Photos, images courtesy of: Wikimedia Commons, Agricultural Research Service, Scott Bauer; York County Convention & Visitors Bureau; Wikimedia Commons, Utente: TheCadExpert.

Remember, everybody likes candy

Nicknamed the snack food capital of the world, Pennsylvania ranks first in the production of chocolate, potato chips and pretzels, with more than 2,300 food processing and manufacturing companies based in the “Keystone State.”

Although it’s difficult to pinpoint the reason for such a snack manufacturing concentration, with some observers saying it’s the region’s water, others pointing to the state’s abundant agricultural bounty, it’s clear that not only Pennsylvanians enjoy the status, but millions of consumers in the United States and abroad do so as well.

Chocolate and confections compete with the ubiquitous pretzel and the tasty potato chip for top snack honors in the state. Such notables as The Hershey Co., headquartered in …Hershey, of course, and Mars Snackfood, ADM and Blommer Chocolate Co. have expansive chocolate facilities. At the same time, there are numerous midsized manufacturers such as Asher’s, Gertrude Hawk, Cherrydale Farms, R.M. Palmer, The Warrell Corp., Frankford Candy & Chocolate Co., Quigley Manufacturing, Lukas Confections, Wolfgang Candy Co. and Sorbee International, just to name a few, that have made Pennsylvania their home.

And we shouldn’t forget those retail candymakers – almost as bountiful as the pretzel bakers that dot every county in the state – who created their own organization, the Retail Confectioners Association of Philadel phia, and regularly host a Philadelphia National Candy Gift and Gourmet show twice a year. (Editor’s Note: The upcoming fall show will be held in Atlantic City, N.J. on September 7-9).

And while most people remember that it was William Penn who initially settled the 45,000-sq.-mile territory (A gift from King Charles II for services rendered by Penn’s father), they forget that the English and subsequently the Germans (Pennsylvania Dutch) brought with them a rich confectionery tradition.

This love of sweets and snacks boded well for the state as it developed its railroads and waterways, making Pennsylvania a great place to host a business. Not only was it easier for consumers to reach chocolate shops, but it was also easier for companies to be supplied with ingredients like sugar, cocoa beans and dairy products.

But it was a Pennsylvania native with a passion for candy that probably brought the most startling impact to the state…and to the history of chocolate making. When Milton Hershey created The Hershey Co. in the late 1880s, he started a candy revolution in Pennsylvania and across the nation (see sidebar). Caramels and chocolates became a delicacy in the U.S. that everyone could afford.

Expansion of the industry continued with the establishment of the Pennsylvania Manufacturing Confectioner’s Association (PMCA) in 1907. This group of candy makers gave the industry giant leaps in knowledge by exchanging information with one another about production and candy making techniques. Just last year, the association celebrated its centennial.

As the years passed, the industry developed and changed. Manual labor began to be replaced by machinery, which increased the number of candy manufacturers and wholesalers. Pennsylvania’s location made travel easier and in turn, increased the popularity of confectionery products.

In 1943, nutritionist Dr. Walter H. Eddy wrote a Brochure on Confectionery, published by the Association of Manufacturers of Confectionery & Chocolate.

In the brochure, he wrote: “Candy is a wholesome food-Candies are made with sugar, chocolate, cocoanut, cocoa butter, corn syrup, cream, butter, dextrose sugar, eggs, fruit, corn starch, various cereals, gelatine, milk, molasses and nut meats; all recognized essential foods.”  He also wrote that “Candy is a pure food” and a “concentrated energy food” because it is quickly digested for fast energy deliverance. Eddy suggested that consumers make candy part of a daily diet, use it at the end of and between meals and also give it to children because it is full of essential foods.

Although times have changed quite a bit since the 1940’s, Pennsylvania remains a snacking capital. Despite consolidation in the industry, and a more sophisticated view of candy’s place in one’s daily diet, millions upon millions of lbs. of chocolate and sweets are produced daily in the Keystone State.

On the following pages, readers can become familiar with a few of those proudly offering their native sons and daughters as well as consumers throughout the United States and the world a sweet treat.  


1894: Milton Hershey founds The Hershey Chocolate Company.
1907: Introduction of Hershey’s Kisses chocolates.
1922: Goldenberg’s Peanut Chews are made in Philadelphia and become popular along the East Coast.
1923: PMCA member companies are encouraged to use the slogan “Remember, Everybody likes Candy” on their stationeries and letterhead.
1927: Philadelphia’s Blumenthal Chocolate Co. creates Raisinets to become a movie time favorite.
1928: Former Hershey employee H.B. Reese makes the first Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. 
1936: The 5th Avenue Bar, today produced by Hershey, is launched by Luden’s.
1939: Boyer Candy Co. moves to a bigger plant in Altoona, Pa. to produce their Mallo Cup.
1940: Just Born introduces their panned candy favorite Mike and Ikes.
1978: Reese’s Pieces panned peanut butter bits are launched.
Source: Sweet Times by Beth Kimmerle, The Hershey Co.

The history of Hershey

Born on September 13, 1857 near the village of Derry Church, Pa., Milton Hershey was destined for the candy industry. He first started to appreciate candy in his teenage years when he worked as an apprentice to a candy maker in Lancaster. When he was 18 years old, he opened his own candy shop, which ended up closing within six years. After the failure, Hershey decided to try his luck in a different state and opened another candy store in New York City.

After the business failed again, he moved to Denver, Colo. to learn about making caramel from an expert. When he returned to Lancaster, Pa. in 1886 as a skilled caramel maker, Hershey took another chance and opened Lancaster Caramel Company, which was finally a huge success.

In 1893, Hershey attended the Chicago International Exposition where he bought German chocolate-making machinery to create chocolate-covered caramels. Hershey’s success kept growing and eventually he sold his caramels business for $1million and started The Hershey Chocolate Company. In his new facility, Hershey produced chocolate caramels, breakfast cocoa, sweet chocolate and baking chocolate all under the same roof.

As the production of candy items grew, the number of employees needed increased. In 1903, Hershey turned Derry Church and Cuba, Pa. into Hershey, Pa. – a company town for all the Hershey employees. The town included housing, schools, churches, parks and even a trolley system.

Later, an amusement park, pool and department store were added. With successful brands like Hershey’s Kisses, Kit Kat, Reese’s and York Peppermint Patties, The Hershey Co. has discovered the recipe for a successful business life in Pennsylvania.

Wolfgang Candy Co., York

Founded in 1921, Wolfgang is one of the oldest family-owned and managed confectionery manufacturers in the United States.  Now in its fourth generation, Wolfgang prides itself on its skilled artisanship in the confectionery craft, its uncompromising high standards for quality products and in the manufacturing flexibility the company enjoys given its extensive and varied range of machinery and packaging equipment. 

With a full confectionery kitchen, starch, shell and high-speed one-shot moulding options, as well as enrobing lines and extruding equipment, Wolfgang offers comprehensive solutions for private label and contract manufacturing.  Wolfgang also manufactures and distributes its own line of high-quality branded products. 

Pennsylvania’s preferred brand of chocolates can be found in grocers and other specialty retailers throughout the United States.  From peanut brittle to hollow chocolates, Wolfgang offers one of the most impressive arrays of premium chocolates and non-chocolate confections available in the marketplace.  In addition to Wolfgang’s new all-natural plump & juicy (and shelf stable) dark-chocolate dipped Raspberries, Blueberries and Cranberries, some of the company’s most popular products include a broad assortment of solid and hollow-moulded chocolates-bunnies at Easter and Santa at Christmas-fine boxed chocolates, chocolate-covered pretzels and animal crackers, chocolate-covered peanut butter marshmallow treats and other assorted milk and dark chocolates. Wolfgang markets and distributes its products through retail, wholesale (private labeling and contract manufacturing) and fundraising sectors.

The company is a market leader in the fundraising industry and a trusted name enabling organizations of any size to achieve their financial goals. With a sole focus on and commitment to its customers, Wolfgang demands unparalleled quality in its products, providing its customers with a truly enchanting experience in taste.

Wolfgang Candy Co.
50 East 4th Avenue
York, Pa., 17404
Phone: (717)843-5536
Toll free: (800)248-4273
Fax: (717)845-2881

ADM, Hazleton

ADM Cocoa, one of the world’s largest processors of cocoa beans, will open a new plant this October in Hazleton, Pa. The Hazleton facility will create many new employment opportunities and enhance the company’s existing production of cocoa liquor, butter, powder, chocolate and compound coatings.

“The Hazleton plant is perfectly positioned to enhance service to a growing customer base,” said Dennis Whalen, v.p. and general manager, ADM Cocoa Americas. “We are thrilled to be located in a place with such a rich chocolate-making tradition.”

A division of the Archer Daniels Midland Company, ADM Cocoa provides cocoa-based products to major confectioners, bakers, dairies, beverage makers and food processors in more than 70 countries. It also serves food service distributors, supermarkets and retail confectioners throughout North America.

A global endeavor
ADM entered the cocoa market more than 10 years ago with its acquisition of E.D.F. Man Cocoa and Grace Cocoa in 1997.

“With these acquisitions, we gained over 100 years of cocoa industry knowledge and immediately immersed ourselves into the cocoa trade, ensuring our ability to source the highest quality raw materials,” said Whalen.

ADM Cocoa is currently invested at the largest bean origins, including the Ivory Coast, Ghana, Cameroon, Indonesia and Brazil.

ADM Cocoa brands
The Hazleton plant will produce Ambrosia, Merckens and DeZaan brand products.

Ambrosia was founded in 1894 and Merckens followed in 1921. These strongly-rooted brands are respected for their high quality milk, semi-sweet and white chocolates as well as chocolate liquors, compounds and ice cream coatings. In addition, Merckens is known for its premium milk, dark and white chocolates, fountain chocolates and Rainbow Wafers.

DeZaan, another well-established ADM Cocoa brand, originated in Holland in 1911. It is the world’s leading brand of high quality cocoa and is available in a wide variety of flavors and colors.

Supporting market growth
The chocolate industry is constantly changing and growing and ADM Cocoa works closely with its customers to ensure long-term demand.

“Our customers turn to us frequently for our in-depth technical services,” said Whalen. “We’re here to help them make their existing products better and to assist them in the development of new products.”

Technical services include a wide range of resources, including product ideation, product development services, application know-how, technical training and trouble shooting.

Settling into the chocolate landscape
The opening of the Hazleton plant begins a new chapter in Pennsylvania’s rich chocolate-making history.

“The ADM Cocoa commitment to sourcing cocoa and producing cocoa-based products will add to Pennsylvania’s chocolate industry and will sweeten the region’s impact on the world around it,” said Whalen.

About ADM
Archer Daniels Midland Company (ADM) is the world leader in BioEnergy and has a premier position in the agricultural processing value chain. ADM is one of the world’s largest processors of soybeans, corn, wheat and cocoa. ADM is a leading manufacturer of biodiesel, ethanol, soybean oil and meal, corn sweeteners, flour and other value-added food and feed ingredients. Headquartered in Decatur, Ill., ADM has over 27,000 employees, more than 240 processing plants and net sales for the fiscal year ended June 30, 2007 of $44 billion.

Archer Daniels Midland Company
4666 Faries Parkway
Decatur, Ill., 62526
Phone: (217)424-5200
Toll free: (800)637-5843

PMCA, Bethlehem

Through its annual production conference, research funding and hands-on, in-plant training, PMCA remains true to its original mission of providing world class confectionery research and education for its membership. Founded in 1907 by a small group of Pennsylvania confectionery manufacturers, the association has grown both nationally and internationally and now represents approximately 400 member organizations. What makes PMCA unique is the combination of dedicated full time administrators and volunteer committee members who work together to welcome new members and to deliver technical programs that have acquired an international reputation for excellence.

The Spring PMCA Production Conference attracts over 900 attendees from around the world. The program consists of a “Back to Basics” training seminar followed by 14 carefully selected and screened presentations delivered by industry experts. With plenty of opportunity to network and meet old friends, the PMCA annual conference is an important fixture on the industry calendar.

The PMCA training courses are unique in that they are typically held in working production facilities of association members and often include additional plant tours. Run by seasoned professionals, the PMCA courses deliver unique insights into the practical realities of quality confectionery manufacturing for both large and small businesses.

Working closely with universities around the country, PMCA supports the fundamental research that drives the quality and innovation in confectionery manufacturing.

PMCA is above all else a technical association focused on the exchange of ideas and technologies that benefit the industry as a whole. Open to all confectionery manufacturers, regardless of their size, as well as suppliers of ingredients, flavorings, packaging and equipment, PMCA provides a means for its members to keep in touch with each other and together raise the bar of quality and innovation in what is after all the sweetest industry on earth.

2980 Linden St., Suite E3
Bethlehem, Pa., 18017
Phone: (610)625-4655
Fax: (610)625-4657

Asher's Chocolates, Souderton

Asher’s Chocolates has been a Pennsylvania tradition since 1892 and is the oldest continuously family-owned and operated candy manufacturer in the United States. Asher’s offers a wide selection of chocolates and other confections from a full line of caramel patties, fudges, truffles, creams, jellies, nut clusters, dipped fruits and their award-winning chocolate-covered pretzels. The company has also won numerous taste tests and awards for its sugar-free line of chocolate confections, which mirrors many of the “regular” flavors.

In 1892, Chester A. Asher founded his candy-making business after coming to Philadelphia from Canada. Mr. Asher’s expertise was passed on to the second generation–four sons–who ran the business until 1966. 

In the 1970’s, with the third generation firmly in place, and with the increased use of air conditioning in stores, homes and automobiles, chocolates were becoming more popular as a year-round candy.

Today, Asher’s is still family-owned and under the direction of the third and fourth consecutive Asher generations. The Asher family continues to supervise the daily operations of both factories including their 125,000-sq.-ft., state-of-the-art corporate headquarters and factory in Souderton and their specialty lines still located in the 46,000-sq.-ft. factory in Lewistown.

The Asher’s success story lies in having built a reputation for making quality candy with the freshest and purest ingredients available. Close supervision and direction at the factory every day assures that the quality is maintained. The company continues to stay on the cutting edge of new processes, methods and ingredients to offer new and exciting products and flavors while still staying true to many of Mr. Asher’s original recipes.

Asher’s Chocolates
80 Wambold Road
Souderton, Pa., 18964
Phone: (215)721-3276
Toll free: (800)438-8882
Fax: (215)721-3209

R.M. Palmer Co., Reading

The R.M. Palmer Company manufactures and markets unique, fun, exciting and affordable seasonal, everyday and private label candy to worldwide consumers through all retail channels.

The company is committed to total customer satisfaction, technical leadership, employee development, corporate growth and producing quality products that are value priced.

As a premier specialty candy company, R.M. Palmer takes great satisfaction in providing leading edge, innovative products with exciting packaging and dependable on-time delivery for its customers, while supplying products that taste great and are a wonderful eating experience for its consumers.

In pursuit of the company’s mission, employees will work hard to continue their outstanding customer relationships, maintain their ethical standards, take extreme pride in their work and have fun in their day-to-day endeavors.

In 1948, Richard M. Palmer, Sr. rented space in Sinking Spring, Pa., and purchased some used equipment in Pittsburgh, Pa. He started with four employees and four items: Baby Binks, Bunny Binks, Daddy Binks and Hen & Egg. At that time, all chocolate bunnies were plain-Mr. Palmer’s were different. They were moulded in cartoon styles and had their own personalities. The company was created with an initial investment of $25,000 and had sales the first year of $80,000. Incidentally, the company now produces that dollar volume in a few hours.

The company moved to its present address in 1958. Not only did it move to West Reading, but it also put in a brand new state-of-the-art moulding line, Line 1, which was designed by R.M. Palmer, Sr. and Mike Avedissian. Line 1 was roughly the first automatic moulding line which could actually do multiple items at the same time and today is still probably the most versatile moulding line in the world since it can do 20 to 30 different items, hand-or machine-decorated.

In 1973, the company installed the first ever Bindler moulding line in the U.S. and in 1976 it added Line 4, which was the first line ever to produce both hollow and solid on the same line-another Palmer first. Also in the mid-1970’s, the company created Double Crisp, which combines chocolate and rice crispies. R.M. Palmer was the first to introduce flavor combinations into the seasonal novelty business. Now in addition to Double Crisp, the company offers peanut butter, mint, caramel and fudge, each in many shapes and sizes.

Line 8, introduced in 1991, was the most unique solid moulding line in the U.S. at that time. It is able to decorate with four colors, fill candy and mould crisp candy all at the same time. In 1999, the company teamed with NASCAR and some of the top Cup drivers to introduce chocolate racecars foiled to be exact replicas of their racecars.

Currently, the company runs 11 production lines and employs close to 700 people. It has 500 plus items in the line and sells to all the major chains through 36 brokerage companies. The company’s total operation facilities cover 640,000 plus sq. ft. Easter is the company’s biggest season followed by Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Halloween and Everyday. It also sells internationally to Canada, Mexico, Australia, Japan, South Korea and others. R.M. Palmer’s licensed products have expanded to include Marvel and Disney.

R.M. Palmer Co.
P.O. Box 1723
Reading, Pa., 19603
Phone: (610)372-8971

Molded Fiber Glass Companies (MFG), Linesville

Founded in 1948 in Ashtabula, Ohio by Robert Morrison, the Molded Fiber Glass      Companies (MFG) are world leaders in the manufacture of reinforced polyester composites. The Morrison family continues to provide leadership to MFG, which operates plants in Ashtabula, Ohio; Linesville, Pa.; and Union City, Pa., as well as 12 other locations across the U.S. and Mexico. Since its inception, MFG has been an innovator in the utilization of reinforced polyester composites. The company utilizes the unique properties of reinforced composites to solve stubborn design problems for customers in virtually every industry, everywhere.

The Molded Fiber Glass Tray Company was founded in 1952 in Linesville, Pa. Like the other divisions, MFG Tray Company has found great success applying the unique properties of reinforced composites to solve problems in various industries.

Almost 40 years ago in 1972, MFG Tray Company developed the composite starch tray due in response to the confectionery industry’s search for an alternative to traditional wood trays. These composite starch trays are unique in their material characteristics and offer many processing advantages to the starch mogul operation. Confectionery industries that use a starch mogul are highly dependent on starch trays for successful production. Traditionally, these trays were made of wood. Wooden starch trays are generally constructed of five pieces: the two ends where the stacking takes place, the two side rails and the bottom. At each of these junctions, there is a seam, which has the potential to become a bacteria contamination site. Another concern was that the use of glue to assemble the tray could add to potential bacteria contamination at the seams. MFG trays are of one-piece construction, eliminating any problems associated with joints or seams.

Because of the variety of mogul machines, MFG Tray Company developed trays in various sizes and configurations. MFG Tray Company currently manufactures 45 different models of starch trays with new designs being added each year. While the models vary in length, width, height and starch depth, they all share some common design features. All MFG composite starch trays are designed to meet the cleanable radii specifications of the NSF International (National Sanitation Foundation) Standard No. 2 for food contact equipment. It is not uncommon to get 10 to 20 years’ service from a composite starch tray. Their one-piece construction and lack of dimensional variation from part to part reduce the tendency of the trays to jam in the mogul. The composite material also exhibits resistance to impact. This results in a low level of tray replacement due to breakage in a jam.

In today’s highly competitive marketplace where market share is often the result of being the low-cost producer, it makes very good sense to use composite starch trays in mogul operations. The higher rates of production achieved and the cost effectiveness of the composite starch trays will enhance operations and increase one’s bottom line.

Molded Fiber Glass Tray Company 
6175 US Highway 6
Linesville, Pa., 16424
Phone: (814)683-4500
Fax: (814)683-4504

Just Born, Inc., Bethlehem

Just Born, Inc. exemplifies the perfect combination of history and innovation.  The company’s products say it all.  In addition to its iconic Peeps brand marshmallow candies, the Just Born portfolio also includes Mike and Ike, Hot Tamales, Peanut Chews and Teenee Beanee brand candies.  While these names are ingrained in American culture and steeped in tradition, Just Born associates have always prided themselves on being able to offer their fans something new.

Next Easter will illustrate this ingenuity with new selections across its Peeps, Hot Tamales and Mike and Ike brands including:    
New Peeps chocolate mousse-flavored bunnies.    
Hot Tamales jellybeans, which sizzle in three flavors–cinnamon, spice and licorice.    
New Peeps orange chicks and green bunnies.     
Mike and Ike brand jellybeans will return in two distinct flavor combinations:  assorted fruit jellybeans and Tangy Twister.     
Just Born’s wide range of Peeps chicks and bunnies will return including its well received sugar-free chicks.

Despite the company’s tremendous growth and popularity of its brands worldwide, Just Born associates know that the company’s history and traditions have helped them get to where they are today. 

Just Born is an 85-year-old, family-owned business based in Bethlehem, Pa. The Just Born candy tradition began in 1910 when Sam Born emigrated from Russia.  A candy maker by trade, Born used innovative technology to produce chocolate sprinkles, known as Jimmies and the hard chocolate coating used for Eskimo Pies.  In 1913, Born invented and patented the machine that mechanically inserted sticks into lollipops. 

Born opened a candy-making and retail store in Brooklyn, N.Y. in 1923.  He marketed the freshness of his daily-made candy with a sign declaring, “just born.”  Born invited his brothers-in-law, Irv and Jack Shaffer, to join him in the business. In 1932, they moved the operations to an empty printing factory in Bethlehem.

Sam’s son Bob helped mechanize the marshmallow-forming process in 1954.  This step enabled Just Born to become the world’s largest manufacturer of novelty marshmallow treats, today producing more than 4.2 million Peeps marshmallow brand candies daily.

The continued growth of Just Born was aided by several key acquisitions.     

1935 - the company acquired the prestigious Maillard Corporation, known for elegant hand-decorated chocolates.     
1953 - Just Born acquired the Rodda Candy Company of Lancaster.  Although Rodda was best known for its jellybeans, it also made a small line of marshmallow products that included popular Easter Peeps, laboriously made by hand-squeezing marshmallow through pastry tubes.      
2003 - Just Born purchased the Philadelphia makers of Peanut Chews, the Goldenberg Candy Company.    
Today, Just Born products are exported to more than 45 countries and are available to more than 1.5 billion people worldwide.

The current leadership of Just Born, cousins and co-ceos Ross Born and David Shaffer, joined the company in 1978.  In 1992 they took over the business from their fathers, Bob Born and Jack Shaffer. One does not have to be family to succeed at Just Born, as Matt Petronio exemplifies, having become coo and executive v.p. in 2007.

Just Born’s founding fathers left a distinguished and continued tradition of service to the candy industry:     Sam Born and Jack Shaffer were inducted into the National Confectionery Salesmen’s Association (NCSA) Candy Hall of Fame.      
Irv Shaffer was honored with the industry’s prestigious “Kettle Award.” David Shaffer serves on NCSA’s Manufacturing Council.    
Ross Born is the current chairman of the National Confectioners Association. 

With over 525 associates, Just Born is one of the Lehigh Valley’s largest employers.  The company is a strong supporter of community activities. Just Born has recently become a sponsor for Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation by creating Mike and Ike Lemonade Blends and donating proceeds.

In addition to making monetary and candy contributions to other local nonprofit and charitable organizations, Just Born encourages its associates to give their time to the community.  Also striving to be a good environmental citizen, Just Born has received awards from the State of Pennsylvania for its educational, energy conservation and waste reduction programs.

Just Born, Inc.
1300 Stefko Boulevard
Bethlehem, Pa., 18017
Toll free: (800)445-5787