Local chocolate makers mold successful businesses
If you could produce a product that never loses its luster, is recession-proof and makes everybody happy, you'd be a chocolate candy maker.
This holiday season, Alle-Kiski Valley candy businesses report brisk sales.
Shelves of chocolate-covered Oreo cookies are being stocked on local shelves as well as other delectable items sheathed in chocolate, such as pretzels, potato chips and even bacon.
Bob Clark, owner of Joe Clark's Candies, was sold out of peanut butter meltaways earlier this week, but his operation was busy making more. Clark's Candies has been a family business in Tarentum for 75 years.
Clark has been squeezing in last-minute orders between deliveries and picking up fresh strawberries to dunk in chocolate while assuring customers on the phone that they can still buy stars made of white chocolate.
Clark was momentarily out of raisin clusters and chocolate-covered potato chips on Thursday, but more were made later in the night.
With receipts of about $10 billion in candy in 2012 so far in the U.S. — 60 percent of which is chocolate — sales have been sweet for years, powering through the dour economy, according to Susan Smith, senior vice president of communications and outreach for the National Confectioners Association in Washington, D.C.
“Sometimes the products change in what people purchase depending on economics, but our overall enjoyment and love of chocolate remains strong,” she said.
Confectionery sales have increased by 3 percent over the past year, just a smidge down from 2010's bump of 4 percent and 2009's 4.3 percent increase, she said.
“Regional companies do well in the holidays, and confections and chocolate are such a part of our tradition and what we remember during our childhood,” Smith said.
“There's a lot of regional loyalty, and the holidays are big time of year for the regional companies and for good reason.”
The constant demand for chocolate candy is matched by the number of independent candy makers, according to Denise Alvarez, marketing manager for the Retail Confectioners International in Springfield, Mo.
Membership in the trade association has been growing by 3 percent to 4 percent in numbers of chocolate and candy-making retailers over the past year, she said.
Members are family businesses still going since the 1930s and upstarts entering the market.
“In the last few years, you heard: ‘I lost my job'; or, ‘I always wanted to make candy,' ” she said.
Why just limit yourself to just pecan clusters when chipotle chocolate candy could be just as interesting to the palate?
With controlled excess, the possibilities of what can be coated and marketed with chocolate seems endless.
Salty and sweet combinations such as chocolate-covered pretzels and potato chips are the trend now.
More dark chocolate confections are filling shelves.
Some candy makers are going more natural, using organic ingredients and additives such as natural juices to use for color instead of chemicals, according to Alvarez.
With concerns about health and the medicinal benefits of dark chocolate, more people are asking for it.
According to an NPD market research “snack track” study in 2010, milk chocolate is consumed at a higher percentage than dark chocolate; however adults 35 or older prefer dark chocolate and that number is growing.
But tradition has its place as well.
“A lot of older people come in they got to have their cordial cherries, pecan turtles and yule log,” said Clark.
“They got to have it.
“But the younger generation looks at it a little differently,” he said.
“Maybe they like the dark chocolate and they're looking for a better presentation. Us older guys, just give me the box of turtles.”
Boutique candy stores have been banking on presentation and new twists on traditions.
Sure Bella Christie & Lil' Z's Sweet Boutique in Aspinwall, which is barely 2-years-old, makes and sells gourmet chocolate.
But the shop does more: They hand paint their raspberry Chambord truffles and other candies.
They dust their bon bons with edible glitter. And they custom monogram their chocolate-covered Oreos.
They cast a lot of their candy into whimsical shapes: Violins, the Eiffel Tower, a Christmas sleigh and then hand-paint them.
“We create very personalized gourmet baked goods and candy,” said Jennie Vidt'elliott, one of Bella Christie's managers.
“Chocolate is a great medium to create something personalized,” she said. “and it's not limited when we use chocolate.”
Mary Ann Thomas is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-226-4691 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Winfield man is one of a few to attend all 49 Super Bowl games
- Springdale puts limits on adult businesses
- Burrell students embark on educational adventure
- Penn State New Ken celebrates ‘Unity Day’
- Corps asks more input on nuclear dump plans
- Plum’s 1st property tax hike since 2006 could reach 6.2%
- Plum School Board OKs teachers contract
- Arnold woman severely injured in Allegheny Township wreck
- Woman killed in Washington Township crash
- Second teen charged in Jan. 1 Tarentum shooting
- Radioactive radon permeates Western Pennsylvania homes