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The Marich Confectionery Company is the kind of candy company you want to buy from, work for, or—in my case—write about.

It’s a family-owned manufacturing business that was started in 1983 by the late Dutch candy maker Marinus van Dam. He was 57 at the time of launch. His two sons, Brad and Troy, now run the California-based company, but that was not by design (more in a minute).

Marinus’ candy career started in his early teens in Rotterdam, Netherlands, shortly after his father died in a German work camp during WWII. To support his family, he got a job at the DeHeer chocolate factory (now owned by The Baronie Group) scraping chocolate and other confections off the floor.

Over time, Marinus proved himself and was chosen to attend a candy technology school. Brad says his dad was a sponge and learned how to make every type of candy under the sun, including Marich Confectionery Company’s hallmark panned candies (candy with a coating or candy shell).

“My dad knew candy from a creative standpoint and by its molecular structure,” says Brad. “People in the industry would frequently call on him to troubleshoot process, technique, and formula issues.”

Marinus took his honed skills to the United States and went to work for a series of candy manufacturers, including Anthony-Thomas Chocolates, Herman Goelitz Candy Co. (now the Jelly Belly Candy Company), and Harmony Foods before opening his own operation in the early 1980s.

Family Matters
To keep his young confectionery company afloat, Marinus asked his son Brad, who, at the time, was 20, living on his own, and pursuing an engineering degree, if he would please come home and help with the business.

“My dad said, ‘I can’t afford to pay you, but you can live at home,’” says Brad who chuckles when he tells what it was like to move back to the nest. “My dad is old-school Dutch, so working for him was like going to the college of hard knocks.”

Brad and his younger brother Troy both rose to the occasion and started out making boxes, mopping floors, cleaning the bathroom, and other necessary evils. “For the first two years, we didn’t get paid,” says Brad.

When one of the candy makers left Marich for health reasons, Brad stepped up again. “I made more scrap than candy and got an earful.”

Flash-Forward to 2011
Brad and Troy are both master candy makers and are doing exactly what their dad was skillfully able to do with chocolate and sugar: read and respond to it.

“Chocolate and sugar have a mind of their own,” says Brad with a big laugh. He also mentions how the panning process brings its own unique set of challenges to the art of candy making.

“For what seems to be a simple process, you’d be amazed at the number of things that can go wrong. I equate it to bowling. You’ll get good at it, but you’re never going to bowl a 300 game every time,” he explains. “You can do everything the same way you did it the last time, and it won’t work. They key is staying ahead of the process so you have time to read and react to the product.”

Heart and Soul
Just like their father, Brad and Troy use Guittard Chocolate for their chocolate products and are very proud of that 27-year relationship.

As I’m talking to Brad about this longstanding partnership, he tells me a great story about Guittard’s now-retired sales director, Hank Spini.

“No matter where in the world Hank was on October 24, he would find my dad to have lunch with him. It was my dad’s birthday,” he explains. “This went on for decades. They were good friends.”

Hank eventually became Brad’s mentor and taught him how to buy cocoa and work with customers. Hank’s son Mark Spini followed in his own father’s footsteps and is a cornerstone at Guittard today.

How cool is that?

The Goods
The Marich Confectionery Company’s chocolate and non-chocolate products (almost too pretty to eat) are available at Candy.com and Marich.com as well as specialty retailers. Here is a tiny teaser to get you to check out the entire collection, which includes all-natural, organic, and sugar-free options. (Click on each image below for detailed product information.)

Best Seller! Pastel Chocolate Cherries

Valentine Jordan Almonds

Holland Mints

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Right on the heels of my last post about 2010 candy product launches, a new candy bar has come to market: Bosco Milk Chocolate Bars. And, yes, it’s the same “Bosco” as Bosco brand Chocolate Syrup.

If you’re not familiar with Bosco Chocolate Syrup, it’s a brand that’s been around since 1928. Dick Van Dyke and Virginia Graham hawked Bosco back in the ’50s:

In 1960, Bosco Chocolate Syrup made a cameo in Alfred Hitchcock’s thriller, Psycho. The syrup was used as “blood” in Janet Leigh’s unforgettable shower scene.

Bosco Syrup also appeared on Laverne & Shirley (Bosco chocolate milk was Squiggy’s favorite drink) and Seinfeld. In the Nov. 1995 “The Secret Code” episode of Seinfeld, George Costanza reveals that his ATM PIN is “Bosco.”

Scott Sanders, vice president of the family-owned Bosco Products, Inc., says his dad, Steve, was contacted by Shrek 2 personnel to get permission to use the “I love Bosco” jingle. It made the 2004 film’s soundtrack.

And now, in the new year, big and small screens have a new prop star: the 3.5-ounce Bosco Milk Chocolate Bar.

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Free Bosco Products Giveaway!
Bosco Milk Chocolate Bars are available exclusively on Candy.com through January! Pre-orders are available now; first shipment begins Mon.,  Jan. 10.

Try a bar and tell the Candy.com community what you think. EVERYONE who comments on ANY Bosco product (fond Bosco memories, anyone?) will be entered to win a Bosco T-shirt and a Bosco Variety Pack. So … spill your thoughts!
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According to Paul Pruett, CEO of the Praim Group and manager of Bosco’s chocolate brand, the new all-natural milk chocolate bars are formulated to taste like Bosco Chocolate Syrup.

Unlike the syrup, however, the milk chocolate bars aren’t vitamin-fortified. Scott says fortifying the bars was a consideration, but that it presented technical complications and didn’t quite match the needs of the broader target market the bars are expected to attract.

Bosco Chocolate Syrup was originally created by a Camden, NJ-based physician to help with digestion. The extra thick syrup was later marketed as a “milk amplifier” and included iron and Vitamin D. Today, the product (which Scott describes as “fudge-like”) is positioned as an all-natural ice cream topper and milk syrup, and is fortified with B Vitamins.

At brick-and-mortar retail outlets, Scott and Paul both say the ultimate goal is for Bosco Syrup and Bosco Milk Chocolate Bars to be merchandised together, but they acknowledge the fact that the buyer for those two categories isn’t always the same person. It’s a big hurdle, but Paul says, “We’re bullish on that partnership.”

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If you were saddened to see Astro Pops disappear from the planet in 2004, guess what? They’re back at Candy.com. And the new rockets are WAY bigger than the originals. The modern-day Astro Pop is 2 pounds, the original was 1 ounce.

“It’s got the wow factor, but people can still eat it, not just look at it,” says Ellia Kassoff, CEO of Astro Pops, LLC., the company that acquired the Astro Pop brand from Spangler Candy this past May.

When I talked with Ellia this past Friday, he said he was hugely disappointed when Astro Pops fell off radar in 2004 and decided to bring the rocket-shaped lollipops back to Mother Earth.

Ellia doesn’t have a candy background, so to revive the brand, he’s relying on his passion for the product, his marketing background, and his family tie to the Leaf Confectionery Company. (Leaf introduced Rainblo gum balls and reintroduced malted milk balls under the name Whoppers, among other things.)

“The whole Leaf family is excited to see candy back in the family,” says Ellia.

Back when Spangler owned the Astro Pop brand, it was touted as the “longest lasting lollipop on earth.” To bring the tagline up to today’s standards, Ellia has plans to roll out different sizes of Astro Pops based on how much time you’ve got. (Note to Ellia: I do hope you’ve carved out a good bit of time to figure out how many licks it takes to finish off a range of Astro Pop sizes.)

Ellia says the biggest size will probably be a 5-pound showpiece, which is based on the number of calls he’s getting from people interested in giant Astro Pops for wedding centerpieces. (I would think birthdays, graduations, and bar/bat mitzvahs might be a better fit for a rocket theme, but I certainly have been to my fair share of outer space weddings.)

The 2-pound Astro Pop, which is now available at Candy.com, has the same flavors as the original pop: pineapple (yellow), cherry (red), and passion fruit (green). It is pretty remarkable that passion fruit and pineapple were flavors used back in the M*A*S*H era.


If you’re one of the first 500 customers to buy an Astro Pop on Candy.com, you’ll receive a limited-edition version that’s numbered. And, if you place your order by Thurs., Dec. 17, you’ll have your rocket by Christmas.

Historical Note: In case you’re curious why Astro Pops fell off the planet for a while, here’s the story: This past May at the Sweets & Snacks Expo in Chicago, Astro Pop, LLC announced its acquisition of worldwide rights for Astro Pops from the Spangler Candy. (Spangler Candy is the company behind Dum Dum Pops, Candy Canes, Circus Peanuts, and Saf-T-Pops.) Spangler bought the brand from Los Angeles-based Nellson Candy Company (the original inventor of the Astro Pop) in 1987, but ended up discontinuing the line in 2004. Many cried. One guy did something about it.

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A few weeks ago, a colleague at Candy.com told me about a Southern California-based event planner who has created candy buffets for Oprah, the Emmy Awards, American Idol, celebrity weddings, etc.

This inquiring mind had to find out: Who is this confectionery Wonder Woman?

Turns out, it’s Jackie Sorkin—and she really is Wonder Woman (step aside Lynda Carter). Jackie is the founder of Custom Candy Buffet Bars and Southern California Wedding Planner. On top of that, she’s a heavy-duty blogger, brand new mom, and soon-to-be star of a TV series about her candy catering empire. (Note to self: Do not let the kids read this because they will think you are a slacker.)

Jackie kindly agreed to chat with Candy.com to get the straight dope on her booming Custom Candy Buffet Bars business in Hollywood.

Buckle in …

Candy.com: I know your Custom Candy Buffet Bar business launched after years of event planning in New York City and Los Angeles. What was the light bulb moment that led you to candy?

Jackie: I love things that are pretty and candy certainly is that! I began creating custom candy creations for clients events and they were received so well that I thought, “There is something to this candy thing.” Then I began doing more and more event shows and expos and, since I am so competitive, I wanted all the attendees at my booth chatting with ME! So, I created some really great Custom Candy Buffet Bars and just like that, I WON! My booths were always swamped with guests and people flipped for my candy.

Candy.com: On your blog, “The Fabulous Fun Adventures of Jackie Sorkin & The Hollywood Candy Girls,” you talk a lot about your sweet entourage. How do the Candy Girls fit into your business?

Jackie: My Candy Girls are my six lil’ sisters. The girls and I are like a family and they are a major part of my business. They are very well recognized in Hollywood since we do so many events there. Paparazzi can’t get enough of them either. They love to stage shots of the girls with celebrities and our candy. The Candy Girls are fabulously fun and assist in creating our events, assist clients at events with their candy, and, if that weren’t all, the girls are total Eye Candy themselves. They always bring a little extra sugar and spice to our events not to mention the mischief we find ourselves getting into every now and then. Jessica is our assistant and handles lots of the important details, too. We’d be so lost without  her.

Candy.com: Since you and the girls brush with fame quite often during your high-profile events, do you have any scoop on celebrities’ favorite candy?

Jackie: Yes of course! We know that Oprah‘s best friend Gayle King likes gummy candy, and sweet and sour stuff. Mega producer Diane Warren LOVES Good & Plenty, Paris Hilton loves anything sweet and flipped for our Candy Ka-bobs!

Candy.com: What’s the most over-the-top candy buffet/bar you’ve created so far?

Jackie: We created a fabulous custom candy buffet bar for the 2010 Emmy Awards recently, which was a huge hit. Everything we do is totally customized so you always get something new. Our designs range from cute and funky, to whimsical and retro, to clean, modern and elegant. It just depends on the client’s candy vision.

Modern Family's Nolan Gould chomped on a cake pop at Jackie's Emmy Awards candy buffet.

Candy.com: Any particular candies that seem to be a hit at most any event?

Jackie: Gummy candy and sours, or chocolate.

Candy.com: What’s your favorite candy? (We had to ask.)

Jackie: Ummm, kind of hard to answer but I’ll say … jelly beans (the old school kind).

Candy.com: I understand you could be reality star Bethenny Frankel’s long lost sister (the sister she doesn’t know exists … yet). What characteristics do you share with Ms. Frankel?

Jackie: I LalaLOVE Bethenny Frankel to the 1000 trillionth power. I could answer this question for days and it’s my fave question from you. Well, what we have in common is an insane work ethic, the desire to succeed in such a major way, and the endless efforts we expel to grow our companies. I also just had my first baby who, like Bethenny’s baby Bryn Hoppy, was also a surprise. My daughter’s name is Isabella. (She is the heiress to the candy empire and she is totally delicious).

Jackie Sorkin's little Bella is darling and delicious.

I have an amazing husband who really gets me and has the patience of a saint, but I’m sure he also looks at me some days and thinks, “Babe, you are so nuts. Chill out!” Bethenny is hysterical and pure personality, yet she is vulnerable and so real. Anyone who knows me personally knows that I embody the same qualities and I make no excuses for who I am. My favorite thing about myself is that I keep it real and always will. I say what I think, I believe really hard work pays off, and I dream BIG. Really BIG! I think life is short so I make it sweet and fun.

Candy.com: What’s the next “Fabulous Fun Adventure” for Jackie Sorkin?

Jackie: What’s next for us, WOW! What isn’t? I mean we have 101 things going on at once it makes my head spin like a whirly pop. What our friends, fans, and clients can look forward to is a reality show based on our crazy candy business to launch on a major network as well as the opening of our retail store; franchising our candy buffet and candy catering business; more and more clients and major events; perhaps planning a proper wedding for my husband and I since we never got to experience one but we totally deserve a super mega-fun party; partnerships with major players in the world of candy; and hopefully getting to create something for the cutest girls in town: the Obama girls, Sasha and Malia.

And with that I thank you Candy.Com for this super duper fun interview and to the world. We look forward to making all your candy dreams come true.

xoxo – Jackie & The Candy Girls

Candy.com thanks Jackie & The Candy Girls for the interview and all of the gorgeous photos.* Stay tuned for more info about Jackie’s reality TV show, which sounds like Keeping Up with the Kardashians meets Ace of Cakes.

In the meantime, check out the following candy buffet bars created by Jackie and her Hollywood Candy Girls …



*Photos of baby Isabella and the pink, yellow, and orange candy buffet bar by Jessica Herrera Photography.

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