Unwrapped potential: 7 questions for McCrea’s Caramels' founders
Husband-and-wife team with backgrounds in science find a new life in the caramelmaking business.
Unwrap one of McCrea’s caramels and you get a little taste of what science can do.
When Jason McCrea, co-founder, and his wife Kate Michmerhuizen McCrea, marketing and product developer, both found themselves laid off their jobs, their backgrounds in science and math found a new home in the caramel making business.
“We went away together to Acadia National Park and started talking. It was very productive talk, but we didn’t have a plan,” Kate says. “Then a few days later, back at home, Jason made a batch of caramels for a little girl we knew who was in a body cast, and he thought she could use a treat.”
So began the caramel business.
After amazing feedback from the little girl’s parents and friends, people began requesting orders.
It all started as a set up in their home kitchen with a candy thermometer, a couple of pots, and a wooden spoon.
But soon, Jason started using a computer-driven batch cooker which could regulate the temperature within a tenth of a degree and stir the caramel to ensure even heating and consistent results.
After years of research and development, meticulous testing, and a plethora of kitchen trials, Jason decided his slow-cooked, small batch caramels ought to be cut and wrapped the old-fashioned way.
This brought the husband-and-wife team to their next decision — to buy a bright red, early 20th century wrapping machine. This machine, is some ways, is the star of the show. It measures, cuts, wraps, and spits out caramels at a rate of more than one hundred pieces per minute.
Today, McCrea’s Candies are available in 170 retail outlets throughout North America. The line is comprised of 14 flavors, including Hawaiian black lava sea salt, curried butternut, and rosemary truffle sea salt. These caramels contain as few ingredients as possible and are all-natural.
Candy Industry Magazinerecently had the chance to chat with Jason McCrea about topics ranging from his favorite candy to problems with the industry.
If you were stranded on a deserted island with only one kind of candy, what would it be?
I’m a sucker for M&M’s. But I’d find a way to sneak on some caramel sauce, it’d be great with seafood and Mary Ann’s coconut cream pies.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A marine biologist!
What’s the last cool thing you saw online?
A newly-discovered wasp that turns cockroaches into passive zombies, then eats them alive. Cool and terrifying.
What issues concern you most about the confectionery industry and why?
Confusing or incomplete labeling standards with respect to label claims and clarity. This is a problem across the food industry, not just sweets.
What’s the last book you read?
What is your pet peeve?
What excites you most about your job?
Giving responsibilities to staff then experiencing their pride of ownership when they exceed expectations.