Jelly Belly distances itself from a Willy Wonka-style contest with a candy factory as the grand prize

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Jelly Belly Candy Company on Tuesday sought to distance itself from a Willy Wonka-style contest that promises to award a winner the keys to a candy factory.

The nationwide “gold ticket” treasure hunt was launched by Jelly Belly jelly beans inventor David Klein, as a way to “give back” before his retirement. It gained so much interest from wannabe winners that within days its Facebook page gained 38,000 followers.

Jelly Belly, based in Fairfield, Calif., issued a statement clarifying that it is not involved in the contest.

“David Klein, the sponsor of the ‘treasure hunt’ contest gaining attention within the media this weekend, is not associated with Jelly Belly Candy Company, its brands, or products,” the company said. “In 1976, Mr. Klein, an independent third party, came up with the name “Jelly Belly” and other novel marketing ideas. Jelly Belly Candy Company has not had a relationship with Mr. Klein since 1980 when it acquired the trademark.”

Formerly known as Herman Goelitz Candy Company, with roots dating to 1869, the company changed its name to Jelly Belly in 2001.

Klein’s treasure hunt tries to draw on the magic of Roald Dahl’s “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and the classic movie featuring Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka. In a video announcing the contest, Klein, who calls himself “Candyman,” said “we’re looking for you Charlie, out there,” referring to Charlie Bucket, the poor little boy who finds a golden ticket in a chocolate bar and, after showing himself worthy, wins the factory.

The modern-day version is a bit different.

At, people who wish to participate must pay $49.98 to access a riddle that can lead them to gold-colored necklaces that have been hidden in each state. The first who find the necklaces receive $5,000. Once all 50 states have completed their contests, anyone who entered the contest can vie for the “ultimate treasure hunt” that will award the winner a key to a candy factory and “an all-expenses paid trip and education to a candy-making university.”

Efforts to reach Klein were unsuccessful. According to Fast Company, which interviewed Klein, the factory is a 4,000-square-foot property in Florida and the candy classes take place at University of Wisconsin-Madison.

As of Tuesday, people could buy tickets to the hunt in eight states, with the earliest riddle release, in Georgia, set for Sept. 30. Tickets to access the riddles in the rest of the states, including Illinois, are not yet available for purchase.

There will be 1,000 tickets sold for each state’s contest.

Reaction to the contest has been mixed, with some on social media calling it a scam. Klein responded to the criticism on The Gold Ticket Facebook page Tuesday.

“We started this to have fun and to bring excitement to a world that is so troubled..So many people have responded favorably to what we are doing,” wrote Klein, who founded jelly bean company Spectrum Confections. “Unfortunately there have been a few haters that are attempting to take away the fun..I believe in freedom of speech but to be called a scam is so wrong … We will be removing members whose only intent is to take away any joy that this is giving everyone.”


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