Strategy, product hit sweet spot for Kimmie Candy

A change in sales strategy is beginning to pay off in a big way for Reno-based Kimmie Candy Co.

Now the candy manufacturer hopes to get a further boost from a new product that retail buyers identified as one of their favorites at this summer's annual Sweet & Snacks Expo, a major confectionary industry event in Chicago.

Kimmie Candy already has added a third shift to its plant in Reno, and it's studying the possibility of seven-day operation to meet demand, says Joe Dutra, its president and chief executive officer.

Sales, Dutra says, are running about 50 percent ahead of a year ago.

The company has realigned its sales strategy, creating a network of brokers in major markets Los Angeles, Chicago, New York to push Kimmie Candy's lines that include chocolate-covered sunflower seeds, candy-coated chunks of milk chocolate and candy-covered almonds.

The brokers complement the company's direct sales force, Dutra says, and bring a better focus to sales of Kimmie Candy Co. The company previously relied on regional candy distributors that typically handle a multitude of confectionary products.

Those brokers have helped the Reno company break into some national retailers, Dutra says.

And Kimmie Candy is giving its brokers a hot new product to sell.

The company's Kettle Corn Nuggets candy-coated, chocolate-covered corn nuts were voted among the five snack products that candy retailers found most interesting during the Sweet & Snacks Expo. The buyers selected Kettle Corn Nuggets from new products exhibited by nearly 500 companies.

Dutra says the product fits into the growing category of snack foods that combine sweet and salty tastes as well as the continued desire of consumers for chocolate-coated products.

The company's staff started development of the product last year, seeking the right combination of chocolate and candy coating to complement the flavor of a corn nut.

"We're constantly looking at lines we can manufacture in the future," Dutra says.

After a round of consumer testing last autumn, the company also decided to invest in new package design for all its products.

The company, which handles contract candy manufacturing as well as its own brands, has been headquartered in Reno since it moved from Sacramento in 2005.


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