On Monday afternoon, a coworker forwarded me an email about the 2017 Jelly Belly Flavor Battle, a bracketed tournament launched by Jelly Belly on April 22nd, in observance of National Jelly Bean Day. The competition is meant to determine the country’s favorite jelly bean flavor. It’s just reached the final round, and the winner will be revealed later today. The final two contenders are Very Cherry and Buttered Popcorn. Are you as astonished as I am?
“Arizona’s ‘favorite’ jelly bean might be the worst jelly bean,” a brazen headline in an Arizona-based NBC affiliate declared last month. The culprit was—you guessed it—Buttered Popcorn, that gelatinous, pastel yellow candy pellet, its taste resembling a sweetened bag of kernels you’d get at your local AMC. Last month, it was declared the second-most popular jelly bean flavor in the country according to a survey on candystore.com (seven states declared it their jelly bean of choice), second only to Black Licorice across the country. (Black Licorice, somewhat bewilderingly, lost out to Tutti-Frutti in the first round of the Jelly Belly Flavor Battle.)
In other words, there's certainly a precedent for Buttered Popcorn performing so highly in a showdown like this. But Buttered Popcorn is quite the divisive flavor, inspiring fierce tribalism within our very own editorial team. Some, like my colleague Sarah Jampel, love the Buttered Popcorn jelly bean for its taste and aesthetic (“I think it tastes good,” she explained. “I also like how it looks.” Incredible!). I’m afraid she’s in the minority, though. Most others on our team find this flavor repulsive. Very Cherry, in contrast, hasn’t elicited such revulsion, though another one of my colleagues likened its taste to that of cough syrup. That’s no good.
Mayukh Sen is a James Beard Award-winning food and culture writer in New York. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, the New Yorker, Bon Appetit, and elsewhere. He won a 2018 James Beard Award in Journalism for his profile of Princess Pamela published on Food52.