In an area holding such significant chocolate companies as Mars Snackfood, The Hershey Co. and Wilbur Chocolate Co., Quigley Manufacturing remains an anomaly - it’s one of the few U.S.-based hard candy manufacturers. But Quigley Manufacturing isn’t as different or distant from those chocolate companies as one would think.
How so? Well, Charles and Margaret Simon originally founded Simon Candy in 1949 as a chocolate company. The 18,000-sq.-ft. Elizabethtown, Pa. plant (6,000 sq. ft. manufacturing space) manufactured mainly hollow-moulded Christmas and Easter chocolates, along with a small amount of hard candy. The holiday chocolates the company produced were highly decorated and larger than most - many of the chocolates were between five and twenty pounds.
And although Charles loved the chocolate industry, he quickly got tired of the seasonal production cycles. He became uncomfortable with borrowing money from the bank during peak seasons and laying employees off after peak seasons. When he discovered new European higher speed double-twist wrappers, Charles realized a growth industry - hard candy. Because hard candy sells well year-round, with less of a peak season than chocolate, Charles foresaw a more stable business in hard candy.
In 1962, Simon Candy left the chocolate business and entered the hard candy business. Today, the company manufactures conventional hard candies like root beer barrels, butterscotch buttons and sour balls, along with functional and fortified candies, including medicated, organic, sugar-free and all natural varieties. Aside from product evolutions, the company has also made major changes in management over the years.
The current president of Quigley Manufacturing, Dave Deck, graduated from the Penn State – Harrisburg campus with a degree in public administration in 1972. While he planned to do government service, Hurricane Agnes changed his path. As a tropical storm, Agnes flooded the entire campus, along with all of central Maryland through central Pennsylvania, actually cancelling Deck’s graduation ceremony.
“I started working with a redevelopment authority in Lebanon County housing displaced flood victims,” Deck says. Later, he moved on to business relocation before moving to northern Pennsylvania as director of relocation of property and management for the Lock Haven, Pa. redevelopment authority.
“While my wife and I were living in Lock Haven, my mother- and father-in-law purchased [Simon Candy] from Charles and Margaret Simon in May 1974,” Deck explains. “Charlie Simon and my father-in-law were very good friends. My father-in-law sold packaging to a lot of candy companies and he absolutely loved the candy industry.”
Deck’s father-in-law, John Hess, expressed interest in purchasing a candy company, particularly a chocolate company, and had mentioned it to Charles Simon.
“One day, Charlie called him up and said, ‘Hey John, let’s have lunch, and bring a check for $10,000 - You’re going to buy my company,’” Deck says. “The $10,000 was earnest money. It took a year to work out the details and final price, but there was at least an agreement there. Something a little more solid than a handshake.”
Once Deck’s father-in-law purchased the business, he named it JoEl: “Jo” for John and “El” for his wife, Eleanor.
“John was a marvelous salesperson, but he hated administration,” Deck says. “He wanted to be out on the road, in front of customers and calling on new customers. So he called me and wanted me to manage the company.”
John’s plan was for Deck to be “Mr. Inside” and for himself to be “Mr. Outside” as he called them. With a second child on the way, Deck decided to accept the offer and put down roots in Elizabethtown.
In 1975, Deck began working in the kitchen for JoEl Inc. in order to learn the business from the ground up. And just two years later, Quigley Manufacturing’s current chief operating officer, Dave Hess, started in the same manner.
After graduating college in 1977, Dave Hess was offered a job by his uncle, John Hess. This year marks Dave Hess’ 31st anniversary at the company and Deck’s 33rd. Another thing Dave Hess and Deck have in common is that they have both played a role in PMCA. In fact, Dave Hess, Dave Deck and John Hess have all been president of PMCA at some point.
“Currently, I am PMCA president,” Dave Hess clarifies. “Dave Deck was [president] about 15 years ago and my uncle (John Hess) was [president] about 25 years ago, so there’s actually been three different people from the old JoEl corporation who have gone through the officers’ chairs in PMCA.”
Thirteen years after joining the company, Deck, his wife Cheryl and his sister-in-law Sandra Sattazahn bought the company from John and Eleanor Hess. After John passed away in 1989, Deck kept his eyes open for possible acquisitions. However, as fate would have it, the company itself was acquired. In 2004, the company’s largest customer, the Quigley Corp., purchased JoEl Inc.
“I don’t think we ever felt as if they were customers to us; we always felt as if they were partners to us,” Deck says. “So it wasn’t a hard decision to sell to them. It was like an evolution.”
But the “evolution” did cause some changes. First off, Simon Candy was no longer a family company. It became a public company, calling for more documentation and regulations. The Quigley Corp. now owns Quigley Manufacturing, which consists of Simon Candy (Elizabethtown plant) and Pharmaloz (Lebanon plant).
Simon Candy started out doing private label/contract manufacturing in the medicated confectionery segment by working with the brand Chloraseptic. The company secured a drug license and trained all of its employees accordingly, opening itself up to other pharmaceutical candy requests. It wasn’t long before a company asked Simon Candy to create a National Brand Equivalent (NBE) to the Halls cough drop.
“We developed a NBE cough drop in menthol cherry, honey and lemon, which were the top three flavors at that time,” Deck says. “It became an instant success.” But because the medicated candy performed so well, the company needed more production space to manufacture the drug product.
“We realized that we did not have the capacity at Simon,” Deck explains. “We were either going to have to get rid of the candy business and dedicate this plant to cough drop production, or get out of the cough drop business, which we had just spent a lot of time, energy and money to get into. So we started looking at putting up a new plant.”
Construction on the new 80,000-sq.-ft. plant (16,000 sq. ft. manufacturing space) in Lebanon, Pa. began in 1984 with the facility becoming operational in 1985. The company chose Lebanon not only because the land was less expensive than in Lancaster County, but also because the town held a lot of family history: Deck, along with his mother- and father-in-law, was born in Lebanon County.
The majority of the company’s medicated candies are manufactured in Lebanon. The company’s best selling medicated product, contract manufactured for the Quigley Corp. remains Cold Eeze: A zinc lozenge clinically proven in a number of clinical, double blind, placebo-controlled clinical trials to shorten the duration and lessen the severity of the common cold. It remains the ninth largest medicated confectionery brand in the world, Deck says. Cold Eeze lozenges use all natural ingredients without any artificial colors or preservatives. It can also be produced in a sugar-free variety. And with two-thirds of the company’s products consisting of medicated candies, the other third going to conventional candies, the company’s decision to keep the drug side of candy has proven to be a good one.
Another product manufactured for parent company Quigley Corp. is Organix. The Organix brand is a medicated organic cough drop produced in the Elizabethtown plant. Similar to drug certification, organic certification is a strict process.
Ninety-five percent of materials making up the organic product must be certified organic. Yet, the other 5% must still meet national organic standards. For now, the Elizabethtown plant is the only certified organic plant of the two.
“Organic production is very similar to drug production in that everything has to be documented,” Deck says. “You have to have clear operating procedures and standards; they all have to be written down; people need to be trained and understand that.”
The documentation needed for drug and organic products also helps Quigley Manufacturing with traceability.
With recent scares over melamine contamination, the issue of traceability has become a great concern. The Quigley Manufacturing group conducts mock recalls between keeping everything documented for traceability reasons.
“In our batch records, we record every lot number of every raw material that we use,” Kathy Burkhart, director of quality assurance, says. “We also assign a receiving number to every raw material that comes in. So there are two numbers that we can trace our products on and all that documentation gets recorded in the batch records.”
Another concern in the marketplace is childhood diabetes and obesity. While there are a multitude of sugar-free hard candies in the marketplace, there isn’t a great amount marketed toward children. To fill this gap, Simon Candy introduced its own branded sugar-free lolly pops called Lolly Lites. The company also plans to debut new fortified Lolly Lites with vitamin C and all natural colors and flavors in the first quarter of 2009.
Representing one-third of the company’s sales excluding drug products, other healthy confections under the Quigley Manufacturing brand include Serendipity sugar-free candies and College Farm organic hard candies. Other Simon Candy products include Coal Candy, Holiday Medley and Tropical Treasures hard candies. The company’s biggest bulk flavors include root beer barrels, butterscotch buttons and even a horehound flavored candy. And the plant’s flexible machinery allows it to produce products with real butter and cream, such as butterscotch buttons, coffee with cream, strawberries with cream and peaches with cream.
With three production lines at the Elizabethtown plant and one in Lebanon, Simon Candy and Pharmaloz can create a broad range of products in two very different ways. The Elizabethtown plant has one Hansella 145A automatic cooker that performs as a continuous line used to make hard candies. The second line includes three batch Hansella 111A cookers, which allow for flexibility in making the candy. The third line is a Euromec lolly pop forming/wrapping machine. The Lebanon plant only uses continuous production for the medicated candy products.
“In the Elizabethtown plant, you’re producing product in a batch method that still allows a fair amount of artistry along with the actual science and chemistry involved in the process by which candy is made,” Dave Hess explains. “In Lebanon, the operation can be admired for the fact that it’s controlled and it’s precise.”
Whether the company is producing medicated candies or conventional candies, there’s one thing that can’t be argued with: Quigley Manufacturing has seen a great deal of change.
“Ten or 15 years ago we didn’t really have anything that was our own brand,” says Libby Moyer, marketing and sales manager. “It was all being made for other people (private label or contract manufacturing). So the idea of having something that’s our own brand, that we are actually out marketing is relatively new.”
Albeit starting off as primarily a private label (10% of business) and contract manufacturing (16% of business) business, Quigley Manufacturing continues to expand its product portfolio and customer base.
“As for product expansions, one thing we’re looking at right now is center filling,” Deck says. “We’re going to attempt some center filling materials you don’t normally see in hard candy.” Slated to debut in the first quarter of 2009, Quigley Manufacturing believes there are still plenty of opportunities in the hard candy category.
Many of those opportunities involve going abroad.
“We’ve just added some new brokers so we’re getting into some territories that we really haven’t been into before,” Moyer says.
“We’re living in a global economy,” Deck adds. “We have to be aware of outside this border.”
Just another step in Quigley Manufacturing’s evolutionary process.