Joe Dutra has seen the future, and it’s organic.
Kimmie Candy Co., the Reno-based candy producer headed by Dutra, is ramping up a new plant in south Reno that’s making all-organic chocolate candies that are distributed under the brand of an Oregon-based company.
John Dutra, the second-generation candy maker who serves as production and logistics manager of Kimmie Candy, says the company hopes to use the knowledge it’s gaining from the private-label contract to develop its own branded organic candies.
That knowledge hasn’t come easily.
“Doing organic candy is an art form,” says Joe Dutra.
While Kimmie Candy has been making chocolate candies such as colored ChocoRocks and chocolate-coated sunflower seeds since 2000, development of a consistent supply chain of organically grown and processed chocolate was a challenge.
And once raw ingredients were in hand, John Dutra says the newly created JoMa Organics LLC spent about $50,000 on tests to learn how to make them into tasty candies.
“The processing is much different,” he says.
The JoMa Organics pilot plant in South Meadows has been certified as organic. That designation reflects the facility’s operational standards — the process for cleaning equipment, for example — as well the ingredients that are used.
Strong growth in the market for organic candy — Joe Dutra estimates sales in the sector are growing by 30 percent a year — provided motivation to overcome the challenges of supply, processing and certification.
JoMa Organics employs about a half dozen employees, joining a staff of 35 who are working a three-shift scheduled at Kimmie Candy’s flagship operation at 525 Reactor Way, on the east side of Reno-Tahoe International Airport.
Next up, Joe Dutra says, will be work to certify the original Kimmie Candy plant to meet organic standards, providing increased flexibility in the company’s candy-making operations.
Launched in Sacramento 14 years ago, Kimmie Candy Co. moved to Reno in 2007. Its products are sold through online retailers and distributors as well as retail chains such as WinCo Foods, Cost Plus World Market and Sweet Factory.
Along with the organic operation, the company also is working to expand exports to the European Union.