Spangler Candy Company
Spangler Candy Company
Incorporated: 1906 as Spangler Manufacturing Co.
Sales: $68 million (2001 est.)
NAIC: 31132 Chocolate and Confectionery Manufacturing from Cocoa Beans; 31133 Confectionery Manufacturing from Purchased Chocolate; 31134 Nonchocolate Confectionery Manufacturing.
The candies of the Spangler Candy Company have been household names in America for decades. Independent and privately owned, Spangler’s most famous product is the Dum Dum Pop, a lollipop that is produced in 13 different flavors, including a mystery flavor that changes from batch to batch. With its other lollipops, including rocket-shaped Astro Pops, Saf-T-Pops with the safety loop handle for small children, and Picture Pops, Spangler is the second-largest maker of lollipops in the Untied States. The company also manufactures the popular Circus Peanuts, as well as a full line of candy canes, hard candies, marshmallow candies, and chocolates. The company manufactures and markets licensed products: Jelly Belly Candy Canes, Lemonhead Lollipops, and Atomic Fireball Lollipops. Every day Spangler’s 500,000 square foot facility in Ohio produces more than seven million Dum Dums, one million Sat-T-Pops, and 2.5 million candy canes. Spangler celebrates its one hundredth anniversary in 2006.
Early 1900s Origins
The Spangler Candy Company has its origins in the Gold Leaf Baking Powder Company, which Arthur Garfield Spangler purchased for $450 at a sheriff’s auction in August 1906. One month later he moved the firm from Defiance, Ohio to Bryan, Ohio, changed its name to the Spangler Manufacturing, and resumed producing the company’s earlier line of baking powder, baking soda, laundry starch, spices and flavorings—but no candy. Despite a loyal base of Gold Leaf Baking Powder customers, Spangler found the business hard going at first. He took to selling other products to help make ends meet. One was salted peanuts, which his mother made in her kitchen. At first she was able to make about two pounds of peanuts at a time using her wood stove. When the peanuts proved popular, Span-gler bought her a kerosene stove which enabled her to increase her daily quota to about thirty pounds of nuts a day.
Spangler’s youngest brother, Ernest, meanwhile was selling candy for a Toledo candy jobber, a company that distributed candy of various manufacturers. Ernest persuaded Arthur to add some candy to the Spangler company’s line of goods. It was a success from the first, so much so that in 1908 Ernest sold his interest in the candy jobbing business and joined his brother as a partner. The Spangler company began to grow quickly, aided by Bryan Ohio’s prime location on the crossroads of several key rail lines to Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, and Cincinnati. Before long, the firm’s annual sales hit $50,000. Business was so good that Ernest had to give up his position as head of shipping in order to help Arthur with sales. In 1910 Spangler expanded its facilities for the first time, moving to a larger building in Bryan.
The company introduced the Spangler Cocoanut Ball, the first candy it manufactured on its own in 1911. It was based on a recipe that had been developed by a Fremont, Ohio candy maker, whom Spangler hired and brought to Bryan. The Cocoanut Balls were a success, but they required some unusual innovations. In order to remove the tough outer shells of the coconuts, the company arranged to pump into the factory steam from the steam room of a hotel next door. The coconuts were then hacked open by hand with axes. Before long, Cocoanut Balls were being sold as far east as New York City and as far west as Denver. The twenty-five workers making the new candy by hand were completely overwhelmed with work. To relieve them, the company replaced its older machinery with two stirring machines and other power equipment. The age of automated candy making had begun. Spangler produced Cocoanut Balls until around 1924.
Later in 1911, Spangler expanded its candy line with chocolates. The firm obtained the recipe for the Cream Peanut Cluster along with the equipment to produce it from another Ohio candy company, Bost Brothers. Because there was no mechanical air conditioning at the time, chocolates were produced in the cool basement of the Spangler facility; production stopped altogether in summertime. By 1913, chocolates were among Spangler’s most popular products. The company added new items such as the Hand Roll, a vanilla and chocolate concoction invented by Arthur Spangler’s wife Helen, and the Vanilla Jitney, one of Spangler’s first chocolate bars. The same year the company moved to its present-day location on North Portland Street in Bryan. A year later, accountant Omar Spangler, a third Spangler brother, became a partner in the company.
Back to Business after World War I
The Spangler company survived World War I in fine shape despite rampant inflation in sugar prices by 1919. After the war ended, competition among candy producers resumed with a vengeance. In 1920 there were over 70 candy manufacturers in Ohio alone. Spangler Cough Drops was one product that gave the firm a leg up. Introduced during the war, the cough drops caught on during the widespread influenza epidemic of 1918. Spangler discontinued them around 1935 when they were no longer cost effective to produce.
As the 1920s began, Spangler was producing nothing but candies—it had even discontinued its once popular baking powder—and in 1920 the firm changed its name to the Spangler Candy Company. Pan Taffy, Lady Fingers, Gypsy Cuts, Wonder Caramels, and Hub Chocolate Drops were among the seventy products then in the Spangler line. The Apple Sucker was so popular that the firm had to introduce a night shift in order to keep up with demand. In 1922, manufacture of Chocolate Cream Peanut Clusters was automated. Spangler formed a candy wholesaling subsidiary in the Toledo, Ohio, area in 1927. It included a retail store, which was run by Truman Spangler, the fourth Spangler brother who joined the company in 1920. In 1929, partner Ernest Spangler moved to the Toledo area to run the wholesale unit there.
By 1929, Spangler was flourishing. Its annual production had reached 1.25 million pounds of candy. Its most popular item was Bryan Drops, a chocolate-covered vanilla cream. The coming of the Great Depression hurt the company relatively little. Americans were foregoing many of their former pleasures, but they continued to buy candy, which remained relatively inexpensive. Remarkably, the firm’s 115 regular workers did not miss a day of work during the Depression, although they were forced to take a pay cut in 1931. The company was even able to make an acquisition at the height of the Depression. In 1931, it purchased the recipe and trademark for Hickok Honeycomb Chips, a popular crunchy toffee and chocolate candy manufactured by C.F. Hickok, another Ohio candy maker. The Honeycomb Chips remained part of the Spangler line until the 1970s.
A New Generation of Candy Makers
The second generation of Spanglers began working for the company during the decade of the 1930s. Ernest Spangler’s sons, Norman, Charles, and Albert, entered the firm in 1931, 1933, and 1934 respectively. Omar Spangler’s son, Harlan, joined in 1933. Arthur Spangler’s son, Theodore, went to work in the factory in 1940. The cousins would eventually take over the management of the Spangler Candy Company after the World War II.
America’s entry into World War II brought with it strict rationing of many essential goods; however, wise business decisions made just before rationing began guaranteed it adequate supplies of sugar and chocolate. Spangler had also begun using glucose produced from corn syrup, which was not rationed. Special storage tanks for corn syrup, which were installed at the company in 1941, enabled Spangler to purchase large quantities of corn syrup when it was available on the market and to stockpile it. The war helped create one of Spangler’s most successful products of the 1940s. Spangler’s Marshmallow Topping, which was made primarily from corn syrup, became popular as a sugar substitute at a time when the real thing was scarce.
1940s-50s: Spangler Incorporates and Expands
When the war was over, Spangler was manufacturing over 300 different products. During the war, the company had also begun to purchase real estate, with the expectation that prices would jump once the conflict had ended. Another subsidiary, Spangler Investments, was founded in 1945 to manage these holdings. Its name was changed to Spangler Properties in 1954. After all the Spangler sons had returned home from the war, in April 1946, the company’s structure was changed from a partnership to a corporation. 4,032 shares in all were issued to Ernest Spangler and his sons, the widow of Omar Spangler and their children, and the widow of Arthur Spangler and their children. Omar Spangler had passed away in 1940 after a long illness; Arthur died in a boating accident in 1945.
We believe an open family atmosphere combined with professional management fosters cooperation and allows each individual to maximize their contribution to the company and realize the corresponding rewards. We believe in complete honesty and integrity in dealing with employees, customers, suppliers, shareholders, and the communities in which we do business. We take a long-term view of performance and will not sacrifice long-term principles for short-term results. We recognize the value of our established brand names and the need to continue to promote and enhance the consumers’ awareness and preference for our brands. We believe it is necessary to be a leader in providing reliable, consistent, and accurate service to customers. We invest in technologies to delivery quality product to our customers at a competitive cost. We maintain a conservative financial approach in the deployment and management of our assets. We will remain an independent, privately owned company.
Expansion had been taking place regularly at Spangler since 1911. After the war, the company’s facilities were expanded further. A state-of-the-art factory was built in 1947. In 1948, a process was introduced which allowed liquid sugar to be pumped directly from rail sidings into special tanks on the factory’s second floor. As a result, cumbersome 100-pound bags of sugar no longer had to be transported, unloaded, and processed. Another 3,400 square feet were added in 1951.
Spangler acquired its best-known product in March 1953 when it purchased the production equipment and trademark for Dum Dum lollipops from the Akron Candy Company. Dum Dums, which had been made since 1924, were said to have been named by Akron Candy’s I.C. Bahr for World War I dum-dum bullets. Bahr liked the name because he reckoned any child would be able to say it. At the time of their acquisition by Spangler, Dum Dums were about the fifth largest-selling lollipops in the Midwest. In their first year of production, Spangler turned out more than 84 million Dum Dum suckers.
Just one year later, in March 1954, Spangler made another major acquisition. It purchased Detroit’s A-Z Candy Company, reputed to be the largest maker of candy canes in the United States. A-Z’s equipment was transported from Michigan to Bryan, Ohio, and candy canes went into production in fall 1954, just in time for the Christmas rush. In 1955, Montgomery Ward’s candy cane giveaway at Christmas gave Spangler sales a boost. Spangler’s share of the order amounted to one million canes, which filled ten semi trailers and provided Spangler workers with some 3,500 hours of overtime.
In the 1950s Spangler continued its program of acquiring established candy brands, developing new candies of its own, and expanding its customer base. When Ohio Confections went into liquidation in 1957 Spangler purchased the equipment and recipes for Pecan Divinity Fudge. Spangler was there at the start of the space age in 1958 when it introduced Sputnik Pops, lollipops it produced in two cent and 29 cent sizes. A new Spangler subsidiary, the Gold Leaf Corporation—named for the baking powder company Arthur Spangler had purchased in 1906—was founded in 1959. Based in Cleveland, Ohio, Gold Leaf was formed to sell Spangler candy products to churches, schools, clubs, and other organizations engaged in fundraising activities.
Spangler’s successes continued. In the 15 years following World War II, annual sales increased every year and hit $4 million for the first time in 1959. Another milestone was achieved in 1960 when the firm’s workers turned out 50 million tons of candy. It acquired another popular penny candy in July 1962 when it purchased the Shelby Gum Company, the maker of Bio-Bubble bubble gum. Spangler added Kraks mints to its product line with the acquisition of the American Mint Corporation in 1965. Dum Dums were advertised for the first time on television in 1966. The test lasted only a short time but it resulted in the adoption of the Dum Dum Drum Man as the mascot of the popular suckers.
As the 1970s began, Spangler’s annual sales were reaching all time highs. 1969 sales were $8 million, twice those of ten years earlier. By 1971 they had jumped to $10 million. The continuing automation of the Spangler production processes contributed to the increases. As the seventies went on, however, the economy began to slow, and the prices of both sugar and corn syrup were rising precipitously. By April 1974, costs had risen so much that Spangler could no longer afford to produce one-cent Dum Dum suckers. When a two-cent Dum Dum was introduced that year, an institution ended. For a time, beginning in 1970, the darkening economy caused the Spangler family to consider going public with its enterprise. In spring 1972, the family shareholders met and formed a committee to report on the issue. However despite the economic downturn, the decision was made to keep Spangler a private company, and it is now one of the company’s corporate principles to remain privately owned.
- Arthur Spangler purchases the Gold Leaf Baking Company of Defiance, Ohio, for $450, moves it to Bryan, Ohio, and renames it the Spangler Manufacturing Company.
- Ernest Spangler joins the company and suggests adding candy to the product line.
- Spangler Cocoanut Ball, the first candy manufactured by Spangler, goes into production.
- Omar Spangler joins the company.
- Truman Spangler joins the company as a salesman; company’s name is changed to Spangler Candy Company.
- First hard candy and suckers are introduced.
- Spangler founds wholesaling subsidiary in Maumee, Ohio.
- Spangler acquires Hickok Honeycomb Chocolate of Sydney, Ohio.
- Marshmallow Topping is introduced and becomes popular as a sugar substitute during World War II.
- Founder Arthur Spangler dies in boating accident.
- Dum Dum Pops are acquired from Akron Candy Co. of Bellevue, Ohio.
- A-Z Christmas Candy Cane Company of Detroit, Michigan, is acquired.
- Ohio Confections Fudge of Cleveland, makers of Pecan Divinity, is acquired.
- Shelby Bubble Gum of Shelby, Ohio, is acquired.
- American Mint Corp. of New York City is acquired.
- Saf-T-Pops is acquired from Curtiss Candy Co. of Chicago, Illinois.
- The company acquires Standard the Candy Cane Company of Detroit, Michigan.
- Astro Pops brand is acquired from Nellson Candy Co. of Los Angeles, California.
- Suck An Egg brand is acquired from Innovative Confections of Idaho Falls, Idaho.
1970s: Next Generation Joins the Family Business
As the 1970s progressed, one after another of the second generation of Spanglers retired from the company, first Norman Spangler, then Albert, Harlan, Frank, and Charles. In 1976 C. Gregory Spangler and Dean L. Spangler—the third generation—entered the company’s upper management. C. Gregory Spangler was elected president in 1977 and CEO in 1978. Spangler’s sales were strong during the seventies, despite rising prices and the sluggish economy. By 1977 Dum Dums were Spangler’s most popular product, accounting for 44 percent of all sales. New products continued to be introduced as well. With consumer interest in sugar-free food on the rise, sugar-free Lite-Mints, introduced in 1978, took off rapidly. The company planned to produce 1,250 cases a month originally. However, within three months of their debut, demand for Lite-Mints reached 11,000 cases a month and additional manufacturing equipment had to be rushed to Bryan from Britain. Later in 1978, Spangler acquired the rights to produce Saf-T-Pops, lollipops with a patented looped handle to make them safe for very young children. The deal gave Spangler the two best-known lollipops in the United States, Dum Dums and Saf-T-Pops, and 1979 sales broke all records, reaching $20 million.
The 1990s and Beyond
Spangler continued to expand its line of candy in the 1980s and 1990s. In 1987 it acquired the Astro Pops Brand from the Nellson Candy Company of Los Angeles California. Astro Pops, rocket-shaped lollipops, were reputed to be the longest lasting lollipop on earth. Spangler next purchased Suck An Egg brand from Innovative Confections of Idaho in 1995.
Spangler reorganized its senior management team in October 1996. C. Gregory Spangler moved from the company presidency to become chairman and CEO. Dean L. Spangler, who had been running the Boren Brick Company, returned to the company to take over as president. In March 2000, the company announced a licensing arrangement with Herman Goelitz, Inc. the maker of Jelly Belly jelly beans. Under the agreement Spangler began producing candy canes in four Jelly Belly flavors for the Christmas season. The candy canes were the largest new product introduction in the company’s history. After being named CEO in September 2000, Dean Spangler instituted an aggressive program of product expansion that focused on maximizing the strength of the Dum Dum sucker, the company’s flagship brand, as well as pursuing other licensing deals like the successful Jelly Belly candy cane. Spangler struck a deal with the Ferrara Pan Candy Company, makers of Lemonheads and Atomic Fireballs, to produce, market and distribute Lemonhead Lollipops and Atomic Fireball Lollipops. Spangler also announced plans to contract some of its candy cane production out to plants in Mexico. The decision was made partly to free up space in the Bryan factory for lollipop production and partly to respond to increased competition in the candy cane market.
In June 2001, a fire thought to be arson struck a warehouse, destroying some 110,000 cases of Dum Dums, with an estimated value of $6.5 million. The company put an emergency Dum Dum production schedule in force with extended overtime and weekend hours and no interruptions in distribution were anticipated.
Later that year, Dean Spangler was awarded “Entrepreneur of the Year” distinction by the Toledo Business Journal, which regarded the CEO and president as “proud and committed to preserving the Spangler family heritage, history and contributions.” The journal also noted that while the company hoped to expand through acquisitions in the new millennium, it remained for the time “focused on branding, global expansion and private label growth.”
Tootsie Roll Industries, Inc., Brach’s Confections Inc.; Kraft Foods North America Inc.; The Topps Company Inc.
“Entrepreneur of the Year: Dean Spangler, Spangler Candy Company,” Toledo Business Journal, August 1, 2001, p. 40.
Spangler Candy Company, Fifty Years with the Gold Leaf Trademark, 1956.
Spangler Candy Company, Spangler Candy Company at 75, 1981.
“Spangler Sparkles,” Snack Food, July 1995, pp. 22+.
“Spangler to Open Operation in Mexico,” October 23, 2000, Supermarket News, p. 81.
“Spangler Unwraps New Promo Efforts,” Confectioner, June 1, 2001, p. 114.
“A Sucker’s Born Every Second,” Snack Food, July 1995, pp. 28+.
“Suppliers Form Candy Alliance in Response to Consolidation,” MMR, May 28, 2001, p. 15.
—Gerald E. Brennan