The (former) candy capital of the world
Chicago once reigned as the candy capital of the world. But the remaining industry is now a (chocolate) shell of what it was.
Why it matters: At one time, more than 1,000 local candy companies supplied Chicagoans with relatively high-paying jobs. The industry, driven by immigrants and the river and railroads bringing in affordable corn syrup and sugar, stayed strong for more than a century.
- But in recent years, the city has lost factories that made Brach's candies, Fannie May and now Mars products.
💝 This Valentine's Day, we want to take current stock of the industry by breaking down which companies are still operating in town.
Mars/Wrigley: The company just announced plans to shutter its West Side candy plant, reassigning 280 jobs.
- The building was built in 1928, has its own Metra stop and makes M&Ms, Snickers, and Skittles.
- Mars and Wrigley merged in 2008. Its global headquarters are now on Goose Island.
Tootsie Roll Industries: The famed chewy chocolate candy is made on the South Side. They moved headquarters here in 1966.
- This facility also makes Tootsie Pops and Dots.
- Tours are available.
Ferrara Pan (now Ferrero): Chicago's Ferrara Pan was bought by European giant Ferrero, which owns Nutella.
- Its headquarters are in the old Post Office building, but the main attraction is the outlet store in Forest Park.
- They make millions of Lemonheads per day as well as Red Hots and Now and Laters.
Blommer Chocolate Company: One of the last remaining chocolate factories in the downtown area, Blommer is known less for its candy than for the intoxicating smell its plant produces.
- When the wind hits the right way, the whole Loop can smell like Blommer chocolate, as the EPA found out in 2005.
Cupid Candies: The South Side factory started in 1936, but the Western Avenue location closed in 2020 after the death of its owner.
- It was bought by Brown Sugar Bakery owner Stephanie Hart, who later secured a $200,000 grant to start production.
What's next: Even with these losses, the candy industry, represented by the Sweets & Snacks Expo, is returning in May.
💭 Monica's thought bubble: My step-grandmother Carmela came to Chicago from Peru in the 1960s and found work at the Curtiss Candy factory. It kept her grandkids plentifully supplied for years with Baby Ruths and Butterfingers.
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