The Jolly Rancher is a brand of candy that includes hard candy, fruit chews, and lollipops. It was originally produced by the Jolly Rancher Candy Company, a Colorado based company which was founded in 1949 by husband and wife Bill and Dorothy Harmsen.
The name Jolly Rancher was derived from idea of western hospitality. When the candy was first introduced, the candy company actually made various products including ice cream and chocolate. Once the Jolly Rancher candy’s popularity was apparent by the growing sales, the company then ceased making ice cream and then concentrated on hard candy.
In 1966, the Harmsens sold the Jolly Rancher Candy to Beatrice Foods but the couple continued to be involved in the day to day operations of the company. Seventeen years later, in 1983, the Finland-based company, Huhtamaki Oy, purchased the candy company and the right to Jolly Rancher Candy from the ailing Beatrice Foods who would later be bought out by Kohlbert Kravis Roberts & Co. in 1986 then later broken up by ConAgra Foods Inc. in 1990.
Huhtamaki Oy eventually sold Jolly Rancher to Hershey Foods Corporation in 1996 where it has been ever since. All production a the orignal Colorado location ceased after the acquisition by Hershey Foods.
While Jolly Rancher has introduced other kinds of candy in recent years, for many people their name is synonymous with the rectangular hard candies that made them famous.
The original assortment of flavors still marketed today includes grape, cherry, lemon, watermelon, and sour apple. They also sell two other assortments: "Tropical Blends", comprised of strawberry-banana, raspberry-pineapple, banana-pineapple, mandarin-tangerine, and lemon lime; and "Passion fruits", which includes fruit punch, strawberry, raspberry, peach, and orange. An intense cinnamon flavor called Fire is also available.
Beyond the Jolly Rancher candy and its variation is the other candies that wear the Jolly Rancher brand name. These include: Hard Candy, Sugar Free Hard Candy (1997) Jelly Beans (1997) Lollipops (1999) Fruit Chew Lollipops (2001) Fruit Chews Candy (2001) Screaming Sours Candy (2004) Bold Fruit Smoothie Jelly Beans (2005) Lollipops with Chile.
In addition to the traditional flavors introduced by the Harmsens, Hershey’s has added Fruit 'n' Sour flavors, Smoothie flavors, and holiday-themed candies.