Jell-O is a brand name belonging to USA-based Kraft Foods for a number of gelatin desserts, including fruit gels, puddings and no-bake cream pies. The brand's popularity has led to its becoming a generic term for gelatin dessert across the US and Canada. Because of this, in the United States, packages of Jell-O are marked as Jell-O Brand.


Jell-O is sold prepared (ready to eat) or in powder form, and it is available in many different colors and flavors. The powder contains powdered gelatin and flavorings including sugar or artificial sweeteners. It is dissolved in very hot water, then chilled and allowed to set. Sometimes fruit, vegetables, whipped cream, or other ingredients are added to make often elaborate desserts that can be molded into various shapes. Jell-O must be refrigerated until served, and once set properly, it is normally eaten with a spoon but sometimes with a fork.

There are also non-gelatin pudding and pie filling products under the Jell-O brand: To make pudding, these are cooked on stovetop with milk, then either eaten warm or chilled until more firmly set, or in the case of the “instant” line, simply mixed with cold milk and then chilled. To make pie fillings, the same products are simply prepared with less liquid.

Though the word Jell-O is a name brand, it is commonly used in the USA as a generic name for all products of this kind.

Jell-O violates vegan and vegetarian diets, because it contains gelatin, which is made from animal products.


Gelatin is produced from collagen in animal bones, hooves, and conecting tissue. These are first grinded, mixed with either a strong acid or base solution, and finally boiled. The gelatin raises to the top of the batch and where is collected.


Gelatin has been well known and used for many years. It was popularized in the Victorian era with spectacular and complex "jelly moulds". Gelatin was sold in sheets and had to be purified, which was very time-consuming. It also made gelatin desserts the province of the relatively well-to-do. In 1845, industrialist Peter Cooper (who built the first American steam-powered locomotive, the Tom Thumb), obtained a patent (US Patent 4084) for powdered gelatin.

Forty years later the patent was sold to a LeRoy, New York-based carpenter and cough syrup manufacturer, Pearle B. Wait. He and his wife May added strawberry, raspberry, orange and lemon flavoring to the powder and gave the product its present name in 1897. Unable to successfully market their concoction, in 1899 the Waits sold the business to a neighbor, Orator Francis Woodward, for $450.

Beginning in 1902, Woodward's Genesee Pure Food Company placed advertisements in the Ladies' Home Journal proclaiming Jell-O to be "America's Most Famous Dessert." Jell-O remained a minor success until 1904, when Genesee Pure Food Company sent enormous numbers of salesman out into the field to distribute free Jell-O cookbooks, a pioneering marketing tactic at the time. Within a decade, three new flavors, chocolate (discontinued in 1927), cherry and peach, were added, and the brand was launched in Canada. Celebrity testimonials and recipes appeared in advertisements featuring actress Ethel Barrymore and opera singer Ernestine Schumann-Heink.

In 1923, the newly rechristened Jell-O Company launched D-Zerta, an artificially sweetened version of Jell-O. Two years later, Postum and Genesee merged, and in 1927 Postum acquired Clarence Birdseye's frozen foods company to form the General Foods Corporation. By 1930, there appeared a vogue in American cuisine for congealed salads, and the company introduced lime-flavored Jell-O to complement the various add-ins that cooks across the USA were combining in these aspics and salads. By the 1950s, these salads would become so popular that Jell-O responded with savory and vegetable flavors such as celery, Italian, mixed vegetable and seasoned tomato. These savory flavors have since been discontinued.

In 1934, sponsorship from Jell-O made comedian Jack Benny the dessert's spokesperson. At this time also was introduced a jingle (created by the agency Young & Rubicam) that would be familiar over the next several decades, in which the spelling "J-E-L-L-O" was (or could be) sung over a rising five-note musical theme.

In 1936, chocolate returned to the Jell-O lineup, this time as an instant pudding made with milk. It proved enormously popular and over time other pudding flavors were added such as vanilla, tapioca, coconut, pistachio, butterscotch, egg custard, flan and rice pudding.

New flavors continued to be added and unsuccessful ones were removed: in the 1950s and 1960s, apple, black cherry, black raspberry, grape, lemon-lime, mixed fruit, orange-banana, pineapple-grapefruit, blackberry, strawberry-banana, tropical fruit and more intense "wild" versions of the venerable strawberry, raspberry and cherry. In 1966, the Jell-O "No-Bake" dessert line was launched, which allowed a cheesecake to be made in 15 minutes. In 1971 pre-packaged prepared pudding called Jell-O Pudding Treats were introduced. During this same period, Jell-O 1-2-3, a gelatin dessert that separated into three layers as it cooled, and Jell-O Whip 'n Chill, a mousse-style dessert, were also introduced and widely promoted; they remain available only in limited areas today.

In 1964, the slogan "There's always room for Jell-O" was introduced, promoting the product as a "light dessert" that could easily be consumed even after a heavy meal.

In 1974, comedian Bill Cosby became the company's pudding spokesperson, and continued to serve as the voice of Jell-O for almost thirty years. Over the course of his tenure as the mouthpiece for the company, he would hawk new products such as frozen Jell-O Pops (in both gelatin and pudding varieties); the new Sugar-Free Jell-O, which replaced D-Zerta in 1984 and was sweetened with NutraSweet; Jell-O Jigglers concentrated gummi snacks; and Sparkling Jell-O, a carbonated version of the dessert touted as the "Champagne of Jell-O."

In 1989, General Foods was merged into Kraft Foods by parent company Phillip Morris (now the Altria Group). New flavors were continually introduced: watermelon, blueberry, cranberry, margarita and piña colada among others. In 2001, Green Jell-O was declared the "Official State Snack" of Utah, with Governor Michael O. Leavitt declaring an annual "Jell-O Week."

As of 2008, there are more than 158 products sold under the Jell-O brand name and about 300 million boxes of Jell-O gelatin sold in the United States each year,

Jell-O is also used as a substantial ingredient in a well-known dessert, the preparation of which requires a mold designed to hold Jell-O, and the depositing of small quantities of chopped fruit into the Jell-O before it hardens and takes on its typical form. Note that fresh pineapple, papaya, kiwi, and ginger root cannot be used, since they contain enzymes which prevent the gelatin from "setting."

Jell-O shots

A popular alternative recipe calls for the addition of an alcoholic beverage to the mix, contributing approximately one third to one half of the liquid added after the gelatin has been dissolved in the boil. A serving of the resulting mixture is called a "Jell-O shot". The quantity and timing of the addition of the alcohol are vital aspects; it is not possible to make Jell-O shots with pure alcohol:

Manufacturing and Tourism

As of 2008, LeRoy, New York, is still known as the home of Jell-O and has the only Jell-O Museum in the world, which is located on the main road through the small town. Jell-O was manufactured here until General Foods closed the plant in 1964 and relocated manufacturing to Dover, Delaware.

At the museum, visitors can learn about the history of the dessert from its inception. Visitors starting on East Main Street, follow Jell-O Brick Road, whose stones are inscribed with the names of former factory employees. The museum offers looks at starting materials for Jell-O, such as sturgeon's bladder and calve's hoofs, and various molds.

Current flavors of Jell-O desserts



  • Banana Cream
  • Butterscotch
  • Cheesecake
  • Chips Ahoy!
  • Chocolate
  • Chocolate Fudge
  • Chocolate-Vanilla Swirl (prepared only)
  • Coconut Cream
  • Cookies 'n Creme (Oreo)

  • Creamy Caramel (prepared only)
  • Devil's Food
  • Double Chocolate (prepared only)
  • Dulce De Leche
  • Egg Custard
  • Flan
  • French Vanilla
  • Lemon
  • Peanut Butter Cup

  • Pistachio
  • Pumpkin Spice (seasonal)
  • Rice Pudding
  • S'mores
  • Tapioca (prepared only)
  • Vanilla
  • Vanilla-Caramel (prepared only)
  • White Chocolate

Discontinued flavors of Jell-O brand desserts

  • Apple
  • Black Raspberry
  • Blackberry
  • Bubble Gum
  • Celery
  • Chocolate
  • Coffee
  • Cola
  • Concord Grape
  • Cranberry-Strawberry
  • Fruit Mold Supreme

  • Italian Salad
  • Lemon-Lime
  • Mango
  • Melon-Berry
  • Mixed Vegetable
  • Orange-Banana
  • Orange-Coconut (pudding)
  • Orange-Pineapple
  • Passion Fruit
  • Pickle
  • Pineapple-Grapefruit

  • Plain
  • Raspberry Mango
  • Seasoned Tomato
  • Sparkling Berry
  • Sparkling Mandarin Orange
  • Sparkling White Grape
  • Strawberry Punch
  • Triple Chocolate
  • Tropical Fruit
  • Wild Cherry
  • Wild Raspberry

Note that list is only for specific dessert. For an example, Lemon-Lime flavor still exists as powders or make your owns.

Cultural references


Jack Benny's top-rated radio show did not break away for commercials. Instead, his announcer, Don, incorporated speeches about Jello into the program at appropriate places, to Jack's feigned comic annoyance. Perhaps the earliest musical reference to Jell-O was in the lyrics of "Cockeyed Optimist" from the musical South Pacific (Rodgers and Hammerstein, 1949) when Nellie sings "I could say life is just a bowl of Jell-O". Forty years later, it was mentioned in the film Ghostbusters 2. When Winston is reminded that a supernatural 'goo' resembles Jell-O, he remarks that he hates Jell-O. Peter Venkman responds, "There's always room for Jell-O". In the American TV version of the UK series The Office (2005) Jim Halpert has encased Dwight Schrute's and Andy Bernard's office supplies in Jell-O. In the original UK-based show (2001) Tim Canterbury did the same to Gareth Keenan, though they referred to the dessert by the common UK term "jelly". Samantha Carter of Stargate SG-1 has been seen to enjoy blue Jell-O on numerous occasions. Jell-O powder was a primary ingredient in the green slime for the 1980s TV show, You Can't Do That on Television. Eric Reed Boucher, the lead singer of the punk rock band Dead Kennedys, used Jello Biafra as his stage name. Jell-O was mentioned in a Star Trek Voyager Episode 'The 37's' where Neelix had prepared some human food to the 37's. Neelix had made Jell-O to the character Fred Noonan; portrayed by David Graf


Comedian Bill Cosby is usually associated with Jell-O and, more famously, Jell-O pudding as he has appeared in many commercials promoting both. Shows like MAD TV, The Simpsons and SNL parody Cosby, using Jello references like "pudding pop". In the 1960s, the cast of the sitcom Hogan's Heroes did a commercial with Carol Channing featuring the gang having Jell-O for dessert.

See also


External links

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