Visiting the Candy Community (Part One)
One of the things I love most about the “Candy Making Industry” is the sense of community between different confectioners. Wherein some industries take great steps to insure their company’s policies and practices are kept private, Candy people tend to be very open and sharing with their knowledge. This includes recipes, methods … heck most anything.
Four of us from Wilbur’s got to experience this sense of community first hand last month when we went on a field trip to visit two other candy makers in New York. On our two day trek, our first day was spent visiting Candy Kraft in Altamont, New York. Brad and Bob were there, making some of their famous “Hard Candy”. As Bob said, “They call it hard candy, not because of it’s texture, but because of how hard it is to make!”
The gentlemen proceeded to show us some of the equipment they use to make this candy, and to be clear this is literally the same equipment candy makers used in the early 1900’s.
Bob even broke out the original catalog from around 1930 that was used to order these machines. Back in the day, one of these contraptions would run you about $40 or so. Nowadays if you are lucky enough to find one of these up for sale, you can expect to pay $500 or more for a single die wheel. My personal favorite was the ribbon candy machine, seen below.
Besides Brad and Bob showing us around their factory, we also got to hear stories like the origin of one of Candy Kraft’s top sellers, “Contrabands”. These peppermint and molasses candy “bullets” got their name many moons ago from the kids that would sneak these into their classrooms to enjoy thoughout the day. We also got to sample some of Brad and Bob’s fresh made cinnamon mint wafers. While I’m not personally a fan of cinnamon, these were absolutely delicious!
After the tour, we spent some time discussing not just the history of Candy Making, but also where we all think confectioners will have to adapt and adjust in an ever changing marketplace. Not only are the channels and methods of sales constantly evolving, customers’ wants and needs are changing as well. People love their old fashioned candy, but want better and more wholesome ingredients in those treats. It was great to pick the brains of other “old school” confectioners to see how they are dealing with these changes, even several states away.
As we left Candy Kraft (with big bags full of treats in hand) and headed to the hotel, we prepared for the next day’s trip. Where we had spent this day visiting a truly old fashioned candy factory, we were about to time warp ahead nearly a century and visit a brand new facility with all new equipment.
Roads? Where we’re going, we don’t need roads!
(to be continued……)