Business is sweet these days at Kimmie Candy.
By the end of the month the candy manufacturer will be moving from its 16,500-square-foot plant on Reactor Way in Reno, around the corner to a 47,000-square-foot plant on Edison Way.
“The warehouse alone is bigger than this entire building,” Joseph Dutra, president/CEO and founder, told the NNBW during a tour of candy factory. “We’ll need a map, now.”
The bigger plant will not only allow the company to consolidate its main plant, its organic candy plant now operating in a separate facility in South Meadows, and off-site warehouse space, but to make more candy for more people.
The new Kimmie Candy plant is an existing building that was gutted and remodeled to meet the needs of the candy manufacturer.
“It took a lot of work to repurpose this building,” Dutra said while standing in the much larger warehouse space. “I kind of like repurposing rather than leaving a building to go derelict.”
The new plant has four large rooms that will fit 20 pans — the rotating barrels that tumble the candy to coat it and shape it — with plenty of room for workers to move around. The larger rooms also provide better humidity control, he said.
In the cramped quarters on Reactor Way, production occasionally has to be stopped to load and move containers.
“We’ll have a lot more room for growth and will increase production by efficiency,” Dutra said.
The company also will continue to offer tours of its plant. Dutra said that Kimmie Candy is one of only seven candy manufacturers in the country that offer tours, a feature that adds to Reno’s tourism options.
Besides manufacturing it’s own line of candies such as Sunbursts (chocolate and candy-coated sunflower seeds), and ChocoRocks (chocolate pieces made to look like rocks), Kimmie Candy does contract work for other companies.
Contract work constitutes about 20 percent of the company’s business, Dutra said.
“We’ve turned down business the last couple years because we had no room,” he said.
Last year, they lost a one-million-pound candy contract.
“They liked us until they came to the facility,” Dutra said. “They said ‘where are you going to put it?’
“That’s when I made the decision (to find a larger plant).”
With the time drawing near to make the move, the company is already being inundated with contract inquiries. Now they can say, “yes” to the new business.
Currently, Kimmie Candy manufactures about 200,000 pounds of candy a month, going through about 1,500 pounds of sugar every day. Depending on what’s being manufactured, they go through about 40,000 pounds of chocolate during an eight-day period, Dutra said.
The sweet aroma of chocolate permeates the plant and offices.
On the day of the NNBW tour, Sunbursts were in full production.
The sunflower seeds at the core of the candy are roasted at the plant, coated with chocolate and tumbled to smooth the surface. The chocolate-covered seeds are separated into different pans to receive different colored hard-candy coatings.
Throughout the process, humidity is monitored so the candy coating creates just the right texture.
Dutra said it takes about six months to train staff to make Kimmie Candy products.
“Just by listening, they can tell if a candy’s wet or dry,” he said.
Kimmie Candy began making its sweet treats at its current plant in 2008 with just seven people on staff. It now employs 42.
The new plant has room to triple production, Dutra said. But he only expects to need five or six more people. The new plant has enough space to automate some aspects of production.
Currently, many procedures are done by hand, including stirring together the right color proportions for ChocoRocks.
“I’d rather mechanize and pay our existing employees a better salary,” Dutra said. Instead of doing things by hand, the staff can manage the machinery and that increases productivity.
“We have a pretty good core group of people who have been here from the beginning,” he said.
Besides moving to a larger plant, Kimmie Candy is constantly expanding its candy selection.
Recent additions include ChocoRocks Salted Caramel, and dark chocolate coated coconut.
Dutra also has plans to produce gluten-free salted caramel coated pretzel balls. He thinks he can contract with Reno newcomer Mary’s Gone Crackers to manufacture the pretzel balls. The organic cracker manufacturer is preparing to move into a new plant in North Valleys.
Kimmie Candy already has a line of natural candy, including organic versions of ChocoRocks, Xpressos, DateMe’s (milk chocolate coated dates), and Pistachios (dark chocolate covered pistachios). The organic products are being test-sold at Whole Foods with the possibility of some products going to Whole Foods stores nationally.
“It’s really exciting and really scary,” Dutra said.
Kimmie Candy also has a vigorous international distribution.
This year, exports made up about 20 percent of Kimmie Candy’s business, up from 13-15 percent in previous years, Dutra said.
Kimmie Candy ships to Canada, Mexico, Philippines, Chile, Korea, Japan, the European Union and the United Arab Emirates, with more being added continually.
In May, Dutra was presented with the President’s “E” Award for Exports at a ceremony in Washington, D.C.
Kimmie Candy is the first candy company to win the award since they began in 1962, and only the ninth Nevada company to receive it.
“You get vetted pretty stringently,” Dutra said about the process, to ensure companies so honored are financially stable and above reproach.
Dutra is continually looking for options for growth.
Kimmie Candy’s new plant is across the street from the Academy of Arts, Careers and Technology, which has a greenhouse. Dutra wants to see if they’d be interested in experimenting with growing maringa, which produces a nutritionally dense leaf that is used in some Kimmie Candy products. Currently, the candy company buys maringa supplies from Indonesia or Hawaii. A local source could create a new industry for the area as well as new options for Kimmie Candy.