The Jelly Belly Candy Company‘s Chairman of the Board Herman Goelitz Rowland, Sr., and his daughter/Executive Vice Chairman Lisa Rowland Brasher open up to Candy.com about working in a multigeneration family business that goes back to 1869, their business challenges, and favorite beans.
Candy.com: Herm, when your children and grandchildren were young, did you ever think they’d be working at the Jelly Belly Candy Company?
HGR: It wasn’t mandatory for any of my family to join the business, but it’s been great there is interest. We have 10 of us now working in the business. I just want them to be happy in what they do.
Candy.com: Lisa, as executive vice chairman, you’re apprenticing to prepare for leading the company into the next generation of candy making. How do you feel about that next big step?
LRB: It is quite an honor for me to be in this position. Succession planning is very important to every company and we are a family business that currently employs family members from the 4th, 5th, and 6th generation of our candy-making family. Is that cool or what?! We all work in many different areas of the business and that gives us a good finger on the pulse of the company. I am also surrounded by an awesome team of Jelly Belly employees who are very capable and respected in their areas of expertise, which makes my job that much easier.
Candy.com: What’s it like to not only work with your closest family members, but also ultimately oversee their work?
LRB: Fortunately, we all get along really well. I am sure that there will be times of difficulty, just as there are in any work relationships, but we all seem to communicate well with each other. The expectation for every generation of family members has been that we exceed expectations as an employee. I know my kids feel that I am harder on them than I am on others. That is probably true, but, as I learned as a youngster, many eyes are on us and what we do. We need to set a good example. I also think that being up front and honest with thoughts and feelings is invaluable. A small note hanging on my wall reminds me that the same letters are in the word “Silent” and the word “Listen.” Most of us in our family don’t have a problem speaking our mind, so I want to always keep that in the forefront of my mind. Be quiet, listen, and then talk!
Candy.com: Lisa, did you know early on that you wanted to be a part of the family candy business?
LRB: As youngsters, we did not visit the candy factory often. My dad worked long days that weren’t conducive to having two little girls running around the factory. But later on, my sister and I occasionally went to the factory with my dad on a weekend or a holiday—and I was totally sold! The smells (yum) of the powdery mist of sugar floating in the air, the sweet smell of milk chocolate, the sight of trays stacked high with candy corn, mellocreme choppers, or chocolate pokies lured me in.
Candy.com: Herm, if you weren’t running the Jelly Belly Candy Company, what would you want to do?
HGR: Design new equipment, probably for the candy industry. Equipment is my first love. Or grow something on a farm and drive a tractor.
Candy.com: What’s your biggest business challenge at the moment?
LRB: I think that our biggest challenge at the moment is similar to the challenges that many companies face nationwide: How can we be the best that we can be with our employees, consumers, vendors, and retailers; continue to produce excellent quality confections and provide superior customer service while keeping our costs contained so that we can be competitive in the market in an economy that all costs are skyrocketing!
HGR: Peach has always been at the top of my list. Can’t think of any I don’t like.
LRB: Currently my favorite flavors are #1 – Red Apple, #2 – Plum, and #3 – Juicy Pear. (Juicy Pear used to be my #1 flavor until Red Apple and Plum were released.) My fourth favorite flavor is Chili Mango. It’s funny because I really don’t like spicy tastes and I can live without mango, too, but I LOVE this flavor. Just the right amount of sweet and spicy. My least favorite bean flavor is cantaloupe. I am also not a fan of Licorice. Funny because it is our #3 flavor in the lineup!
Candy.com: Have you or any of your family members ever submitted a Jelly Belly jelly bean flavor that either got used or shot down?
LRB: Yes, in 1995 we came out with Red Licorice, which I love and had always wanted us to produce. The problem here was that there are two very distinct tastes for Red Licorice. Unfortunately for me, our team made the taste that is not my favorite brand of red licorice and the rest of the country agreed. Due to less-than-stellar sales, it was discontinued shortly thereafter.
LRB: The retro look is a hot trend right now and our fun can of Peas and Carrots fits the bill perfectly. They are realistic looking and cute too! Mellocreme flavors of Green Apple and Orange Sherbet put a fun twist on traditional yummy mellocreme candies. Eating your veggies never tasted so good!
Candy.com: Any other new products or Jelly Belly Jelly Bean flavors you’ll be launching at the Sweets & Snacks EXPO this May?
LRB: Jelly Belly is known worldwide for its product innovation and the exciting new confections coming out at the next Sweets & Snacks EXPO this May will not disappoint! But, we have to keep some surprises for the show.