Sweet Candy Company History
Salt Lake City, Utah 84104
Telephone: (801) 886-1444
Toll Free: 800-669-8669
Fax: (801) 886-1404
Incorporated: May 7, 1900
Sales: $25 million (2002 est.)
NAIC: 311330 Confectionary Manufacturing from Purchased Chocolate; 311340 Nonchocolate Confectionery Manufacturing
In 1892, Leon Sweet began the Sweet Candy Company in Portland, Oregon. In the beginning, the company manufactured just a few varieties. But what Leon offered for sale had two distinguishing characteristics: the candy was made by hand, and folks loved it. They said it was because of the quality. In 1900, Leon moved the operation to Salt Lake City, Utah, and merged several small specialty candy companies into one general line candy manufacturing company. Over the years, Sweet's has become innovative and more automated. They have increased the number of products they make (both seasonal and staple) and expanded their total marketing area. Today, there are more than 250 Sweet's Quality Candy items distributed internationally in bulk, bags, and boxes. But the company is perhaps still best known for the old favorites: Chocolate Orange Sticks, Salt Water Taffy, and Cinnamon Bears.
- Leon Sweet launches a candy business in Portland, Oregon.
- The company relocates to Salt Lake City, Utah.
- A new building is built in downtown Salt Lake City.
- Leon's brother Arthur Sweet is named president.
- Jack Sweet, son of the company's founder, is named president.
- Jack Sweet's son Tony is named president and CEO.
- A new distribution center is built near SLC Airport.
- Sweet relocates from its historic downtown building to a new site near the airport.
- Sweet celebrates the Salt Lake Winter Olympics with commemorative saltwater taffy. fruit flavored "Totally Taffy" aimed at younger generations. The next year, Sweet Candy entered the fruit snack segment with its Yummy Nummy Bears.
In 1995, Sweet's built a 35,000-square-foot distribution center near the Salt Lake City International Airport. Four years later, the company relocated manufacturing operations from its historic building in downtown Salt Lake City to a new $12 million, 185,000-square-foot facility in the Sorenson Technology Park near the airport. The plant opened in April 1999; it was said to be able to handle a three- or four-fold increase in tonnage. Unlike the original Salt Lake building, the new plant had all operations on the same floor.
Chairman and president R. Anthony "Tony" Sweet spent the next few years upgrading technology in order to keep the company viable in an increasingly competitive business. This eventually resulted in Tony Sweet being named Business Executive of the Year by the Utah Manufacturers Association in November 2003.
The company logo was updated in the late 1990s. At this time, Sweet Candy was producing 15 million pounds of candy and confections a year. It employed 140 people. Leon Jack Sweet died on May 15, 2000. By now, a fourth generation of the family represented by granddaughter Rachel was involved in the company's management.
Alpine Confections contracted Sweet Candy to produce a saltwater taffy line in commemoration of the 2002 Olympic Winter Games held in Salt Lake City. The company added four flavors to its six best-selling ones to create a boxed set of ten.
It was natural for Sweet Candy to celebrate the international theme of the Olympics. The company often employed immigrants in its factory; in 2000, it began awarding U.S. flags to those who became naturalized citizens. It also encouraged its managers to learn foreign languages, particularly Spanish. Most of Sweet's employees were not native speakers of English; in 1996 the company began offering English classes on-site.
The company was known for its loyal workforce. For their part, the Sweets counted convenience to the employees as one of the main reasons for staying in the Salt Lake area instead of seeking incentives to relocate elsewhere.
Sweet Candy Company is the world's largest manufacturer of saltwater taffy. It also manufactures jellybeans and other candies and confections, 250 varieties in all. Sweet Candy ships 15 million pounds of product a year. Among its best-loved sweets are chocolate-covered orange and raspberry sticks. Other products include caramel and peanut brittle. While the company once produced chocolate bars and boxed chocolates, these offerings were eventually discontinued. Sweet Candy has remained in the hands of the founding family for more than a hundred years, quite an achievement in a very competitive industry.
The Sweet Candy Company was formed in Portland, Oregon, in 1892 by Leon Sweet and his business partner, T.H. Broderick. According to Candy Industry, the creator of the Pacific Coast's first steam-operated candy factory, Louis Saroni, funded Sweet's venture with $1,500 and became the company's president. Among the original products were jaw-breakers, lollipops, and licorice candies.
Leon Sweet and his brother Arthur relocated to Salt Lake City, where the business was incorporated as a Utah company on May 7, 1900. Sugar beets from nearby farms supplied an important input; Utah Sugar Company had been refining and exporting sugar for nine years. In addition, Utahns have traditionally been known to be enthusiastic consumers of candy. The Sweet business soon merged with several other small confectioners as distribution expanded across eleven western states and even as far as Australia.
The company's product line-up was extended to include hand-dipped chocolates and other confections after the move to Salt Lake City. Arthur Sweet began delivering the goodies in a horse-drawn wagon. The Sweets took on another partner, William "Cass" Cassidy, as Saroni was no longer involved in the company's daily operations.
Sweet Building Built in 1910
Ten years after moving to Utah, Sweet Candy built a four-story brick building in downtown Salt Lake City (224 South 200 West) a few blocks away from the original location (15 East 100 South); the company would remain there for ninety years. Employees told the Deseret News that a pair of friendly ghosts roamed the building. The building underwent a $500,000 expansion in 1920.
By the 1920s, the company had become one of the first to package its candies in cellophane, according to Candy Industry. (Candy had previously been packaged in wooden boxes and metal tins.) Leon Sweet bought Saroni's share of the business in 1925, becoming president and general manager.
Leon Jack Sweet, son of the founder, joined the company in 1931 after graduating from the Wharton School of Finance at the University of Pennsylvania. He was credited with introducing several important innovations. In 1936, he developed a new method for producing saltwater taffy that involved adding egg whites. This became the company's best-selling product.
Tony Sweet told the Salt Lake Tribune of his grandfather's passion for making candy bars, a line of business later discontinued. The Brown Bomber was named in honor of 1937 heavyweight boxing champion Joe Louis. Other confections sported names such as Rodeo Bars, Razzle Dazzle, and Pink Lady Chocolates.
Tony Sweet also told the Deseret News that his grandfather had begun making the company's signature saltwater taffy as a non-melting substitute for chocolate in the days before air conditioning. Proximity to the Great Salt Lake had nothing to do with it, since there is actually no saltwater among the ingredients.
Arthur Sweet, brother of the founder, was named president in 1941. He had previously been in charge of sales. Jack Sweet, who had served in the Navy during World War II, took over the business in 1950. The building underwent another expansion that year. A cardboard sailboat merchandising display created by Jack Sweet in the 1950s was so popular it remained in use 40 years later. Jack Sweet is also credited with helping create the company's perennially popular Chocolate Orange Sticks with jellied candy centers, which were introduced in 1948. Jack Sweet became company president in 1962, two years after the death of company founder Leon Sweet.
In the mid-1960s, Sweet Candy began producing Cinnamon Bears. A dark red variety was marketed for a time at Yellowstone National Park gift shops as "Smoky Bears," reported the Deseret News.
Jack Sweet's son Tony, a graduate of Stanford University, was named president and CEO in 1971. After the arrival of financial vice-president Bob Thomas in 1976, the company began to computerize its operations. The building underwent yet another expansion in 1982.
Moving Candy in the 1990s
Sweet candy sold 15 million pounds of confections in 1995 as annual sales approached $20 million, reported Candy Industry. Forty percent was marketed under the Sweet brand, the rest sold wholesale.
As reported the Deseret News, the company replaced its slowest sellers every year with new products. A chocolate-covered version of the perennially popular Cinnamon Bears came out in the mid-1990s. In 2000, Sweet added its line of tart,
- Bringard, Lara, "Success Is Sweet for Salt Lake's Sweet Candy Co., Celebrating One Hundred Years of Business in a Highly Competitive Industry," Enterprise (Salt Lake), May 11, 1992, p. B3.
- "Candy Firm Building Distribution Center," Enterprise (Salt Lake), June 5, 1995, p. 7.
- Edwards, Jane, "Open Mind, Open Heart; Corinne Sweet Had Equal Embrace for All Humankind," Salt Lake Tribune, March 24, 1996, p. J1.
- Ennen, Steve, "A Taste for the Future," Food Processing, March 1, 2000, p. 90.
- Fulmer, Brad, "Candy Maker Excited to Move into 'Sweet' New Manufacturing Facility," Intermountain Construction, May 1, 1999, p. 34.
- "Funeral Services Held for Leon Jack Sweet," Deseret News, May 19, 2000, p. B4.
- Hobbs, Nancy, "Makers Hoping Tree Sweetens Fund-Raiser," Salt Lake Tribune, November 24, 1999, p. C1.
- Jones, Lara, "Candy Maker to Build New 12-Acre Production Plant," Enterprise (Salt Lake), December 1, 1997, p. 1.
- Lopez, Jesus, "Sweet Candy Goes Beyond Job Training," Salt Lake Tribune, June 16, 2000, p. D1.
- Mathur, Shruti, "Sweet Candy's Thomas, 79, Dies of Heart Attack," Salt Lake Tribune, June 7, 2002, p. C7.
- Mitchell, Lesley, "Workers Compensation Fund Honors Safety Efforts; A Dozen Utah Businesses Praised for Preventing Accidents and Keeping Insurance Premiums Down," Salt Lake Tribune, June 11, 1998, p. B4.
- "New 'Piggyback' Marketing Channel Leads to Sweet Success," Food & Drug Packaging, June 1, 1999, p. F3.
- Nii, Jenifer K., "Helping Workers Become Citizens Is Sweet Job," Deseret News, July 4, 2001, p. C1.
- Oberbeck, Steven, "Liquor Quicker? Utah Firms Find Sweet Niche in Candy," Salt Lake Tribune, August 15, 1993, p. F1.
- ------, "Sweet on the Grinch," Salt Lake Tribune, December 1, 2000, p. D1.
- Sahm, Phil, "The Future Looks Sweet for Utah Candy Maker," Salt Lake Tribune, July 16, 1999, p. C1.
- ------, "Utah Adjusts to Changes, Too," Salt Lake Tribune, May 14, 2001, p. D1.
- ------, "Work's Sweet for S.L. Candy Kin," Salt Lake Tribune, February 23, 1992, p. D13.
- O'Neill, Marina, "Merchants Tasting Sweet Success," Deseret News, January 29, 2002, p. B5.
- Sneddon, Sharon, "Flexibility Drives Sweet's Competitive Edge," Candy Industry, June 1996, pp. 24ff.
- Stephenson, Kathy, "Spill the Beans," Salt Lake Tribune, March 27, 2002, p. D1.
- "Sweet Reaps 100 Years of Sweet Success," Candy Industry, August 1, 1994, p. 94.
- Wadley, Carma, "Candy Biz Sweet for Sweets," Deseret News, February 14, 2001, p. C1.
- Wallace, Brice, "Candy Building Still Sweet," Deseret News, April 2, 2001, p. D6.
- Williams, Jean, "Candy Factory," Deseret News, June 22, 1999, p. C1.
- ------, "How Sweet It Is ..." Deseret News, June 22, 1999, p. C1.
Source: International Directory of Company Histories, Vol.60. St. James Press, 2004.