William H. Kelley

Executive Vice President of Jelly Belly

Bill Kelley graduated from Xavier University and served as an officer in the U.S. Army in both the United States and Korea. He began his career with Goelitz Confectionary Co. as president, the same role his father and grandfather held. In 2001, he merged the company with Herman Goelitz Candy Co. to form Jelly Belly. He has been honored by numerous professional organization, and has been inducted into the Candy Hall of Fame in Hershey, PA.

On InnovationNavigation, Bill Kelley talked about the story of Jelly Belly’s origins in two family companies merging, and how they gained wide popularity after future President (then Governor of California) Ronald Reagan took a liking to the jelly beans and used them frequently in cabinet meetings as talking points. Interestingly, he also discussed the process of innovation for the beans. The beans themselves are quite an innovation – previous beans had a flavorless center and flavored coating, this meant that the flavor was weak and the beans big – Jelly Bell’s beans have their flavor in the center, allowing them to be smaller and, famously, to have distinct and true-to-reality flavors. The flavors themselves come from ideas from customers, employees, and other sources. They’re then perfected by competing flavor science firms, tested in house, and then used. Finally, Kelley talked about the value of co-branding and marketing in making products a success.