Are you a fan of the Halloween-classic, candy corn?
What about the Valentine’s Day treat, conversation hearts?
As it turns out, Brach’s Candy is the culprit for some of the most iconic and popular candies we know and love today.
But how did it all begin?
The story of this confectionery innovator is one that’s filled with triumph and tribulation, sweet treats and creative eats. Here’s the history of Brach’s Candy!
Who started Brach’s Candy?
Brach’s Candy was founded by Emil J. Brach in 1904 in Chicago, IL. An aspiring businessman and previous candy salesman, Brach left his job selling sweets on the streets to start his own candy storefront with the last $1,000 of his life savings.
With a single kettle and the help of his two sons Edwin and Frank, Brach’s began production of milk maid caramels that were sold for 20 cents, half the price of most caramel confectioners at the time.
Rightly named Brach’s Palace of Sweets, the storefront was an immediate success in the local community slinging sweets to the community members of the greater Chicago area. By 1911, Brach’s had become so popular that the brand was making over 50,000 pounds of candy every single week.
With sustainable sales in hand, Brach’s knew it was time to expand production into a full-time factory. The company built a $5 million factory that produced 127 different candy treats. From caramels and chocolates to pan candy–a staple of Brach’s products—the company experienced a surge in growth and popularity amongst the national market.
A Fiery Fate Meets The Candy Giant…
In 1948, tragedy struck Brach’s production facility when a gas spark combined with corn start in the air caused a catastrophic explosion, eliminating nearly half of the factory’s production space. The blaze killed 11 employees and injured another 18. It’s said that it took over 2,500 firefighting personnel to put out the fire.
But in tragedy came triumph as Brach’s leveraged the opportunity to build a new factory space that covered a massive 2 million square feet. Each section of the factory was divided up into different areas of focus with dedicated machinery and employees who focused on specific products.
At this time Brach’s employed over 4,500 workers and was producing over 4 million pounds of candy every single year, making it the largest manufacturer of candy products in the entire world.
Fun Fact: When Brach’s closed shop on the gigantic Chicago-based factory, it was left abandoned. In 2003, it was used as a location for filming the blockbuster movie, The Dark Knight, and the infamous scene when the Joker (Heath Ledger) blows up Gotham General hospital. The rest of the building was demolished in 2014.
Brach’s Candy Introduces Pick-A-Mix…
A decade later, in the 1950’s Brach’s made one of the biggest innovations in the modern candy market: Pick-A-Mix. Similar to all the local candy stores at the time who sold bulk candy in buckets and allowed customers to pick what they wanted, Brach’s borrowed the concept and brought it to their commercial partners who introduced the concept into supermarkets across the United States. Suddenly, consumers could choose all the candy they wanted just like the early days of Brach’s Palace Of Sweets, but in their local grocery stores.
Much of this decision came on the shoulders of the growing popularity of Halloween trick-or-treating, which was a staple of business for the brand credited with commercializing the sales of candy corn.
Who owns Brach’s Candy?
In 1966, long after the passing of founder Emil Brach, his sons sold the company to American Home Products Corporation, who continued the production of Brach’s products like caramel, jelly eggs, candy corn, mint bars, almond bars, and swing bars.
During this time, Brach’s earned a reputation for being one of the powerhouse players in the candy space accounting for over ⅔ of the U.S. market for bagged candy–nearly 7% of the $9 billion candy industry.
In 1986, American Home Products was purchased by Klaus Jacobs who would lead the brand down a tumultuous path that resulted in multiple buyouts and sales over the next 2o years. While the brand remained relevant it never achieved the financial success that it had during the period of ‘60s-’80s.
In 2003, under Barry Callebaut AG, Brach’s moved primary production out of Chicago and into Mexico. It still maintained operations in Chicago and Chattanooga, but most of its mainstay products were made in Mexico. Then in 2007, Brach’s and its subsidiaries were sold to Farley’s & Sathers Candy Company which merged with the Ferrara Pan Candy Company in 2012 to create the Ferrara Candy Company—the current owners and producers of Brach’s candy collections.
What candy does Brach’s Candy make?
In the early years of the brand, Brach’s made caramel hard candy as well as a handful of candy bars including the Swing Bar—a combination of peanuts, chocolate, and honeycomb, Mint Bars, Almond Nougat Bars, Jelly Eggs, as well as a collection of bagged candy such as peppermints, candy corn, malt balls, double dipped peanuts, chocolate stars, almond supremes, and bridge mix.
Currently, Brach’s is recognized as the biggest producer of the Halloween-favorite, candy corn, as well as the Valentine’s Day classic, conversation hearts. The brand also dabbles in seasonal sweets such as candy canes, jelly beans, and peppermint stars.
You can find Brach’s products in a wide variety of food retailers including grocery stores, pharmacies, brick-and-mortar candy shops, and of course, in our digital aisles right here.