Candy canes, a holiday tradition dating back 600 years, are made today by the Spangler Candy Company in Bryan. Spangler makes 2.7 million candy canes per day as a major U.S.-based producer of the confection.
"I believe we're the only company that still makes candy canes here in the U.S. We usually have 50 percent or more of the candy cane market depending on the year," said Jim Knight, vice president of marketing at Spangler.
There is even a special day to celebrate the candy as Dec. 26 is known as National Candy Cane Day. The day is meant to appreciate the history of candy canes and eating them the day after Christmas has become a tasty tradition.
French priests invented the candy stick in the early 1400s for supporting Christmas tree branches when food was used for decorating the trees. Priests in Germany created the modern candy cane shape in 1670 to look like a shepherd's crook.
The hooked ornament was easier to hang on a traditional Christmas tree and a tasty treat for children who behaved well during holiday services, according to its history. The red stripe was added in the early 1900s to create the candy canes known today.
Spangler purchased the A-Z Candy Company of Detroit in 1954 to become the largest candy cane maker in the nation. The machinery for its candy cane production was moved to Bryan, resulting in a five boxcar order from the Great A&P Tea Company for Christmas that year.
Many Americans still use candy canes to decorate their holiday trees, for stocking stuffers, gift baskets, holiday recipes and crafts. Consumers can find recipes to create food, drinks, and crafts on the company's website at www.spanglercandy.com.
In addition to the traditional peppermint stick candy canes, Spangler now makes different flavors of candy canes including the Dum Dum, Cinnabon, Jelly Belly, Smarties, Shrek, and Sour Punch brands.
Spangler started as a regional chocolate candy maker but got into other major markets with the major purchases of A-Z Candy and the company that made Dum Dum Pops in 1953, Knight said.
Today, Spangler continues to make Dum Dum Pops, Saf-T-Pops, Circus Peanuts, orange marshmallow treats, and other specialty candies for Valentine's Day, Easter and Halloween.
The company produces 10 million Dum Dum Pops in 16 flavors and 500,000 Saf-T-Pops daily for worldwide markets. Spangler distributes its candy products nationally through grocery, drug, mass merchandisers and club stores through candy wholesalers and internationally through export brokers.
Dum Dum and Saf-T-Pops are given away by many businesses as a complimentary thank you to their customers, Knight said.
"The candy industry is fun and challenging. We will continue to succeed in the future by following the principles of honesty, independence, practicality, and market wise that have been established and guided our actions since our founding," Knight said.
Spangler Candy is a family-owned, private company that has made candy treats since it was founded in 1906 by Arthur Spangler. Today, Chairman and CEO Dean Spangler is a third-generation descendant of the founder and president Kirkland Vashaw, a fourth generation descendant.
Spangler operates its main manufacturing facility of more than 500,000 square feet in Bryan which employs 400 people. Another manufacturing facility in Mexico employs 190 people.
The company's Bryan headquarters also includes a museum and store where candy products can be purchased. Traditional candy canes are sold in 12 boxes of 12 each for $18, mini candy canes in 240-count for $12, 500-count for $20 or 2,000-count for $78 at the store or online.
Public tours are offered from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday through Friday during the fall, winter and spring at a cost of $5 for adults and $3 for children ages 6-18 with children five and under for free. However, the tours and store are closed from Dec. 24 to Jan. 4, reopening Jan. 5.