Monday, October 6, 2008

Candy company energizes athletes

Candy company energizes athletes
By Cecil Conley | Daily Republic | October 03, 2008

Robert Swaigen, director of Marketing for Jelly Belly, stands in behind a package of the new "pink ribbon" packaged Sport Beans in honor of breast cancer awareness month. The Sport Beans are Jelly Belly product that delves into the sports nutrition market. The beans are intended to provide a quick energy boost to athletes. Photo by Chris Jordan

FAIRFIELD - Rob Swaigen was not sold on the idea in 2005 when Jelly Belly decided to venture into the sports nutrition market for the first time.

The idea of producing Sport Beans was hatched by Jelly Belly Chairman Herm Rowland. Although skeptical, Swaigen was not about to question it.

'It took some time for all of us to get on board,' said Swaigen, the company's director of marketing. '(Rowland) was a little ahead of his time. With his entrepreneurial mind, he's always looking for the next thing.'

The sports nutrition market was in its infancy at the time. Members of Jelly Belly's professional cycling team were relying on regular Jelly Belly beans as a convenient energy source during training and competitions. That's when Rowland decided the riders could use an energy bean.

And that's when Sport Beans were born.

'There was a need not being met in the market,' Swaigen said. 'That's what made us look at this. We thought there was something to it.'

Given the growth of the sports nutrition market in the past three years, Swaigen no longer has any doubts about Rowland's idea to give it a try.

Jelly Belly sells four flavors of Sports Beans -- lemon lime, orange, berry blue and fruit punch -- and two flavors of Extreme Sport Beans, watermelon and cherry. The watermelon and cherry beans are 'extreme' because a 1-ounce serving contains 50 milligrams of caffeine.

'That's like half a cup of brewed coffee,' Swaigen said.

The fruit punch Sport Beans will feature 'pink ribbon' packaging this month in recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Jelly Belly will donate 5 percent of the sale of the beans in October to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

The success of Sport Beans has made such an effort for a worthy cause possible. That success has not made company executives content, however.

See the complete story at the Daily Republic online.