Did someone say candy?
Few names in California are as synonymous with chocolate-covered confections as See’s Candies.
The company has expanded its California footprint with recent store additions in Temecula and another in Bakersfield.
Established more than 100 years ago, the South San Francisco-based chocolate maker operates more than 240 candy shops across the U.S. and an e-commerce platform. See’s produces more than 26 million pounds of candy a year with many of its original creations still available today.
The privately held company’s success has not come without challenges. See’s leadership says it has shouldered price increases as a result of inflation and supply chain backups. But the company and chocolate makers nationwide are reporting booming sales as pandemic-weary customers reach for something sweet to take the edge off.
In the year through October 30, U.S. chocolate sales hit $17.7 billion, according to data from market research firm IRI, up from $14.6 billion for the year in 2019.
See’s, which is privately held, generates an annual income of about $410 million, according to zippia.com.
The company also faced adversity during the Great Depression when more than 12 million Americans were out of work.
See’s competitors were still selling their candy at 80¢ a pound during the economic downturn, forcing many to close their doors. Charles See wisely managed to reduce his prices without depleting the bottom line, charging only 42¢ a pound for pre-paid orders of more than 50 pounds.
Pat Egan, president and CEO of See’s Candies, is seen here at one of the company’s more than 240 candy shops. (Photo courtesy of See’s Candies)
We asked company President and CEO Pat Egan to talk about the company, why it has lasted so long and which chocolates are favorites among customers. His answers have been edited for space considerations.
Q: See’s Candies has a rich family legacy dating back to 1921. What do you attribute the company’s success and longevity to?
A: There are two things: Our team makes the best candy on planet. All of our candies are made with the finest and best ingredients with no preservatives added. And of course, we wouldn’t be here 101 years later if it weren’t for our customers. They are the reason we are so focused on making the highest quality candy and continue to innovate and expand to new locations. We love being part of their traditions and seeing multi-generational families come into shops together.
Q: Are you dealing with any supply chain issues, and if so, how has that impacted your operations?
A: Supply chain issues have affected us all in some way. We are proud to be an American-made company, with all of our candies produced right here in California, and most of our suppliers and growers are here, too. That said, we have definitely seen very large price increases for our ingredients, packaging, services … you name it. We only use the highest quality ingredients, so we stick by our suppliers.
Q: What are some of the candy favorites among See’s customers?
A: Across the board, fan favorites are the Dark Scotchmallow and Milk Bordeaux. Here in Temecula, local customers also really love Pecan Buds and Milk California Brittle, and Lollypops are a favorite wherever you go. I must admit…Temecula has great taste!
Q: Does See’s offer seasonal candies during the holiday season?
A: All of our holiday offerings are now available both in shops and online. We have a wide variety of holiday-themed chocolates and candies, including boxed chocolates and stocking stuffers to Hanukkah Gelt. Last holiday season, we introduced the Holiday Bordeaux, which features a classic brown sugar cream center bundled up in white chocolate and topped with red and green sprinkles. We’ve reintroduced this piece into our candy line as a “limited time sweet.”
About Pat Egan
Title: President and CEO
Organization: See’s Candies
Hometown: Born in San Francisco, but grew up in Oregon
Previous experience: He has 12 years of experience with Berkshire Hathaway brands, including NV Energy and Pacific Power.
Favorite job: “My favorite and most interesting previous job was as a U.S. Forest Service firefighter and sawyer. I got paid to travel around the west, fight fires, sleep under the stars and eat as much as I wanted. I worked closely with a crew that are still friends to this day. This was the late 80s, so fires were less dangerous and unpredictable. But I got to go to the great Yellowstone conflagration in 1988 for a few weeks.”
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About See’s Candies
Founded by Charles See, who moved to Pasadena with his wife and widowed mother, Mary See, in 1919. Drawing upon the homemade recipes Mary whipped up in their Pasadena bungalow, Charles opened the first See’s shop in 1921 at 135 Western Ave. North in Los Angeles.
Candy making: The company, which has been owned by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Corp. since 1972, maintains kitchens at its South San Francisco headquarters and at its original factory in Los Angeles. It also has an office in Carson and a small lollypop-only plant in Burlingame.
See’s trivia: A 1951 episode of “I Love Lucy” depicts Lucy and Ethel scrambling to wrap candies as the chocolates spill faster and faster off the conveyor belt. Actors Lucille Ball and Vivian Vance got some actual training in how to dip and wrap chocolates at See’s LA kitchen before filming the scene on a recreated production line in Hollywood.