There is something intensely primal about popping something rich and sweet and creamy and good into one’s mouth and simply resigning oneself to the momentary but complex sensation of pure ecstasy that it creates. It’s probably due to the fact that such sweet sensations are relatively recent inventions for the human palate, and we’re not going back to making due with salty prairie oysters. No, we have fallen in love with all things confectionery, and there’s nothing to do but console ourselves with a chocolate fountain or a lifetime supply of Smarties, as difficult to bear as that might be.
People love our sugary delights to the extent that the makers of our candy obsessions have grown fabulously wealthy from our delectable addiction. In fact, they are among the most affluent of any food industry producers, and for good reason; we just can’t get enough of that sweet, sweet heaven. In that vein, let’s have a look at 10 of the world’s richest candy makers.
10) Lindt (Switzerland) $3.15 billion in 2014
Legend has it that in 1879 while experimenting with a process to turn what was then a hard, chewy chocolate chore into a smooth, melt in your mouth cocoa orgasm, a mixing machine in Swiss confectioner Rodolphe Lindt’s factory was accidentally left running one weekend, and the result was a rich and deliciously creamy chocolate fondant that was easily formed into bars, had a long shelf life and was instantly popular.
By 1898, Lindt had sold interest in his company to another Swiss chocolatier, Rudolph Sprungli which included the Lindt recipes, factories, products and trademark, with Sprungli paying a whopping 1.5 million gold Francs for the privilege. It turned out to be a shrewd investment as Lindt & Sprungli has become one of the world’s premiere chocolate makers, renowned for its decadent, mouth watering goodness that saw profits topping $3 billion in 2014.
9) Haribo (Germany) $3.18 billion in 2014
In 1920, German candy maker Hans Riegel trademarked his company name Haribo, which was an acronym for ‘HAns,’ ‘RIegel’ and his birthplace ‘BOnn.’ Just two years later he would develop a fruit gum candy inspired by the trained bears common in German circuses and festivals that would become the company’s symbol, The Dancing Bear, which we know better as gummy bears.
The confection was wildly popular and remains one of its best sellers. In 1925 more success followed with the introduction of the Licorice Stick (cleverly stamped with the company name) and Licorice Wheel, literally a roll of licorice strip that kids could peel off, as well as The Black Bear and Teddy Bear gummy products.
Riegel died in 1945, leaving his wife Gertrud to manage the business until sons Hans Jr. and Paul were freed from Allied P.O.W camps and returned to Germany in 1946. In 1960 they introduced The Golden Bear which replaced their Dancing Bear product as top seller and company icon. With a wide range of products the company is Germany’s best-selling candymaker, reaping nearly $3.2 billion in 2014.
8) Perfetti van Melle (Italy) $3.28 billion in 2014
The company can trace its roots back to the Netherlands where in 1841 Izaak van Melle founded a local bakery in Breskens which was converted by his son Abraham into a confection factory in 1882. Abraham’s son Izaak modernized and expanded the business in 1900, and for the next thirty years he traveled the world sampling candies and experimenting with new products and manufacturing techniques for the van Melle company.
In 1932 he introduced what would later become known as Fruitella and Mentos, which remain among the company’s biggest sellers. Meanwhile, in 1958, Spanish confectioner Enric Bernat, whose family’s Perfetti company was a well established candy maker, had revolutionized the industry by introducing the world’s first lollipop, what would become known as Chupa Chups (from the Spanish ‘chupar,’ to suck).
A little known fact is the current famous ‘daisy’ logo on Chupa Chups is a 1988 update on the original designed by Salvadore Dali in ’58. Believe it or not, before this, no one had ever thought of putting candy on a stick. The two companies finally merged in 2001, at the time becoming the largest confection producer in Europe, with sales of nearly $3.3 billion this year.
7) Arcor (Argentina) $3.7 billion in 2014
The company was founded in Cordoba, Argentina by a group of friends (Enrique Brizio and Mario Serveso) and brothers (Fulvio, Renzo and Elio Pagani and Modesto, Pablo and Vincente Maranzana) in 1951; (AR from Argentina and COR from Cordoba). By the late 1960s they were the largest confection maker in South America and were rapidly expanding into Mexico, the U.S. and European markets. Though not as widely known outside Latin America, the company’s products are beloved in its native climes. With a huge product line including sweets, chocolates, ice cream treats, fruit bars and beverages sold in over 60 countries worldwide, Arcor is an industry giant, having racked up $3.7 billion in 2014.
6) Hershey’s (U.S.A.) $7.04 billion in 2014
The iconic American chocolate company began in 1886 when Milton Hershey founded the Lancaster Caramel Company in Lancaster, P.A. He had been experimenting with a process to add a chocolate coating to his caramel candy, and after years of struggle, in 1894 he succeeded and The Hershey Chocolate Company was born.
Quickly selling his caramel business to concentrate on cocoa, Hershey had a stroke of marketing genius to sell his chocolate as a standardized, solid form that was easy to make and convenient for consumers. The result was the immortal Hershey bar which has been around since 1900 and is literally as American as apple pie. In 1907 he produced the Hershey’s Kiss, being so far immersed in the product he even personally designed its trademark shape and packaging.
Hershey died in 1945 but the company has expanded exponentially, acquiring the H.B. Reese Candy Company in 1963, makers of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, among other products. With such famous products as Whoppers Malted Balls, Twizzlers, Tastations, York Peppermint Patties, Sweet Escapes and Reese’s Pieces, Hershey’s is commonly among the largest candy makers in the United States, pulling in over $7 billion this year alone.
5) Ferrero SpA (Italy) $10.9 billion in 2014
Ah, si, Ferrero…a tutti.
The company’s chocolate roots date back to the early 1940s when Michele Ferrero expanded his parents’ modest confection business which was once the family-run bakery in Alba, Italy. By 1946 they had registered the company name as Ferrero SpA and developed their ‘pasta gianduja,’ a delicious concoction of creamy cocoa butter and roasted hazelnuts named after the Italian staple food and a local carnival character which they renamed Nutella in 1954.
In 1968 the company produced Kinder Chocolate, individual squares of chocolate with a milky cream filling, their answer to mothers seeking a more nutritional snack for their children, and their iconic Kinder Surprise in 1974, that features a hollow milk chocolate eggshell with a white chocolate lining and a unique toy that often requires assembly. Their signature luxury Ferrero Rocher and Raffaello chocolates, their Tic Tac brand sweets and natural fruit flavored teas have all combined to push the company’s revenues to nearly $11 billion in 2014.
4) Meiji (Japan) $11.7 billion in 2014
The company’s humble origins began in Tokyo in 1906 when the Meiji Dairy Corporation and Meiji Sugar Company Ltd began a ten-year relationship that would lead to their development of the first condensed milk product sold in Japan in 1917.
By 1924 they had changed the company name from Kyokuto Condensed Milk Co. Ltd. to Meiji Seika Kaisha, Ltd and then back to Meiji Dairy Corporation. Two years later they began to introduce a number of what have become iconic Japanese products; candy, powdered milk, milk chocolate bars, cocoa powder, baby formula, butter, savory snacks, beverages, yogurts, margarine and sports nutrition drinks.
Today Meiji is one of Japan’s largest corporations with its food division earning a lip smacking $11 billion this year. Domo arrigato.
3) Nestle (Switzerland) $11.74 billion in 2014
‘N…E…S…T…L…E..’s…Nestle’s makes the very best…profits!’ A minor variation on their memorable ad campaign, though it might as well be true, because the company is an industry Titan.
In the early 1860s Swiss pharmacist Henri Nestle was experimenting with the development of an infant formula that he had been working on for years. He had also begun a friendship with a young neighbor and confectioner named Daniel Peter whose breakthrough came in his development of a manufacturing technique that drained the excess milk curds in chocolate that greatly discouraged mildew, and his company would be absorbed by Nestle before the turn of the century.
Meanwhile in America, brothers Charles and George Page had established the Anglo-Swiss Condensed Milk Company in 1866. A year later Nestle had his breakthrough with the success of his baby formula made from sugar, milk and wheat flour which he called ‘farine lactee’ or ‘milk flour.’ Though Nestle himself would sell his Nestle Company in 1875, his formula began a fierce decades long rivalry with the Page brothers for global dominance in the rapidly growing markets of dairy and baby products. Eventually the two companies would merge in 1905 to become the Nestle and Anglo-Swiss Condensed Milk Company, for some un-Godly reason, and wasn’t officially known as ‘Nestle’ until 1977, believe it or not.
Today Nestle makes some of the world’s most well known products and brands like Carnation Evaporated Milk, Kit Kat, Gerber baby foods, Milo, Nesquik, Nescafe, Coffee Mate, Stouffers foods, Dreyer’s ice cream, Lean Cuisine and Purina pet foods. A constant innovator and industry leader, Nestle sits in third place on the list with over $11.7 billion in profits for 2014.
2) Mondelez International (U.S.A) $17.64 billion in 2014
One of the largest multinational companies on Earth, Mondelez has been in operation since 1923 when it was founded in the United States as The National Dairy Products Corporation. A consistent policy of dozens of acquisitions over the next several decades saw them absorb 55 other firms, including most significantly Kraft Foods, and by 1969 its name was changed to Kraftco Corporation.
Today Mondelez makes some of the industry’s most famous product lines, such as Nabisco, Cadbury, Christie, Chiclets and Toblerone chocolates. In 1988 the Phillip Morris company bought Kraft for $12.9 billion and in 1995 the Kraft name was changed once again to Kraft Foods Inc.
While perhaps not as well known as some of the other manufacturers on the list, there is no denying that Mondelez is an industry monster with some of the world’s most popular food, snack and beverage items that saw them gain more than $17.5 billion this year. Not bad for a manufacturer few people have even heard of.
1) Mars Inc. (U.S.A.) $33 billion
The number one revenue winner for the confection industry in 2014 is America’s Mars Incorporated, another enormous food conglomerate. Established in 1911 by founder Frank Mars in Tacoma, WA who began making butter cream candy at his home, the company introduced its Milky Way bar in the early 1920s and it was an immediate success, so much so that the company moved to a larger US factory in 1929.
In 1930 it was the Snickers bar which proved even more popular, followed by Three Musketeers two years later. By 1932 Mars had moved part of his operation to England, basing it on 5 primary principles he believed were lacking in the expanding field of major commercial food production; Quality, Responsibility, Mutuality, Efficiency and Freedom, and these have been and continue to be the guiding lights of the company’s success.
Today Mars makes some of the most popular confections, snacks, beverages and food in the world; M&M’s, Twix, Bounty, Malteasers, Uncle Ben’s Rice, Wrigley’s gum, Skittles as well as pet food. This has seen Mars rake in $33 billion in 2014, leading our list of richest candy makers on Earth.
Now where’s my damn cocoa? Someone needs to get their chocolate on…