When Drew Siegert and his family took over Betty Jane Candies in July 2011, they knew the Dubuque, Iowa-based confectionery retailer had developed a loyal following throughout eastern Iowa. After all, the family business has its origins going back to 1938.
Given the responsibility to oversee the business as president and ceo, Siegert sought to spread the word about some of the company’s legacy products. Slowly, Betty Jane’s Candies was getting some recognition.
“In 2014 our Gremlins [milk chocolate nut clusters] were included in the Academy Awards Gift Bag,” he points out. “And that same year, People Magazine named us one of the Top 50 culinary gifts in the country, also for Gremlins.”
The company returned to Hollywood in 2017 with a new line of snacks — Gremlin Snackers and Betty’s Bites — which were included in the Grammy Awards Gift Bag. Locally, the company has won the BEST-FEST competition 17 years in a row and last year was a Top Three finalist for “innovation of the year” for its new snack line.
Last summer, the company added a wholesale branch and developed a snack line consisting of chocolate snacks and a candy bar.
“In about 14 months, we’ve gone from 0 wholesale clients to 350-plus locations, including all Fareway Foods locations (118 stores), more than 100 Hy-Vee grocery stores, two Sam’s Clubs and more than 100 privately-owned gift shops, C-stores, etc. We are looking to continue to expand the business through additional wholesale clients in the coming year.”
If you were stranded on a deserted island with only one kind of candy, what would it be?
I’d have to say one of our two most popular snack items. It’s practical, they come in a resealable snack pouch that would keep them safe and dry in the island climate, and I could seal them up for later, too. The second reason is they’re delicious. Our Gremlin Snackers and Betty’s Bites snacks were launched about 14 months ago and are now in more than 300 outlets.
What’s the last cool thing you saw online?
After the unprecedented number of disasters over the past few months, Betty Jane Candies set up a special page on our website ( www.bettyjanecandies.com ) where we donated 25 percent of sales of anything sold on that page in the month of October to the American Red Cross. We had family who were affected by both Hurricane Harvey and Irma. It was very rewarding for us to be able to help.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I think I had a strong entrepreneurial spirit from a young age but never had a real strict plan of what I wanted to end up doing. Running my own business was likely always in the cards, and I’m very happy it turned out to be the candy business. I absolutely love it.
What issues concern you most about the confectionery industry and why?
Some big changes and potential challenges seem to be on the horizon. Raw material prices have been fluctuating the past few years due to the unpredictable weather. And there’s a shortage of truckers, which could potentially affect the supply chain. Of course, Amazon continues to shake up all industries in a variety of ways. There may be a lot to adapt to in the coming years.
What’s the last book you’ve read?
I have a 14-month-old son who keeps us pretty busy when we’re not at work. There isn’t a lot of time for personal reading, but we do “Brown Bear Brown Bear” and the “Little Blue Truck” about every day. I do love to read, though, so I actually listen to a lot of audio books in the car. Right now it’s “Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!: Adventures of a Curious Character” about Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feyman.