So many nostalgic candies and their founding family-owned companies have come and gone—or moved on to larger corporations—but the Atkinson family and its classic Chick-O-Sticks, Peanut Butter Bars, peppermints, and coconut candies are still going strong after 80+ years.
Company president, Eric Atkinson, gave us a glimpse into his family’s rich candy history as well as juicy details on the brand new Chick-O-Stick wrapper. Read on …
Candy.com: The Atkinson Candy Company is like so many great candy companies: family-owned. How many of your family members currently work at your headquarters?
Eric Atkinson: I represent the third generation, my nephew Jeremy Jones represents our fourth generation, and my cousin, Billy Atkinson is on our board of directors. Billy is a retired accountant from Price Waterhouse who is taking our company to new levels with brand acquisitions. It’s really an exciting time for us.
Candy.com: I read that your company was founded by B. E. Atkinson, Sr. and Mabel C. Atkinson in the 1930s in Lufkin, Texas. How are you related to the founders?
Eric Atkinson: They are my grandparents. I’d go fishing with my grandma down at their lake house all the time. In the morning, I’d get up and go with grand daddy out to the plant. I loved that as a kid. My grandma would wrap the candy by hand and I got to play in the sacks of peanuts. When I got older, I loaded up the trucks.
Eric Atkinson: It was great. At the plant, I got to go around with a paper bag and fill it with candy to take home and eat. That’s how I learned about eating candy in moderation! Back then, we were making the same candy we make today with the same recipes: peppermints, coconut candy, Chick-O-Sticks, and Peanut Butter Bars. Those candies really represented the candies of the day. Forrest Mars and Milton Hershey were just getting into chocolate. Around 1960, my Uncle Joe, who was an engineer, developed the machine that makes our Mint Twists. It cuts our mints and puts our signature twist into them. We still use Uncle Joe’s machine today.
Candy.com: Can consumers visit your company factory in Lufkin, Texas?
Eric Atkinson: Yes! We have a store within our plant that we call the “Candy Kitchen.” It’s the same name my grand dad used for our plant. In the Candy Kitchen, customers can watch a film that gives a tour of our plant and shows how we make our candy. The Candy Kitchen is set up for customers to also purchase products.
Candy.com: Who came up with the name Chick-O-Stick … and is there a story behind the name?
Eric Atkinson: Originally, Chick-O-Sticks were called Chicken Bones. They look like a piece of fried chicken or chicken legs, so I guess that’s how they got their name, but I don’t know that for sure. Back in the 1950s, my Uncle Joe and our VP of sales found out that “Chicken Bones” was already a trademarked name. I believe it was the artist for our candy boxes at the time who actually came up with the name Chick-O-Stick … and it stuck.
Candy.com: We’ve heard change is coming to Chick-O-Stick packaging, which is set to debut in January. What can you tell us about the new wrapper?”
Eric Atkinson: We want our customers to “Embrace the Break.” It’s OK to break and share a Chick-O-Stick. So, do it … it’s fun! We give you permission. Our new wrapper includes the phrase, “Break Me, Share Me” to encourage a crack down. The film structure of the packaging is also brand new and extends the shelf life of the product. It’s made on a state-of-the-art machine from Italy. We’re really excited about it.
Candy.com: OK, we have to ask. What’s your all-time favorite Atkinson candy?
Eric Atkinson: Coconut Long Boys. I prefer the Juniors.