Editor's note: Editor-in-Chief Bernie Pacyniak recently went on a trip to Florida, visiting three candy companies while there. "Despite the obvious differences between the companies, all three entities have been fueled by dreams. Norman Love dreamed of opening his own business. Bernie and Edgar Schaked, of the Chocolate Kingdom, had always wanted to provide an educational experience about their one passion: chocolate. And the owners of Grimaldi Candies saw the potential to take Grimaldi Candies beyond retail and into a national wholesaling arena.
What’s more important is that all three have and are realizing their dreams. I hope you’ll enjoy reading about how they achieved their goals. Each confectioner offers insights into the business of making and selling chocolates and confections. And each one continues to build upon that success. May all our road trips be so fulfilling."
In his best-selling book, The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference, author Malcom Gladwell explored the moment various phenomena, such as an idea, a trend or social behavior, crossed a threshold, tipped and then spread like wildfire.
After visiting Grimaldi Candies, in Melbourne, Fla., one might characterize that this company has reached a tipping point, a moment in its evolution and growth whereby it’s time to “start squeezing the trigger,” as Jim Frazier, company president says.
With a cool million dollars recently invested into new equipment, infrastructure and market research, Grimaldi is poised to maximize the monies spent into a significant sales surge.
“By mid-year, I expect our panning operation to be operating five days a week, two shifts,” Frazier says. Employment should increase from 20 to 35-plus workers, he adds. Six additional pans and a new Hayssen form/fill/ seal bagger will already be operational by then. And a new enrobing line, to compliment the three existing lines, will likely be on order. By mid-2015, Grimaldi Candies should generate an additional $2 million in revenue.
What makes Frazier so confident that the company will, as he says, realize a “35 to 40 percent” jump in sales? As always, it’s a combination of past and existing efforts that provide the answer. First, the launch of a new line of products under the Larry the Cable Guy moniker (See Candy Industry, February 2014), has and continues to gain traction.
The exclusive licensing deal with a national comic sensation, Larry the Cable Guy, aka Daniel Lawrence Whitney, has shifted Grimaldi from being primarily a company that supplied chocolate-covered chips and truffles to its own retail shop as well as other retailers into a manufacturing company with national reach.
Moreover, the new line includes four distinctive items — Milk Chocolate Tater Chips (milk chocolate-covered potato chips); Milk Chocolate Dusted Almonds; Milk Chocolate Corn Nuggets; and Camo Crunchers, pretzel balls coated in milk and dark chocolate as well as caramel colored white chocolate — which has opened the door for other new business.
Rolled out on January 29, the Larry the Cable Guy lineup has generated interest from a large cross-section of retailers, explains Frazier. It’s also established Grimaldi as a viable contract and private-label manufacturer, a strategic growth goal since Phil and Jamie Holtje purchased the company in 2009.
The former print business entrepreneurs had planned to retire in Florida after gradually selling the successful business back to employees, although Phil retained his position as chairman of the company. Within less than a year, however, the husband-and-wife team has their hands in another business, Grimaldi Candies.
Anxious to apply their business experience to selling chocolates and candies, a much sweeter-smelling proposition than the odor associated with inks, Phil and Jamie enlisted the help of their family, daughter Celeste and son-in-law Will Ralston, establishing them in marketing and general manager roles, respectively. They also acquired an existing 4,000-sq.- ft. Building in Rockledge, Fla., and added another 21,000 sq. ft., setting the foundation for what they believed would be a midsized company doing business on a national level.
“Before I came on board in July 2013, I discussed with Phil and Jamie what the company needed to do to grow,” he says. Frazier, a former senior v. p. at Evans Food Group and former chief operating officer for GKI Foods, sought to use his past contacts in the industry to transition the business from mostly retail shop sales to more branded, private-label and contract manufacturing accounts.
The first step involved expanding Grimaldi’s panning capability. Today, the company can boast of being Florida’s largest panning operator (12 pans). And it’s that capability as well as its proximity to Orlando that played a role in landing a major account with a well-known theme park. Although constrained by confidentiality agreements, Frazier was able to share with Candy Industry some details of the pending licensing agreement.
“Based on a broad range of characters and their profiles from its movies, our client has translated those elements into products that can be marketed,” he says. “We’ll be producing a milk chocolate pretzel ball, a milk chocolate maple crunch, a milk chocolate taffy and a milk and dark chocolate potato chips.”
In this instance, the company had a geographic advantage, given that it’s a mere 45 minutes from Orlando, allowing for convenient audits and meetings. But Grimaldi also has the “flexibility and creativity” to handle such specific product demands, Frazier says.
First, Grimaldi is probably the bestknown and accomplished enrober of potato chips, having staked its claim to this sweet and savory item long before sweet and savory became a national craze. Founded in 1969 by Sicilian immigrant Vincent Grimaldi, the company carved out a niche amongst tourists and locals as a quality purveyor of chocolates, eventually becoming the nation’s largest producer of chocolate-covered potato chips.
It’s also has years of experience producing a broad range of truffles, clusters, barks, nut clusters, c Nick Manfredi and Amanda Persinger hand pack aramels and moulded chocolates. That kind of depth and breadth in candy production reinforces Frazier’s “flexibility and creativity” claim.
For example, the company just recently added three new truffles to its lineup of chocolate: a milk chocolate sea salt caramel; a dark chocolate lemon zest and a milk chocolate cappuccino. The new flavors have been added to the company’s Grimaldi Gold line, which includes only premium products.
“We sell a box of our Grimaldi Gold chocolates for $18.99 a lb. And sales have exceeded expectations,” Frazier says. “Our customers are looking for and are willing to pay for premium items.”
In addition to a retail shop next to the plant in Rockledge, the company has a store in Melbourne, Fla., which it recently remodeled. The company is scheduled to open a new retail shop in Port Canaveral, Fla. Next year.
That said, Frazier is cognizant that the company needs to expand its retail customer base, which still accounts for a large part of the company’s revenues.
“Will and I are developing a marketing plan that will bring in the next generation of Grimaldi customers. Our current customer base reflects an aging demographic. Our plan focuses on attracting younger mothers and fathers by offering items such as milk chocolatecovered gummy bears, pastel-colored almonds, and milk chocolate-covered jelly beans.”
Such tiny tweaks can go far in increasing the company’s visibility, not only amongst younger consumers, but amongst emerging confectionery entrepreneurs as well.
Case in point — Mitchell Koulouris and his Imagine Chocolate Co. Are in discussions with Frazier about Grimaldi producing his line of gourmet chocolates that are themed to various musical genres.
“We’re in the testing phase with Mitch and hope, after concluding this phase, to begin supplying the East Coast with Imagine Chocolates,” he says. “The truffles are a bit unique, with different spices and flavors, but they are an excellent product.”
In the interim, it’s also supplying 12 different charities with a percentage of the proceeds from its retail sales. Last month, it worked with the Wounded Warrior Project, an organization that supports injured and wounded veterans and service members.
“We collect the funds each month for that specific organization and then at the end of the year, we total up the monies and divide it up evenly amongst all twelve groups,” explains Frazier. In addition, the company’s owners, which do not take a salary, support the Viera Water Network. The organization, which was started by the Holtjes, drills and repairs fresh water wells in underdeveloped countries. All of Grimaldi Candies ‘post-tax profits support the charities.
Clearly, those coffers will grow when Grimaldi’s tipping point proves true.