Focus: Lollipop and hard candy manufacturers and equipment businesses continue to weather economic storm
The hard candies and lollipop segment of the confectionery market has had its challenges this year, as with all other areas of the sector. Neill Barston speaks to several businesses, FB Washburn, The Sweety Guy, and Loynds machinery, that have been weathering the present storm. Neill Barston reports
Having started out as a bakery store at Brockton, MA, in America, FB Washburn steadily expanded to produce candies and lollipops and is now the oldest family-owned confectionery company within the US. While this year has posed particular challenges amid covid-19, they have pushed on through to maintain momentum.
This has been capped with the launch of a new super sour dual flavour candy series, Pucker Suckers, which the company, founded in 1856, has notably high hopes for as it moves into the New Year with renewed optimism.
Brandon Gilson, of the business, explains: “We’ve been fortunate that the pandemic has not affected Washburn outside of our lollipops – which have faced challenges with production due to the shutdown of banks, as they are the number one client for those products. “Otherwise, business has been consistent and going well with various stores placing orders mainly for our other special products, including sour balls and root beer barrels.
“Back in May, we produced candy for a company in Ohio that created meal packs for relief associations and efforts amid covid-19. Something sweet during sour times, as we like to say.” He adds that its core goal remained in keeping a strong relationship with its clients, creating new partnership, and reaching out for new business opportunities around the world. As part of this, the firm has revamped its online presence, developing a new website, as well as Facebook and Instagram pages.
In March of this year, Douglas Gilson, with over 46 years in the industry, took over the helm at Washburn. As his colleagues explain, he is an energetic leader with a forward-thinking approach.
“It’s time to breathe new life into our company and put us back on the map,” he says of the innovative business
Meanwhile in the UK, another example of company growth in the lollipop segment amid challenging times is that of the Sweety Guy, based in Bradford, West Yorkshire. The brand has just unveiled its Yummy Lolly, a bold, round and swirl patterned lolly based on a Tutti Frutti flavour with a hint of sour.
As its founder Damion Elson, who established the firm in 2011, explains, he aims ‘to make a difference in people’s lives’ with his colourful array of confectionery. According to the entrepreneur, he says that bringing a smile to families’ faces is especially significant after such a testing time in 2020. Noting the inspiration for his business, he says he owes its creation to his dad, who was a confectionery wholesaler for over 30 years. “He has always loved sweets and wanted to find a way to make people happy, no matter what kind of day they had,” he explains, revealing that going online has made a difference to its operations. “For example, I host Sweety Guy TV on Youtube, reviewing different kinds of sweets, chocolate and treat products, new and present from industry brands.”
“Our true purpose is to make our customer feel happy, to bring a smile to their face, no matter what life tests them with. “We have all been tested in 2020, with even more people turning to online purchasing than ever, we have adapted to invest more time in online platforms such as Etsy and Facebook with our live television show, where our customer audience has grown,” adds Elson of his creative business approach.
Meanwhile, regarding equipment development for the lollipop and hard candy segment, the UK’s Loynds confectionery machinery has reported having to adapt its own operating models during the past year, yet it has adapted its practices successfully.
Encouragingly, the company said orders were continuing to be placed for its lines (including systems producing hard-boiled lines such as those featured below), despite coronavirus conditions that have placed a strain on the entire sector amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Richard Loynds, of the business, said: “Covid has been challenging particularly as it has disrupted our ability to travel which has been a major part of the business both installing and maintaining equipment onsite around the world. Additionally, we work with a number of suppliers in China who build base machines for us. We have had to rethink how this works moving forwards.
“We are making use of new technology to help solve both of these issues. We now have a dedicated inspection app we are using with our suppliers for doing inspections remotely. Additionally we are using augmented reality technology to help with maintenance and installation of machinery with our customers. Despite covid we are seeing that customers are still looking to invest in new equipment but there has been a definite dip in demand.
We are seeing more customers looking to move towards depositing methods for lollipop manufacturing instead of the traditional batch roller, rope sizer and forming machine. We are also dealing with more customers who are investing in our mini depositing equipment. These are people who are making more specialist lollipops, typically for the emerging cannabis industries in the USA. The laboratory and mini depositors seem to be doing well with startup companies who are looking to get into the industry with new artisan products.”