BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) - Many businesses count on sales and they count revenues hoping to make a profit. Landies Candies is literally counting the numbers, chocolate ones. And those chocolate figures are paying off for the Buffalo candy maker.
Founded in 1985, Landies may have just created the next birthday party staple: edible chocolate birthday candles shaped like numbers. They decorate a cake for anyone, any age. President Larry Szrama says they are flying off of retail shelves at stores like Wegmans. "We've been in Wegmans about nine months," he said. "It's now nearly 10 percent of our business: chocolate candles. It's amazing!"
What's more amazing is that a fluke paid off in the "candy candle" deal when Wegmans' managers took a tour of Landies chocolate factory, at the Tri-Main Center in Buffalo, and spotted the chocolate candles. "We didn't even present it to the corporate level buyers, but the lower level management said, 'That's something that would be a winner for us!' and they went with it," he said. "It wasn't even our intention to take them to that level because they are pretty difficult to make, but we said, 'sure, we'll try it' and it's been phenomenal."
Szrama says there are several reasons retailers like the candles, besides their mass appeal. They are year round items with a long shelf life and a very high profit margin for retailers.
It's the perfect scenario for a small company like Landies, which employs 15 to 30 workers, depending on the season. "Everybody is fighting for that shelf space and large companies like the Hershey's and Nestles of the world have a lot of funds available to buy shelf space," Szrama said. "Landies is a smaller local company so we have to hope and pray that people will want to extend us a little extra favor and give us a chance because we don't have the massive amount of funds available like the larger companies."
Szrama, whose parents owned several Bells supermarkets in Western New York, has a solid grasp of the retail industry. Through a longtime business partnership, Landies actually makes more than 200 different varieties of chocolate under the Wegmans private label name. Szrama says he is always looking for new "out of the box" ideas worthy of shelf space and the candles fit the bill. Landies is now waiting for patent approval on the candle idea.