NEW MILFORD – Imagine suddenly developing severe food allergies and no longer being able to enjoy many of your favorite foods and tasty treats.
Or, you need to lose a lot of weight and can’t find sweet indulgences anywhere that taste delicious, are low-calorie and healthy, too.
This happened to Torie Burke and Howard Slatkin, good friends who met 30 years ago while working on a client’s interior design project.
Motivated by dietary restrictions, they switched careers and put their sophisticated palettes and longings for mouthwatering candy to good use.
In 2010, they co-founded Torie & Howard. Their organic, exotically flavored “fresh from the orchard” hard confections were in great demand.
The original dual blends of all-natural pomegranate and nectarine, blood orange and honey, pink grapefruit and tupelo honey, and d’anjou pear and cinnamon tempted the taste-buds of candy lovers young and old.
Today, Torie & Howard – located at 143 West Street inside the historical Bleachery building – is enjoying the taste of sweet success and shows no signs of slowing down.
This privately-held, multimillion-dollar company is experiencing tremendous growth in the confectionery industry – and in several specialty food categories – USDA organic, gluten free, dairy free, soy free, vegan, no artificial colors or flavors, non-GMO and kosher.
Ninety percent of the company revenue comes from retail, and the remainder comes from ecommerce. The organic hard and soft candy can be found in over 12,000 stores nationally, and overseas.
Burke, the company CEO, said, “this count will grow to over 20,000 locations by next year. If you consider every location where you see candy for sale, we’ve got a lot of runway left for continued growth.”
She added, “retail is quickly growing as we move more deeply into the conventional grocery and convenience channels. The excitement of growth continues as the candy is available in all channels.”
For instance, Torie & Howard recently made inroads into the convenience channel and 7-Eleven now carries the organic candy nationally.
“We were also picked up in military exchanges through the Army and Air Force Exchange Service,” said Burke.
The candy is also now available in college bookstores and cafes through both Follet and Barnes & Noble college cafes.
Over 60 Connecticut stores carry Torie & Howard organic confections.
Specialty shops like Natural Marketplace in New Milford, The Market CT in Northville and Bantam, Roxbury Market, New Morning Market in Woodbury, Nature’s Goods in Middlebury and Market32 in Oxford carry the product line. Large supermarkets do, too, like ShopRite and Whole Foods Market.
Burke, a longtime Bridgewater resident, is well-known in town and so is her candy. Torie & Howard is a top seller at the Bridgewater Village Store.
Anthony Sartori, the general manager, said, “Our customers love that the candy is organic and gluten free. This time of year, the hard candy tins and soft candy varieties make perfect holiday gifts and stocking stuffers.”
His boys take the Sour Chewie Fruities to school as a daily snack and share the sour apple, berry and cherry flavors with friends.
“I love hearing the stories of thankful parents who are able to give their children better-for-you allergen-friendly candy,” added Burke.
Tristan Moretti, a Bridgewater resident, tried a pomegranate and nectarine Chewie Fruities for the first time. “Wow! I really love it. This is good. The flavor is amazing. I can taste the actual fruit. It doesn’t get stuck in my teeth.”
“I always love to watch someone’s face when they try our candy, and to see a person’s expression when experiencing fresh fruit flavor in a candy for the first time. This inspires us greatly,” said Burke.
Chewie Fruities are available in six flavors. Each serving is packed with 100% vitamin C. A 2.1-ounce stick pack starts at $1.79, a 4-ounce bag starts at $3.49 and a 50-count assorted snack pack starts at $16.
Torie & Howard hard and soft organic candy can be found online via the company website, too. Over 100 ecommerce sites – from Amazon and Walmart to specialty destinations like SimplyVeryNice, Thrive Market and Iherb – also carry the candy.
Burke enjoys sharing creative ways she and her friends, and many specialty food bloggers, use the confections.
“Try crushing blood orange and honey candy and use it for rims on margheritas. The pear and cinnamon flavor makes the perfect organic sweetener. Lemon and raspberry goes well with lemonade or a fun holiday cocktail. All of the flavors can be used as toppings for vegan ice cream. One blogger made marshmallows with the pear and cinnamon candy.”
The hard candy is available in a 2-ounce tin, starting at $3.49, and a 5-pound bag, starting at $50. Each piece is only 12 calories.
Torie & Howard candy is USDA organic and kosher certified. This means the confections are health-friendly, socially-conscious and eco-friendly. Oftentimes, customers re-purpose the colorful tins. “They resourcefully use them for button holders, spare change containers and even fishing lure storage,” said Burke.
Torie & Howard operates with a small, specialized team of six. They oversee a massive sales network that includes sales professionals, exporters, food brokers and food distributors.
They sell candy to over 38 distributors across multiple channels, and to retailers. The team attends 12 to 15 candy, distributor and industry tradeshows a year.
Although the main focus of growth is in the U.S., Burke said new opportunities always arise – like in South Korea, Philippines, Japan, Canada, China, the Caribbean and Panama.
As for what’s in store for Torie & Howard in 2019, “we have an amazing pipeline of opportunities. Growth will be major next year. We’ll double the growth of presence in stores through retail expansion and placement,” said Burke.
New products and flavors “still behind a secret curtain” will also be unveiled. The company’s packaging is being redesigned by Norwalk-based Silver Creative Group.
As for Slatkin, Burke said he still enjoys shopping for his favorite fruit – the pomegranate – which is the main ingredient in the first dual flavor they brought to market. The pomegranate symbolizes righteousness and abundance in some cultures.
Who would think?
Torie & Howard candy sales are consistent throughout the year. However, the biggest moment happens right after the holidays when New Year’s resolutions are made to eat healthier and find better-for-you snacks.
Move over Willy Wonka!
- Non-chocolate candy sales reached $8.2 billion (as of 11/4/2018)
– National Confectioners Association
- Chewy candy grew 32% over the past five years
- Chewy candy and gummies should hit $5 billion by 2022
- Solid growth expected through 2022
– FONA International
- Total non-chocolate online sales up 44%
– IRI (52 weeks ending 12/31/17)
In the beginning
Co-founders Torie and Howard came up with, and tried, over 40 combinations before settling on four original dual flavors.
The organic candy company now uses a flavor genius to create flavors based on descriptions. After the candies are made, the fun part of tasting begins.
A shorter version of this business feature by Alicia Sakal originally appeared in the December 9, 2018 edition of Republican-American. This daily regional daily newspaper covers 36 towns and cities in Litchfield County and Greater Waterbury, Connecticut.
Photos: Alicia Sakal. Pomegranate Photo – Contributed.