The term ‘one-of-a-kind’ operation quickly comes to mind when asked to describe Nassau Candy. This unique, multi-faceted and growing family business headquartered in the New York metropolitan area has carved out its own niche thanks to management’s long-term adherence to a key principle: Be different and bring something new to the party (or in fact, bringing the party to different people!).
Right from the start, Nassau Candy sought differentiation. When brothers-in-law Barry Rosenbaum and Lesley Stier, president and chairman/ceo, respectively, bought Hicksville, N.Y.-based Nassau Candy (then, a traditional local candy and tobacco distributor) in 1984, one of the first things they did was discontinue selling cigarettes.
“Cigarettes are a commodity item that does not allow any points of differentiation or creativity,” says Rosenbaum. “Our goal was to build a company with solid fundamentals that would stand apart from the competition.
“So we looked for two kinds of opportunities; additional retail outlets we could supply, and exceptional specialty products to bring to a diverse group of retailers that we could service,” he continues.
“On a nationwide basis, today we not only service gourmet food stores, but cheese shops, supermarkets and confectionery stores,” Rosenbaum explains. “Our target market is anywhere that an upscale edible is sold. In addition, we are the leading supplier of specialty confectionery private label programs to supermarkets, convenience stores, clubs, department stores, specialty retailers and mass merchants.”
The diversity of outlets and product types means that Nassau Candy has 10,000 items in its regular inventory, not counting private-label items. Five current distribution centers — located in Hicksville, N.Y., Riviera Beach, Fla., Dallas, Livonia, Mich., and City of Industry, Calif. — service retailers. A sixth distribution center is currently being added in the San Francisco Bay area.
Nassau Candy’s catalogs are legendary. The current Gourmet Foods Catalog has 225 pages with about 20 or 25 items per page. The 2014 Confections catalog has 193 pages, each page also listing about 20 or 25 items. That translates to about 8,000 items in the two main catalogs alone, not counting the Fall Holidays, Winter Holidays, Valentine’s Day and Spring Holidays catalogs.
“We are very proud of our historical 97 percent fulfillment rate,” Rosenbaum says. “Our customers count on us to have what they need in stock and deliver it in a timely manner.”
Candy manufacturing growing
Nassau Candy’s two factories in Nassau County, which are SQF-certified, Level 3 as well as long-time adherents of Good Manufacturing Practices and HAACP protocol, manufacture more than 1,000 confectionery items. Products include panned, enrobed, solid and filled moulded chocolates as well as pressed mints, fruit slices, nuts, mixes and caramel popcorn.
The company positions itself as a “one-stop shop” for private label because the diversity of retail outlets serviced gives it the ability to stay ahead of trends from multiple trade classes.
For example, Rosenbaum points out that many mass-market items start out in the fancy food segment. Supporting the private label business, in-house design teams develop custom branding, food styling and photography, as well as packaging design and marketing. Packaging materials are sourced domestically and overseas.
“Our manufacturing operations are very busy, and we need more space,” Rosenbaum says. “So we’re just in the midst of adding a 127,000-sq.-ft. building across the street. The new building will be our distribution center, thereby creating manufacturing space in the current building,” he explains. According to Long Island Newsday, “the expansion would add 45 jobs to Nassau Candy’s payroll of 310” in Hicksville.”
Complexity requires organizational agility
As one can imagine, with the depth and breadth of products that Nassau Candy offers, there needs to be a strong organizational infrastructure. Consequently, the company operates under four business units:
- Specialty Foods Importing and Distribution
- Specialty Confectionery Manufacturing, Importing and Distribution
- Promotional Confections and Mints
- Private Label programs
Specialty Foods Importing deals with items such as cheese, pasta, oils, preserves, pasta sauces and balsamic vinegars, all of which are primarily sold to gourmet food stores, cheese shops and supermarkets. In fact, Nassau Candy is the leading regional importer and distributor of these items.
The Specialty Confectionery sector focuses on bulk candy, pegable items, chocolate bars, children’s novelties, seasonal items, counter items and the like. Its target market focuses on thousands of independent retailers in more than 100 classes of trade. As such, Nassau Candy is the largest specialty confectionery distributor of major branded products in the United States.
The Promotional Confections and Private Label divisions zero in on those respective businesses. To take advantage of new growth opportunities, the company has also recently formed a food service unit.
Obviously, Nassau Candy isn’t your typical midsized confectionery operation. One could usevisionary to describe the company. Certainly its decision to discard tobacco and to focus on importing and producing a broad range of chocolate and non-chocolate candy proved fortuitous.
Multi-faceted would be another word for Nassau Candy; not many companies distribute specialty confections, cheese and other fine foods from the same distribution centers, using mostly its own refrigerated and insulated vehicles.
Fast-growing is another appropriate adjective for Nassau Candy, as evidenced by the addition of a new San Francisco distribution center as well as the acquisition of 127, 000 sq. ft. of additional space near the Hicksville headquarters location.
Family-run also applies, with brothers-in-law Barry Rosenbaum and Lesley H. Stier having recently added the next generation of management in the form of four sons, Jordan Rosenbaum and Garrett Stier, Lance Stier and Travis Stier.
Of course, with all that’s happening at Nassau Candy, it appears that the company certainly could use more help.
In the end, perhaps the best term to characterize Nassau Candy is impressive. The growth foundation is in place, more production capacity will soon be on line, distribution capacity is being expanded and the next generation is now on board.
No doubt they will have to figure out new ways to be different. But one senses that taking their own road to success is part of their DNA.