In his own words: Candymaker Joe Dutra
Northern Nevada Business Weekly: Tell us about Kimmie Candy Company and your job.
Joe Dutra: In 2000 I founded Kimmie Candy Company in Sacramento. We went offshore and found a manufacturer to start making the candy for us and creating the brands and labels. I bought this building in 2006 and started making candy in Reno at the end of 2007. We have grown ever since. Our main products are ChocoRocks, Sunbursts (candy-coated chocolate-covered sunflower kernels) Kettle Corn Nuggets and ChocoAlmonds. I am more of the visionary for the company, seeing where we are going. My son and my daughter run day-to-day operations. I look at new product development, developing new chocolates, and where we want to be in five years.
NNBW: How did you get into this profession?
Dutra: A guy owed me money, and one day he came in with a bag of candy-coated chocolate-covered sunflower kernels. He said there was a container at the San Francisco Port, and it was the first container of this product in the United States. We bought it and thought it would be easy to sell. But the candy business is a strange business; you have to have manufacturing and the ability to keep selling it. It took years and years. I wanted to be a branded candy manufacturer — I didn’t realize it’s probably the most expensive endeavor you could ever go after. I just thought I could do it.
NNBW: Kimmie Candy has seen unprecedented growth in the past few years — what changes did that bring about?
Dutra: Last summer I doubled the production of this little facility. I thought we would have enough production forever. I didn’t realize that we would grow so quick — we went from bringing in 40,000 pounds of chocolate per month to 40,000 pounds every five or six days.
NNBW: What other ventures are you involved in?
Dutra: I am the largest corn seed exporter in the Middle East. I control about 70 percent of the Saudi Arabian corn market, and I have an office in Cairo. I grow corn seed in Nebraska, it gets packed into our own private label, and I sell corn and alfalfa seed into the Sudan and Pakistan. But my biggest market is Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
NNBW: What was your first job?
Dutra: I have always been a farmer.
NNBW: Tell us about your dream job. Why aren’t you working it?
Dutra: Really my dream jobs are the ones I have. In the morning I can be chatting with somebody in Russia on seed projects or selling candy in Chile or Argentina. I can travel anywhere in the world in regards to these two industries.
NNBW: What are your favorite hobbies or pastimes? How do you spend your time away from work?
Dutra: My real passion is my kids and my family. I don’t have a lot of hobbies because I grew up as a farmer, so I worked all the time. I like to fly fish, but if I fish two or three times a year I am lucky. I also like to scuba dive, but I just don’t do it enough.
NNBW: What did you dream of becoming when you were a kid?
Dutra: I was always going to be a farmer — I was a third-generation farming kid, and growing up I worked every extra hour I had farming. On the weekends my dad would say, “Are you playing sports?” If the answer was, “No,” you were on a tractor or raking hay.
NNBW: If you had enough money to retire right now, would you? Why or why not?
Dutra: No. I am in my prime. Over the years I have struggled and learned a lot of things. But I live for the game. I live for new business development, the ideas that come in every day. I get excited about new product lines, the development of where things will go in five to 10 years. I enjoy that part of the business.
NNBW: What’s your idea of the perfect vacation?
Dutra: For me the perfect vacation is in the tropics with great reefs I can scuba or skin dive in. I love sitting on the beach. Every year we rent this 18,000-square-foot villa in Cozumel with private servants, and I spend a week there with my friends. It is paradise to sit on the beach and eat and drink and dive.
NNBW: Why did you choose a career in northern Nevada? What do you like most about working/living here?
Dutra: It is the quality of life. I came from Sacramento, and there was a lot of people and a lot of traffic and a lot of bureaucracy. When I moved to Reno in 2006, it was more like what Sacramento was like 30 or 40 years ago. I live in the Virginia Foothills, and our house overlooks the valley. We get the most magnificent sunsets, and the air is great. I really enjoy the quality of life up here.
Know someone whose perspective you would like to share with NNBW readers? Email reporter Rob Sabo at email@example.com or call him at 775-850-2146.
With median home prices topping $500,000 in Reno and nearly $520,000 in Minden/Gardnerville, 2021 is shaping up to be quite the sellers’ market for Northern Nevada. As for housing supply, that’s another story, reports the NNBW’s Kaleb M. Roedel.