Pearson’s Candy – Retail Merchandiser

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Sugar, spices and all the good stuff

The key elements that make Pearson’s Candy Company a trusted name go beyond its sweet and savory flavors; a great team, a passion for quality and a hundred-year-old tradition are also intertwined with its success

Made with the same recipes since the early 1900s, Pearson candies have become a sweet staple in the American diet. Proud of its heritage, the company brings a pinch of innovation to keep its confectionery contemporary and just as delicious as the original Pearson brothers made them. We learn from Randy Klemann, the Senior Vice President of Sales, and Alex Alenn, vice president of operations, on the secret ingredients that go into Pearson’s products; from the one-of-a-kind original Nut Goodie to the flagship Salted Nut Roll.

Loaded with roasted peanuts, milk chocolate and maple nougat, the beginnings of the Nut Goodie cluster bar date back to 1912, when it was one of the first products made by Pearson. Soon after, the Nut Roll followed. “The tagline for our Salted Nut Roll is ‘Eat One, Do More’ and that’s probably why it works so well. We make it with a creamy nougat center wrapped in a caramel that we make ourselves. Then, to pack it with protein energy, we roll it in salted peanuts. It’s a bar that you can take anywhere; if you want to go watch your kids playing soccer or baseball, you don’t have to worry about the bar melting because it’s ready for you when you’re ready to eat it, ”says Randy.

In addition to the above, Pearson’s produces two other candies: Mint Patties and the Bun. While biting into those sugary treats may be the part that consumers enjoy, for the team at the Minnesota-based company, the best part is preparing them. “We’re having a lot of fun,” shares Alex, who gives us an insight into the manufacturing process that brings chocolate from the factory to the store shelves. “We bring the ingredients by truck. The chocolate melts easily but obviously for our caramel and nougat centers, the journey is a little more interesting. First, we liquefy the sugar and stir it with corn syrup, get this mixture above the boil, then depending on the type of chocolate we make, the molding and coating will differ, ”says -he. To get the marshmallow nougat, the sugar-corn syrup requires good whipping to add strength and create its smooth creaminess. Finally, a pinch of salt and vanilla is added for the Nut Roll and the Bun respectively. “For our mint pancakes, we add peppermint oil,
then we ship the nougat mixes to our molding stations, ”adds Alex.

Once the centers have taken shape, they separate for the final coatings. “The Nut Roll centers will be covered with peanuts and coated with caramel, which we make every day. The patties and treats go through our chocolate enrober, which looks like a chocolate fountain, and involves a tempering process so that it wraps well around each piece and cools it down to form a crispy chocolate shell ” , points out Alex.

While the retro company is passionate about staying true to the products it has created since its inception, customer reviews are another key ingredient to its growing success. “We’ve changed the way we seal our mint chocolates from the ones we’ve been using since the 1950s to fluid packaging and that’s been a pretty big upgrade for us. So much so that we are now in the midst of commissioning a project to move our Nut Goodie to that line as well. We have invested in high speed stretch wrappers which are much easier to adjust compared to the older wrappers we were using, ”Alex informs us.

Flexible approach
The confectionery company is also delighted to present its new line of Thins at its product display. Randy, who is particularly proud of this new business, says the business is growing. “We take the same good tastes from our products and turn them into mini snack chocolates. The reason is that we noticed a preference, especially among young consumers, for bagged chocolates and we wanted to make our products more attractive to a wider audience, ”he says.

As it is a nostalgic brand, the company constantly oscillates between tradition and innovation. For Randy, it’s inspiring to be part of an old company trying to keep pace with modern times. “While we don’t want to change an identity that has been trusted for over a century, we also want to listen to the reviews we get from customers who love our products. We recently had a suggestion regarding the freshness of our peanuts. So we worked with our farmers to get a better type of peanut that had a longer shelf life. We value our reviews to make sure our consumers believe in the taste of our products, ”he says.

This strategy of prioritizing the taste buds of its consumers is what kept Pearson candy in the pantries of many Americans during the Covid-19 pandemic. While the aftermath of the crisis has had far-reaching effects, the grocery store shelves are an area that has been hit hard. However, one aisle that remained well stocked was of course, the confectionery section. Despite an unstable start to 2020, the company quickly adapted to ensure the safety of its staff and the quality of its products. “We made sure we didn’t spend unnecessarily because we had no idea what to expect. We also had quite a bit of inventory in the factories, which was frustrating as we try to send our candies as fresh as possible, ”adds Randy. Alex jokingly points out that the ingredients in candy are what make their products perfect for rationing and storage times. “Because the ingredients are cooked, the bars cannot be contaminated, which is why this is a shelf-stable item. Confectionery can get a bit brittle, but it will still taste good, ”he shares.

“But the second half of 2020 has really picked up and it has continued throughout this year,” continues Alex. Randy adds that a particularly useful benefit of being a small business is its ability to resist market changes and implement flexibility for circumstances beyond its control. From an operations perspective, Alex notes that there has been only a brief drop in sales. “Gas stations, for example, stopped ordering because they no longer let anyone in their stores. When it comes to grocery stores, their whole ordering process has taken a turn. They went from regular weekly orders to no orders for about three weeks and then they ordered like crazy. So we slowed down for a few weeks and then everything came back bigger and stronger. From August to Thanksgiving, we worked at full capacity and delivered six days a week, ”he says.

Future plans
The company also ensured that its industrious team was well supervised during the months of instability. “The factories in the United States were asked to continue operating and stocking the shelves, it was seen as a national morale booster, so they wanted to make sure that anyone serving the open stores continued to operate, so that the Americans don’t panic. We had weekly meetings with all the employees and when I think of the pandemic, really, I think of those meetings where we were going through the local news and the safety warnings and trying to protect each other. We talked about getting enough sleep, taking multivitamins whatever it might have been to help us all be healthier during the pandemic. When all of our family and friends were stuck at home, we went to work every day; it really became a kind of team building effort for us. Every Saturday the manager and I would bring food and drink for everyone to try and keep their spirits up. We were all really tired but I felt it was so encouraging to have everyone together and it gave our team a sense of stability despite what was going on in the world, ”says Alex.

Aside from the tough times the company survived, Pearson’s is still optimistic about the future of its COM products. “We get these little shoots in sales and that’s where we’re focusing our growth. A few weeks ago, we launched our limited edition salted nut roll shipping display in two different flavors. One is the churro, made with cinnamon, and the second is our spicy version, ”says Randy. Both of these flavors have been well received and motivate the company to continue providing the mouthwatering treats it has for many generations to come. “We’re on a great race right now and we’re doing everything we can to keep the momentum going,” concludes Randy.
www.pearsonscandy.com

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