Peter’s Chocolate, Cargill’s premium chocolate brand, is recognizing U.S. chocolatiers who are making their mark on the industry with the new Peter’s Chocolate Award of Distinction.

Cargill selected 12 U.S. candy businesses to be the first recipients of the award, which will be profiled in a collectible 2020 calendar, reaching thousands in the candy-making industry.

Inspired by Daniel Peter, the Swiss chocolatier who invented milk chocolate in 1875, Cargill created the award for loyal Peter’s Chocolate users who are elevating the art of candy making. The calendar will be distributed to confectioners nationally and shared on 

“We’re celebrating the accomplishments of these 12 confectioners whose passionate commitment to confectionery artistry is apparent in their inspiring use of flavors and ingredients and dedication to quality artisanship,” said Filip Buggenhout, managing director, Cargill Cocoa and Chocolate North America. “These chocolatiers are truly at the forefront of our industry, inspiring us with their creativity, imagination and devotion to their craft.” 

This year’s winners are:

Cowboy Up Chocolates, San Angelo, Texas – In 2008, James Crowder left his career in fashion retail and real estate to pursue his passion of candy making. Crowder embraced his western heritage, creating original recipes that incorporated such Tex-Mex staples as jalapenos, chilies, mesquite bean flour and dried chili peppers. 

Bakers Candies, Inc., Greenwood, Neb. – Founder Kevin Baker might just be the world’s only chocolatier to begin as an aerospace engineer. In the 1980s, Kevin decided to apply the same mechanical genius he used to design super-efficient manufacturing systems for missiles to optimizing the art of candy making to perfect their famous Nebraskan-style chocolate meltaways.

Malley’s Chocolates, Cleveland, Ohio – Twenty-three locations. Three generations. Six siblings. For Malley’s, it all adds up to a remarkable success story. The company, which dates back to 1935, still relies on grandfather Mike’s original recipes. In the second generation, Adele and her late husband Bill, brought a creative flair to the company’s merchandising, adding such unexpected features as an in-store carousel. The third generation continues to grow the Malley’s brand, while remaining intently focused on product quality, consistency and customer satisfaction.

Birnn Chocolates of Vermont, South Burlington, Vermont -- The Birnn family began making chocolate in 1915. The current incarnation of the company was founded in 1991, when brothers Jeff and Bill Birnn relocated from New Jersey to Vermont and made the transition from a retail candy store to a wholesale manufacturing operation that produces truffles in more than 150 varieties. 

Donaldson’s Finer Chocolates, Lebanon, Ind. – After Bob Donaldson started dating Kathy in high school, she took a job at the family store. Soon enough Bob’s dad, George, began teaching Kathy to cook every confection he made. At that point, Bob realized marrying her would be a great life and business decision. Donaldson’s prides itself on making all its chocolates the old-fashioned way, with fresh creamery butter, whole milk, pure cane sugar and premium chocolate.

Sayklly’s Candies, Escanaba, Mich. – While the company dates back to 1906, Kevin Robitaille didn’t join the staff until 1987. He was originally hired to take out trash and pack boxes but soon apprenticed himself to Mike Kobasic, the founder’s grandson, and eventually purchased the business in 2014. Sayklly’s makes its homemade chocolates and candies using top-secret premium ingredients.

Graeter’s Ice Cream, Cincinnati, Ohio – Graeter's appears to be the last remaining commercial ice cream manufacturer in the world to use French Pot freezers, and its two-gallon batches are among the smallest, and most artisan, in the industry. 

Dinstuhl’s Fine Candy Co., Memphis, Tenn. – Now a two-family business in its fifth generation, Dinstuhl’s has been a Memphis landmark since 1902, every bit as iconic a part of the city’s culture and reputation as Graceland, Beale Street and Sun Studios.  

Peterbrooke Chocolatier, Jacksonville, Fla. – A franchise operation with 22 stores in 3 states, Peterbrooke delivers “American Chocolates in the European Tradition.” By upholding strict and detailed standards of product quality, customer service and sustainability for all its franchisees (the organization is 100% UTZ certified), Peterbrooke maintains a remarkably consistent profile and its products inspire passionate recognition and loyalty.  

Laymon Candy Co., San Bernardino, Calif. – The business opened in 1927, two years before the stock market crash. The Laymon family kept it going by working tirelessly and becoming a distributor for other manufacturers while continuing to operate a thriving retail store. 

Boehm’s Candies & Chocolates, Issaquah, Wash. – As much a museum as a candy store, the business started by Austrian immigrant Julius Boehm in 1942 is as renowned for its elegant chalet design and remarkable art collection as it is for its sumptuous confections. Since 1981, Boehm’s has been owned and operated by Bernard Garbusjuk, who apprenticed with Julius after training and working as a pastry chef in Germany. 

Fascia’s Chocolates, Waterbury, Conn. – A toolmaker turned chocolatier, John and Helen Fascia opened their business in the basement while Helen was expecting her first child. Needless to say, all three Fascia daughters (Louise, Lynn and Lori) grew up immersed in the family business, which soon outgrew the basement. Today, they remain devoted to the family-run operation.