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.
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 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.)