Celebrating 30 Years: The Secrets Behind Bakers Candies’ Success
If you’re a Nebraskan who has gifted chocolate for Valentine’s Day, chances are it was made right here in Nebraska. Since 1988, Bakers Candies’ world-class signature chocolate meltaways have been gracing the shelves of gift shops and convenience stores; you could almost say they are as popular in Nebraska as Scott Frost.
Bakers Candies, located along Highway 6 in Greenwood, produces more than half a million pounds of chocolate a year, or approximately 30 million individual meltaways. The majority of those are sold in Nebraska. It is estimated that each Nebraskan consumes 10-12 Bakers meltaways a year. Because who can stop at one?
Delectable and Affordable
Kevin Baker worked in the aerospace industry prior to using his engineering knowledge to revolutionize the confectionary industry by designing and building his own automated manufacturing facility. This allowed him to mass produce gourmet chocolates at a fraction of the cost of the market’s largest competitors. The money saved in production allowed Kevin to buy the best ingredients available.
Their four production lines are so unique that Kevin’s son, Todd Baker, earned a degree in industrial engineering so he can help maintain and repair the equipment.
“The blueprints exist only between dad’s ears,” Todd said with a laugh. If a part breaks, they have to repair it or make a new one themselves.
Bakers Know Chocolate
The one-of-a-kind manufacturing facility isn’t all that sets Bakers Candies apart from its competitors. The creation of their famous meltaways is also unique.
Hard chocolate has the best flavor, but most people prefer the aesthetic and creamy nature of soft chocolate. Soft chocolate is typically less flavorful, however, so they use both. Bakers Candies contain two layers of chocolate; the base is made from hard chocolate, which is then coated with soft chocolate, allowing consumers to enjoy the full, rich flavor with a creamy texture.
“The very best chocolates don’t need to be chewed,” Todd said. “Bakers meltaways are best enjoyed by letting them melt away in your mouth.”
Cocoa only grows within 10 degrees of the equator, so it must be imported to the United States. The cocoa used for dark chocolate usually originates from Ghana in West Africa, while cocoa for milk chocolate is sourced from the South Pacific, such as Indonesia.
And chocolate is best enjoyed while it’s fresh.
“Chocolate begins to lose its flavor almost immediately, so we make our meltaways to fill orders as they are received so they are as fresh as possible when they leave our building,” Todd said.
First Producer to Individually Wrap and Color Code Chocolate
Bakers Candies produces several flavors of gourmet chocolate meltaways, and customers don’t have to guess which flavor they will bite into.
“One of the things we did from the very start was color code our flavors,” Todd said. “Dad didn’t like how other brands packaged all their flavors the same, so you never knew what you were going to get. This is one of the reasons he wanted to create Bakers Candies — to be the change he wanted to see.” Bakers Candies was the first gourmet chocolate producer in history to individually wrap and color code their meltaways.
With their color-code system, customers can determine the flavor by the color of the wrapper:
- Red—Milk Chocolate
- Gold—Milk Chocolate Mint
- Blue—Dark Chocolate
- Green—Dark Chocolate Mint
- Purple—Dark Chocolate Cherry
- Orange—Dark Chocolate Orange
- Brown—Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter
- Silver—Milk Chocolate Caramel
- Silver & Red—Milk Chocolate Raspberry
- Black & Silver—Milk Chocolate Mocha
- Gold & Silver—Milk Chocolate Coconut
Which flavors are most popular? “Oftentimes, it depends on the color of the wrapper,” Todd said. Solid milk chocolate, which is packaged in red, is the most universal flavor and color, making it the most popular choice. “Red is very popular in Nebraska, and also for certain holidays, such as Christmas and Valentine’s Day,” he said.
Most chocolates are sold for the cold-weather holidays—Halloween all the way through Mother’s Day. While the largest volume of Bakers Candies is sold at Christmas because of the sheer numbers of people buying gifts, Valentine’s Day attracts sales from those seeking gifts of quality and value.
“For Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day, people aren’t giving as many gifts as they do at Christmas, so they want their gifts to be personal and high quality,” Todd said. “Our gourmet meltaways are a premium, intimate gift at an affordable price.”
Thirty Years of Chocolate
Bakers Candies is celebrating 30 years in business on February 13, 2018.
There’s been plenty of changes along the way. Kevin and his wife are still involved in the business, but a new generation is handling day-to-day operations. Their two sons, Todd and Paul, grew up working in the production facility and learned everything about the business and industry from the ground up. And between Todd and Paul, there are nine little Bakers to take over the 100 percent family-owned business someday.
Their gourmet meltaways have spilled outside Nebraska’s borders and are regularly shipped to all 50 states and numerous countries.
Year-round, the company employs three full-time staff on the production lines and another 12-15 for packaging, shipping, customer service, etc. That number grows to about 40 seasonal employees during their busy season.
The original building that the Bakers built is for sale.
“That building holds a lot of sentimental value; it will be hard to part with it,” Todd said. To accommodate the company’s growth, they moved to a larger 25,000-square-foot facility down the street, with an outlet store in front that welcomed more than 100,000 visitors last year.
A professional website was built several years ago, and sales continue to grow as Nebraskans share their favorite meltaways with the world. “There’s a story behind every order, and almost always a connection to Nebraska. We enjoy hearing these stories,” Todd said with a smile.
With the popularity of their gourmet meltaways, private labeling is in high demand. More than 400 different brands use Bakers Candies, including Scooter’s Coffee and popular name-brand hotel chains.
Fundraising is available to schools, sports teams, clubs and more. These usually go over very well because they are a consumable, reputable product and can based around holiday gift-giving.
Secrets of Success
When asked the secret to their success, Todd said, “From day one, our goal has always been to be the premier provider of chocolate for Nebraskans. We’ve never strayed from that goal. We don’t jump on every trend that pops up on the coasts; we focus on taking care of Nebraskans.” And in return, Nebraskans take care of them with referrals. “We don’t really market our product. Most new orders from other states or countries are usually referred to us by someone from Nebraska. People share our product all over the world. We feel blessed to have such loyal customers.”
Another key component to their success is their location. The Baker family goes back four generations in Cass County and chose Greenwood, population 568, as home for Bakers Candies due to its close proximity to I-80. “This keeps our costs down because we can get some great freight rates,” Todd said.
The Baker family orders as much product as they can from Nebraska. Virtually all of their packaging, including corrugated cardboard, comes from Nebraska, as well as services like advertising/marketing, linens, and uniforms. Ingredients such as nuts, sugar, dry milk, and corn syrup are also on that list whenever possible. And they love to support their fellow Nebraska food producers by carrying their products in their outlet store.
“Our story shows you can live well in Nebraska by producing one primary product,” Todd said. “Take care of the state, and the state will take care of you.”
For more information…
831 South Baker Street
Greenwood, NE 68366