The Real Reason Ronald Reagan Loved Jelly Beans

If anybody deserves to stress eat their way through the workday or to crave comfort food while living in a strange place, it's the president of the United States. Bill Clinton was known to snack on Big Macs and Egg McMuffins at McDonald's before going vegan. John F. Kennedy required a taste of home with bowls of creamy New England clam chowder. And Richard Nixon started many mornings with a curious mix of cottage cheese and ketchup, according to Vice

However, there may be no stronger link between a president and his food than Ronald Reagan and jelly beans. But Reagan didn't stock up on jelly beans because he was stressed out over the Cold War, or missed his home state of California. He ate mounds of the candy to kick his smoking habit. As an actor, Reagan did ad spots for Chesterfield cigarettes in the 1940s and 1950s, but, in his personal life, it was pipe smoking that had a grip on him. In 1966, when he announced he would run for governor of California, he knew he had to put his pipe down and decided it would be jelly beans he would pop in his mouth, instead. That's when he turned to the Oakland-based Herman Goelitz Candy Company. The year before, the company had developed a mini jelly bean that was packed with flavor throughout the bean, while other jelly beans had flavor in the shell and a plain jelly center, according to the company's history.

Ronald Reagan took his love of jelly beans to the state house, then the White House

After Ronald Reagan won the 1966 race, he and his staff placed a standing monthly order for his new offices in Sacramento. As the years wore on, the orders increased and Reagan said meetings were unthinkable without jelly beans. "They have become such a tradition of this administration that it has gotten to the point where we can hardly start a meeting or make a decision without passing around a jar of jelly beans," Reagan wrote to the company in 1976, according to Atlas Obscura.

That same year, the company developed a line of gourmet mini jelly beans now known as Jelly Belly beans. The new flavors included: Root Beer, Cream Soda, Tangerine, Green Apple, Licorice, Lemon, Grape and Very Cherry. Once again, Reagan was hooked and his offices switched the order entirely to the new Jelly Belly line.

When Ronald Reagan ran for president in 1980 and won, the inauguration committee had a request for the Herman Goelitz Candy Company: manufacture Jelly Belly beans in red, white, and blue for the inauguration celebrations. And that is how the blueberry bean was born (they already had red and white covered with Very Cherry and coconut). The company shipped more than three tons of the new blend in glass presidential jars just in time for the January 20 events, according to the Reagan Library.

Jelly beans became a permanent part of Ronald Reagan's image

The Jelly Belly beans became a part of Reagan's public image throughout his time in the White House. The candy became a source of questions for reporters. When asked why he liked to have them on the table during meetings, he answered, "You can tell a lot about a fella's character by whether he picks out all of one color or just grabs a handful," the LA Times reported.

After nearly 20 years of his close association with Jelly Belly, Reagan switched his candy alliance to M&Ms toward the end of his administration, according to Atlas Obscura. The company has no hard feelings about the change and still has something of a shrine dedicated to the former president — portraits created out of jelly beans and all. After his death, the company placed black ribbons over those portraits.

Although Reagan enjoyed many of the dozens of Jelly Belly flavors over the years, he had a clear favorite: classic licorice.