History & Marketing Strategies of Jolly Rancher

Company Name – Jolly Rancher
Founder – Bill Harmsen, Dorothy Harmsen  

 Owned currently by The Hershey Company, the Jolly Rancher brand is an America-based candy manufacturer that also deals in gummies, lollipops, sodas, gum, jelly beans, hard candies, fruit chews and gelatin desserts. Just as the name suggests, the brand was founded in a western American region named Golden where ranching is a common activity and people have a positive i.e. jolly vibe towards others.

Using the natural fruit flavors like green apple, mango, strawberry, watermelon etc, the Jolly Rancher products are manufactured from solution of sucrose, fructose or glucose syrup. It is boiled at 160-degree Centigrade temperature and then cooled to create the supersaturated mixture having around 2.5% water.   


How It All Started 

It was the ambitious and dedicated couple Bill and Dorothy Harmsen from Golden, Colorado who had started their company named “Jolly Rancher” in 1897 although it was not until 28th May, 1949 that the Jolly Rancher Company was founded officially to sell ice creams, candies and chocolates.

The Ranch Ice-cream business was given such a name to make customers feel welcoming and Bill sold most of his candies and ice-creams within Denver. As selling ice-cream during winter months was a significant issue, he conceptualized the idea of selling hard candies which could be sold year round. 

The store located under arch of the Howdy Folks on the Washington Avenue soon prospered into opening of franchises in Wyoming, Nebraska and Colorado and in 1951 the production house moved to Wheat Ridge from Golden where the new “Famous For Flavor” range was introduced for hard candies.       



In Wheat Ridge, Jolly Rancher got a new look for ease of candy manufacturing –to reach their target of manufacturing that was exceeding day by day, candy maker was appointed and the production house of Jolly Rancher got a new name –Sugar Bar Ranch.

In order to gain more customers, the owners sold Jolly Rancher to Chicago’s Beatrice Foods Company in 1966 and the merger helped in getting around 125000 pounds candies on daily basis, thanks to 250 employees who worked on double shifts. In 1983, the company was sold to Leaf Candy Company and by 1996, the candy production house from Colorado was moved to Canada and Mexico when the Hershey Company acquired it under Huhtamaki Oy. 

More number of Jolly Rancher candies was manufactured and the same flavors were used in making drinks, lollipops, chewing gums, candy canes, jelly beans, sour candy and gummies which were launched one by one. As the products were distributed at convenience stores and supermarkets, the new product Crunch ‘n Chew was launched as a candy-gum which was crunchy outside and chewy inside.       

Launching of all-lemon bag in 2013 was a remarkable event as with it, the lemon flavor was returned. Orange, pineapple, mountain berry, strawberry and lemon flavors were launched together with the “Fruity Bash” bag in 2015. The “Hotties Variety” bag including flavors of cherry, blue raspberry, watermelon, sriracha, cayenne, habanero, green apple and ginger. Red bag was launched with fruit punch, strawberry, cherry and watermelon flavors.   


Jolly Rancher’s marketing strategy and reasons behind its success


  • From jelly beans to candies, gummies to lollipops and so on, Jolly Rancher has always been using natural fruit flavor and also experimenting with new flavors along with the trademark flavors. Some of the common flavors include cherry, apple, watermelon, lemon, raspberry, mountain berry, strawberry, grape, sour apple, peach, banana-pineapple and orange-tangerine. 
  • Outside America, India is the only country where Jolly Rancher has been introduced officially to confectionary market and with its unique fruity flavor especially for the lollipops which also brought back lollipops (which was almost dead in Indian market), the brand has earned iconic response. Mango, Green Apple, Watermelon and Strawberry are the four flavors running in India as the brand’s strategy to suit the Indian palate.
  • While the Indian confectionary market had growth of only 18%, Hershey made a bold yet effective move by re-introducing lollipops. While lollipops have only 2% contribution to candy (hard-boiled) market, in comparison with other candies, it is less crowded and had aided the brand to utilize the space while creating awareness for the brand.   



Jolly Rancher’s campaigns

Undoubtedly the most striking and bold campaign of Jolly Rancher was its 2017 Effie Award winning campaign of “A New Media Model to Transform a Brand That Sucks”. While the tagline itself seems to speak negatively of the brand, the brand director Bill Blubaugh stated that the idea was a media strategy to introduce Jolly Rancher as untraditional model in confectionary market.

The director stated that the team of Jolly Rancher openly embraced the fact that when people are stuck in situations that suck, they suck on Jolly Ranchers. With online engagement digitalization of content, the brand was redefined. 

In Indian market, Jolly Rancher lollipops were campaigned with a small television commercial featuring famous South Indian actress Tamannaah who was seen as being bored during college lecture and hence, she bought out the lollipops, the flavor of which was seen bursting above her head as her classmates looked on. This campaign only showed the mango, green apple and watermelon variants while the strawberry flavor was marketed for in later campaigns. 

Another advertisement campaign was shot featuring Tamannah with the Jolly Rancher Hotties. She was asked by a classmate showing the famous picture of Einstein with his tongue stuck out, as to why he would get photographed like that. She replies while handing out a candy to him that Einstein might have tasted the Hotties range which came in lemon, pineapple and raw mango flavors. 

With the #ValentinesDaySucks campaign, Jolly Rancher introduced Faux Candy jewelry like rings, necklaces, earrings and bracelets which featured the sparkly gem resembling Jolly Rancher candy. A contrast to conventional mushy Valentine’s Day advertisements, this one became popular on social media.      



Starting as an ice-cream company by the Harmsen couple, Jolly Rancher has since then tried to stand up to its name and has been successful. By creating a strong brand identity in the global confectionary market, the brand under the Harshey Company for over seventy years has been creating a revolution in confectionary industry with the fruity sweet n tart flavors in lollipops, candies and more. 

The amorphous hard, transparent and brittle candies manufactured from sugar solutions with higher concentrations not only look vibrant but leave a sweet and tangy taste that make them favorite among all age group.   


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