It was the best of times. It was the worst of times… This is how historians will judge the prevailing American jellybean situation early in the 21st century.

When I was kid in the 1970s, jellybeans proved a particular obsession of mine and while commercial confectioners didn’t pay this segment a whole lot of attention back then, neither was it hard to find them on store shelves, all year long. As the millennium turned, candy makers/marketers resolved to treat them as seasonal items, available in bounty only the 6 weeks ahead of Easter (i.e., right now). When they do arrive on shelves today, however, they come thicker and faster, in an ever-expanding range of flavors, many inspired by tried-and-true candy genres never before associated with the jellybean.

Easter seems as good a time as any to parse the jellybean’s curious evolution from the quality, variety and accessibility standpoint. Like so many things through time (a handful of jellybeans, for example), it’s proved something of a mixed bag — but one not immune to progress. Twenty-some years into the Internet Era, on the dual continua of jellybean innovation and availability, many would argue we have entered a golden age.

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