves Olive Oil on mutual promotions.
We love to see local companies partner for business-to-business sales opportunities like Wooden Valley Winery and Jelly Belly have done. It helps to keep the local economy thriving.
The Chocolate and Wine Experience is available daily between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. For more information, go online to https://jellybelly.com/Info/promotions/wine_experience.
Economic Notes is an update from Fairfield City Hall written by Brian Miller and Karl Dumas of the Fairfield Planning and Development Department. Reach them at 428-7461 or email at [email protected] or [email protected]