Treat yourself: Two candy-makers in the Tri-State offer sweet job opportunities, boost local economy

CINCINNATI - Candy lovers rejoice! June is National Candy Month, so go ahead and indulge your decadent desires. By satisfying your sweet tooth, you're helping boost the local economy. 

Two major companies, Graeter's and Perfetti van Melle (PVM) not only manufacture delicious treats right here in the Tri-State, they also offer sweet opportunities for employment.

Makers Of The "Freshmaker"

Best known as the makers of Mentos and Airheads, PVM's U.S. headquarters resides in Erlanger, Ky.

In 2001, Italian-based Perfetti merged with Netherlands-based Van Melle to become the third largest producer of candy and gum worldwide. The local production facility manufactures and supplies all varieties of Airhead candies for the entire country.

"We are truly thankful to our fans and our consumers," said Mahmet Yusek, Perfetti van Melle, USA president and CEO. "Over the years they've been with us and they've been a great big part of this family of Airheads and Mentos here in the United States. I just want to say, hey, be ready for more excitement in the future."

PVM introduced Airheads to the market in 1989. Yusek explained the candies have become one of the most-loved and widely-recognized, non-chocolate candies in America for a reason.

The brand continues to remain relevant because PVM listens to its consumers and designs their confections to meet their needs, he said.

While the primary market for Airheads candy is children, Yusek said PVM intends to extend the market to candy lovers of all ages by introducing Airhead Xtreme Bites. He explained the mini-version of the popular product appeals to candy fans 18 years and older.

"We have the opportunity to reach out to those who used to love or consume Airheads when they were kids, but for many different reasons may have left the franchise over the years," he said.

PVM employs more than 300 workers at its Erlanger production facility and headquarters. For candy-lovers in search of sweet job opportunities, the company offers a variety of positions in manufacturing, management, finance, marketing and sales.

Yusek said the company's mission is to delight consumers, so PVM promotes a feel-good culture in the workplace. He explained the company has huge potential and plans to continue expanding both locally and worldwide. Because PVM is a global business, workers experience the thrill of being part of an international company, he added.

"We really are a kind of 360 degree truly international and local company," he said. "Our markets are pretty dynamic and very innovation driven by impulse, so next to other companies, we do provide probably a bit more excitement."

Great Graeter's

Steeped in hometown history, Graeter's has been a local staple producing ice cream and candy since 1870. While not a global presence, the company is certainly a household name in the Tri-state and gaining ground nationally.

According to co-owner Chip Graeter, the company is expanding daily. Its products currently occupy space in more than 7,000 grocery stores nationwide. While the brand is fighting for recognition against the "big guys," Graeter believes the company will continue to grow and capture market share.

"We do have what we call "fanbasitors" in every almost city, and those folks are wonderful about spreading the word of Graeter's," he said. "We work with them and engage them to help spread the word in markets outside of Cincinnati where our name wouldn't be well known."

In 2010, the company built a new manufacturing facility in Bond Hill. Between the retail stores, the production facilities and the offices, Graeter said the company employs about 450 people in Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky.

He said Graeter's is always looking for high energy people for positions at their retail locations. He explained that because Graeter's still makes all products by hand, the company always hiring bakers and ice cream manufacturers for the labor intensive process.

"We've expanded into two offices now and we have a sales team and a sales force, and so over the last three plus years, we've expanded quite a bit in developing our team and adding to our team," he said.  "So we're always looking for some fun, energetic Graeter's officianados."

Next page: Watch the massive Fountain Square Mentos geyser video 

Calling Candy Lovers

In addition to its famous ice cream, the company manufactures scrumptious confections said Steve Hellmich, chief of candy operations. He said some of their most popular items include:

  • pecan patties made from caramel and pecans then rolled in milk chocolate
  • sea salt caramels in both mild and dark chocolate
  • opera creams including Graeter's signature raspberry puree
  • nonpareils
  • hand-stretched peanut brittle

Hellmich said the company is working on a line of upscale candy bars laced with dried cranberries and blue berries in dark chocolate. He explained upscale chocolate and the combination of salty and sweet is really trending right now.

The secret to sweet success?

"We only use the best quality ingredients to make our products and it really makes a difference," Hellmich said.

Candy Comes To Town

This year, the Retail Confectioner's International (RCI) will hold its annual convention at the Hyatt Regency downtown Cincinnati, June 24 -28.

Hellmich explained Graeter's representatives have always attended the convention in the past to discover the latest and greatest trends in candy.

He said the convention is especially exciting this year as Cincinnati is the host city and organizers selected their facility as a featured tour for convention attendees.

"They're actually going to do a tour here at our factory," Hellmich said. "We're going to have four busloads of 56 people in each bus who are going to tour our factor on Reading Road. It's pretty big news."

Sweet Seasons

Over the summer, Graeter's suspends candy production and online candy sales due to heat and humidity; two elements not conducive to quality confection making.

Graeter explained the combination of ice cream in the summer and candy in the winter makes a perfect balance for the company. The Reading Road facility will begin gearing up to make candy again in late September to be ready for their busy season including Halloween, Christmas, Valentine's Day and Easter.

The Graeter family has been in the candy business for more than 140 years and takes personal pride in their product and their company.

"We'd like to think it's a fun place to work," he said. "We have a great group of people who work here. We've had people who have been here a long, long time."

Remember This? 

In June 2007, more than 500 people gathered in Fountain Square for a massive Mentos geyser.

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