Sweet Dreams

Leading Manufacturers of Sweet Snacks Pick Southeast Tennessee

Americans love sweet snacks! Industry reports estimate that each year, U.S. consumers spend over $70 billion dollars on their favorite brands of sweet snacks that include among other favorites: confectionery (over $30 billion each year in sales for chocolate and sugar candies and gum), ice cream (approx. $12 billion), cookies and crackers (approx. $11 billion), and prepared cakes and pies (approx. $2.4 billion). For perspective, the average American consumes nearly 40 pounds of sweet snacks per year!


By George Christian

Full PDF here.

Unique to the sweet snack industry is the special relationship Americans have with their favorite products and brands. Not only do they prefer certain combinations of textures, flavors and ingredients that they’ve enjoyed over their lifetimes, they have wonderful memories associated with specific brands. A perfect example of this devotion is when Hostess announced that it would be closing its bakeries across the U.S. and that Twinkies®, Ding Dongs®, Ho Hos®, and Sno Balls® would be no more. Americans were horrified and outraged. Grocery store shelves were emptied as shoppers flocked to purchase what few remaining packages may be left. It wasn’t just the end to those tasty snacks, it was potentially the end to memories associated with products enjoyed by millions of people over their lifetimes. Think about it: did you (and now, your kids) ever take M&M’S®  or Skittles® to the baseball field or enjoy a MoonPie® or Little
Debbie® snack on a summer afternoon? How about a bowl of Breyers® ice cream on a hot summer day or a handy pack of Life Savers® or Doublemint® gum when you were on a date? These are memories tied to favorite brands of sweet snacks.

Needless to say, the sweet snack industry is dominated by brands that have been popular for generations. Manufacturers have branded, rebranded, reformulated, repackaged, repositioned and even renamed products to keep them fresh, contemporary and a part of America’s snacking preferences. For example, the Milky Way® candy bar was first introduced in 1923 in America,  the Snickers® bar was introduced in 1930,  and M&M’S® and Reese’s® Peanut Butter Cups were introduced to the public at large in the ‘50s and ‘60s respectively. Doublemint® gum was introduced in 1914, MoonPie in 1917, and the Life Savers® brand just celebrated 100 years! We love our brands of sweet snacks!

Today, the “sweet snacks” industry employs over 130,000 nationwide. Collectively, sweet snacks are among our country’s largest industries and the greater Chattanooga area is home to five of the largest manufacturers of sweet snacks in the country that produce many of America’s favorite brands while employing upwards of 3,500 people.


Mars, Incorporated


In 1911, Frank C. Mars made the first Mars candies in his Tacoma, Wa., kitchen, establishing Mars as a confectionery company.  In the 1920s, Forrest E. Mars Sr. joined his father in business and together they launched the Milky Way® bar. In 1932, Forrest Sr. moved to the United Kingdom with a dream of building a business based on the philosophy of “mutuality of benefits” for all stakeholders—a vision that still serves as the foundation for Mars, Incorporated
today. Based in McLean, Va., Mars
is estimated to have net sales of more than $30 billion that includes six business segments: petcare, chocolate, Wrigley, food, drinks, and symbioscience (global health and life sciences). The company employs approximately 70,000 associates worldwide.

In 1979, Mars opened its Cleveland, Tenn., facility. Today, the 640,000 square foot facility employs approximately 550 full-time associates and is one of the largest manufacturing sites within Mars, Incorporated. It produces most varieties of M&M’S ® and Twix® cookie bars in addition to Pretzel M&M’S® which were introduced in 2010. In a given day the Cleveland facility will produce 300 million M&M’S®!

Today, the company’s brands include M&M’S®, Snickers®, 3 Muskateers®, Bounty®, Dove®, Galaxy®, Mars®, Milky Way®, Twix®, Kudos®, Skittles®, and Starburst®, Wrigley chewing gum, gummies and mints.


Wrigley, a Subsidiary of  Mars, Incorporated


The Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company was founded in 1891. William Wrigley Jr. began packaging chewing gum in each can of baking powder then produced by the company. The chewing gum eventually became the primary focus of the company and during the 20th century, The Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company introduced many of America’s favorite brands of gum.

In 2005, Wrigley broadened its portfolio to include hard and soft sugar candies by purchasing the Life Savers® and Altoids® brands from Kraft Foods.  On April 28, 2008, it was announced that Mars, Incorporated would acquire Wrigley for approximately $23 billion.

Here in Chattanooga, Wrigley began making products at their factory located on Jersey Pike in 2005. Its first products were Life Savers® Gummies, which were soon followed by Altoids® in 2006. In 2011, the plant was expanded to produce Life Savers® sugar-mint flavors. With the 2011 expansion, the Chattanooga plant became the second-largest single serve (packs you buy in convenience stores and the front end of stores) production facility for Wrigley in North America.

Today, the Wrigley facility in Chattanooga employs approximately 300 associates. It has been outfitted with 240 solar panels which save roughly $17,000 in electric costs each year. Across the U.S., the Wrigley brands include 5 Gum®, Altoids®, Big Red®, Doublemint®, Eclipse®, Extra®, Freedent®, Hubba Bubba®, Juicy Fruit®, Life Savers®, Orbit®, Skittles®, Starburst®, Winterfresh®, and Wrigley’s Spearmint®.


McKee Foods Corporation


The McKee story began in 1934 during the height of the Great Depression when young entrepreneur O.D. McKee began selling five-cent snack cakes from the back of his car. He and his wife, Ruth, bought a small, failing bakery, using the family car as collateral. Despite years of great adversity, O.D. and Ruth’s determination finally paid off in 1960 when they began selling the first family packs of baked goods, naming them after their granddaughter, Debbie.

Today, behind an unwavering commitment to the highest quality and the strength of the Little Debbie® brand, McKee Foods Corporation has grown to become a $1.1 billion dollar company and the leading family-owned snack cake bakery in America. Produced in five bakeries across the U.S., the Little Debbie brand is the number one snack cake brand in the U.S.

In 2010, the privately-held, family-run company celebrated the 50 year anniversary of the Little Debbie® brand. Today, McKee Foods stands as a living legacy of a young couple with a big dream. In January of this year, it was announced that McKee Foods was the lead bidder for the Drake’s brand from Hostess Brands, Inc. Drake’s products include Devil Dogs®, Ring Dings®, Yodels®, Yankee Doodles®, Sunny Doodles®, Funny Bones®, and Drake’s® Coffee Cake.

McKee Foods has three facilities in the Collegedale and Apison areas that employ approximately 1,600 people. The first Collegedale plant has expanded 13 times over a 10-year period.  The second Collegedale facility and the Apison facility have both doubled in size. Other McKee Foods facilities are located in Gentry, Ark., and Stuarts Draft, Va.

The Collegedale and Apison facilities manufacture products under the Little Debbie® brand, Sunbelt Bakery® brand, Fieldstone® Bakery brand and Heartland® brand. Some of the more popular Little Debbie® products include Honey Buns, Oatmeal Creme Pies, Swiss Rolls, Nutty Bars, and Chocolate Cupcakes. Sunbelt® products include granola cereals and Chewy granola bars. Heartland® products include granola cereals and pie shells. Fieldstone® (the company’s newest brand) includes products intended for food service and institutional settings, such as schools, prisons and hospitals.


Ferrara Candy Company

Photo by Med Dement

Photo by Med Dement

In May of 2012, Ferrara Pan Candy Company of Chicago (founded in 1908) announced that it would purchase Farley’s and Sathers Candy Company (dates back to 1870). With the acquisition, and according to Crain’s Chicago Business, revenues for the newly formed Ferrara Candy Company will exceed 1 billion dollars, making it one of the largest confectionery companies in the U.S. Additionally, the acquisition adds a strong lineup of historic brands (Brach’s®, Now and Later®, Trolli®, Jujyfruits® and Chuckles®) to an already exceptional portfolio of time-honored brands (Lemonheads®, Red Hots®, Black Forest®, Atomic Fireballs®, and Boston Baked Beans®).

Farley’s & Sathers Candy Company’s has roots in the Chattanooga area reaching back to the Brock Candy Company, which was started in 1909 by William Emerson Brock in Chattanooga. For 95 years, the company flourished under the leadership of the Brock family. In 1994, Brach’s Confections of Chicago purchased Brock Candy Company. That company was subsequently sold in 2003 to Switzerland-based Barry Callebaut AG before being purchased by Farley’s & Sathers in 2007. According to public records, approximately 200 people are employed at Ferrara Candy Company’s manufacturing facility on Jersey Pike in Chattanooga.


Chattanooga Bakery, Inc.


Founded in 1902 by the Campbell family, Chattanooga Bakery is best known for the production of a single product—MoonPie®. The company began operations as a subsidiary of Chattanooga’s Mountain City Milling Company. In an attempt to take advantage of its excess flour production, the bakery produced a variety of cookies, crackers, fig bars, and other baked goods.

In 1917, one of the company’s traveling salesmen returned with client requests for a baked good that was more than a cookie—something both filling and cheap. Experiments led to the special creation of marshmallow cream smeared on a cookie and covered with chocolate. Thus was born the MoonPie®, a large snack which cost only a nickel that went on to become a staple snack of the South, and, today, a snack that is distributed throughout the U.S.

Today, roughly 150 employees at Chattanooga Bakery produce over 1 million MoonPies® a day from a 290,000 square foot facility located on 12 acres off Manufacturers Road in North Chattanooga.  Two years ago, the company renovated and rebuilt about 50,000 square feet of what was believed to be the oldest part of the plant—dating back to before the 1940s.

Over the course of the last 15 years, a variety of new and innovative products have led to continued growth for the company. Among the most successful have been the Mini MoonPie® in chocolate, vanilla, banana and strawberry flavors and the MoonPie® Crunch in mint and peanut butter flavors.

The Campbell family has been involved in the operation since day one. Today, three generations of the Campbell family are active in the business. Sam Campbell IV is president.  John Campbell is vice president of sales, and Sam’s daughter, Elizabeth, is  general manager of Betsy’s Cheese Straws, a subsidiary acquired in 2008. Sam Campbell III remains Chairman of the Board.

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