Tennessee-made treats ready to satisfy any sweet tooth

TML Communications Specialist

Whether buying something for a sweetheart or just satisfying one’s own sweet tooth, there are plenty of candies and chocolates with a local connection for Tennesseans to chow down on.

Samantha Jean, director of communications for the Tennessee Department of Agriculture, said more and more consumers want to purchase locally-crafted items.

“Supporting Tennessee businesses helps support Tennessee’s economy and creates increased demand for raw ingredients,” Jean said. “There is a definite interest in purchasing local. Consumers are interested in knowing where their food comes from and in supporting their local communities. The experience associated with making a local purchase is also important. The demand for local products has definitely provided incentive for small business development.”
One of the ways the state promotes locally made food products is through the Tennessee Department of Agriculture’s long-standing consumer promotion campaign - Pick Tennessee Products (PTP). Jean said the program provides a valuable marketing tool for businesses of all sizes.

“There is no cost to be listed in the PTP directories,” she said. “In addition to connecting consumers directly to the businesses producing a product, the PTP directories are a great source for the food manufacturing business looking for a specific ingredient. For example ,a jam producer can use the directories to connect with a fruit grower. The new Agricultural Advancement Division and the Consumer and Industry Services Division work together to get food businesses the resources they need and help them understand licensing and regulations for food manufacturing in Tennessee.”

Tennessee has a long history of candymaking. South, Littlefield and Streere began manufacturing products like bonbons, chocolates, and marshmallows in Knoxville in 1901. That same year, Nashville’s Standard Candy Company opened its doors as the Anchor Candy Company. Dinstuhl’s opened its doors in Memphis in 1902 and has remained a local tradition ever since.

Chattanooga became home to the Brock Candy Company in 1906 followed by Ferrara Pan in 1908. Brock and Ferrara Pan merged in 2012 before being bought by Wrigley.

Today, Tennessee is a leader in sugar and confectionary product manufacturing with companies like Mars, Standard Candy, and Hershey employing more than 2,500 residents. Tennessee is the top state in the Southeast and among the top 10 nationally for sugar and confectionery product manufacturing as well as for non-chocolate confectionery manufacturing.

Mars Inc., has a long history with Tennessee and particularly with the company’s candy products. Company founder Franklin C. Mars retired to a farm in Pulaski named after the Milky Way candy bar. His son, Forrest Mars Sr., would develop beloved candies like M&Ms and the Mars Bar. Other Mars products include 3 Musketeers bars, Dove chocolates, Kudos, Galaxy bars, Maltesers, Snickers, and Twix as well as various treats made under their subsidiary Wrigley.
Two of Mars’ most popular treats – M&Ms and Twix – are made at the company’s factory in Cleveland, which Mayor Tom Rowland said is a great source of local pride.

“We make 100 percent of all the Twix bars and 55 percent of all the M&Ms distributed worldwide in Cleveland,” Rowland said. “Mars has been here more than 25 years, but they weren’t always as big as they are now. They’ve grown considera-bly over that time. Anytime a Tennessee industry expands it sends a strong message that a community is a good place to do business.”

Whenever he’s out and about, Rowland said he tries to purchase a Mars product.

“If I’m in a hurry, I’ll get some M&Ms, but if I have time to sit down and enjoy something I get a Twix,” he said. “Everybody who lives close to the plant talks about the chocolate smell from the Twix bar cake being made. I always encourage people to buy a product made in their hometown and if not that, buy one that’s made in Tennessee. It not only helps our state economy but it helps your friends and neighbors.”
Rowland said Mars is also supportive of the local community.
“About two years ago they opened up a pop-up store for the Christmas holidays in an old bank building,” he said. “It was packed every day, and you could buy M&Ms by the pound. We would love for Mars to build a factory store or retail store downtown. Every Halloween, we have an event called Treat Street and Mars always sets up a tent where they give away their products. The line for that is always long and stays long for a long period of time.”

Created in 1969, the Charms Blow Pop is the lollipop with a chocolate-covered gum center. Though the company was acquired by Tootsie Roll Industries in 1988, Charms has maintained a factory in Covington since 1973. Covington Mayor Justin Hanson said the blow pop remains a local and international favorite.
“Every blow pop you buy is made right here in Covington, and who doesn’t like a blow pop?” he said. “It gives us brand recognition and literally puts Covington on the map, which is what we want. Every blow pop wrapper has ‘made in Covington’ on it. Whether you’re in Asia, Europe, or Timbuktu, any time you have a blow pop you’re eating a Covington product.”

The success of Charms may have also influenced other sweet companies to locate to Covington.
“They have been in Covington for more than 40 years, and are a legacy industry here,” Hanson said. “They are a part of the foundation for our strong industrial base. I like to refer to Covington as West Tennessee’s Sweet Spot because of the sweet candy and Unilever, a new industry here that is the largest ice cream manufacturer in the world. We also have CSC Sugar, which takes sugar and liquefies it. They work with U.S. Cold Storage very closely to support Unilever. In Covington, we have sweet industry and sweet people as well.”

By supporting products like the blow pop, Hudson said consumers get to support their fellow Tennesseans as well as indulge in a sweet treat.
“The Made in Tennessee initiative has brought awareness to so many people about what is made in the state,” he said. “It’s important to eat locally and to shop locally. There are wonderful products all over Tennessee that are made by Tennesseans.”
For more information on where to find treats made in Tennessee, visit www.picktnproducts.org.