Can you name an American confectionary company that is privately held, manufacturing in the US, exporting to China, and maintaining a high value culture? Stumped you…didn’t I? Until I visited with Pierson Clair, CEO of Brown & Haley, I would have been stumped as well. American confectionary companies are moving out of the United States, lowering the quality of their products and focusing on the bottom line. It’s a trend that not many companies are brave enough to stand up to.
Brown & Haley holds tight to their belief system of :
- American made
- American jobs
- “do the right thing”
- manufacturer a high quality product
- make it like the customer wants it
As Pierson Clair proudly indicates, Brown & Haley’s focus is “making a products that delight the customer”. Long term reputation is important to Brown & Haley, a company celebrating it’s 100th year of business under private ownership.
Plenty of exciting things are happening at Brown & Haley.
- This spring, Brown & Haley received two Nominees and one Award for most innovative product at the NCA 2012 Sweet & Snack Expo. The competition was fierce with giant confectionary companies like Mars & Hershey’s, but 14,000 votes later, the winning product was: Dark Chocolate ROCA®. http://www.sweetsandsnacks.com/learn_more.cfm, reviewed http://flavorscientist.com/2012/06/17/brown-haley-dark-roca-review/
- Brown & Haley is active in the community and the Washington State World Trade Club. This year, they were awarded “Trader of the Year” from the WTC and joined the ranks of other Washington State winning companies: Starbucks and Microsoft.http://www.worldtradeclub.net/
- In 2010, Brown & Haley was featured in ABC World News Tonight with Diane Sawyer “The Little Engine that Could”, about the $6 billion dollars of imports to China from Washington State. http://abcnews.go.com/International/China/china-importing-billion-year-washington-state-salmon-apples/story?id=12173543#.UANtX3hgNFI
- Besides company awards, the CEO of Brown & Haley, Pierson Clair, was honored by his colleagues in the National Confectionary Association with the prestigious Kettle Award in 2011. The first recipient of this award was Russell Stover in 1946.http://www.candyindustry.com/articles/pierson-clair
It is exciting to think about the new candies Brown & Haley is making and what their plans encompass. Kathi Rennaker, Brown & Haley’s Marketing Manager, shared with me the details of the company’s 100th birthday party. The party will be at the Puyallup Fair in September and will encompass the entire Fair Museum. Kathi excitedly mentioned a new product coming out in August, but couldn’t share all the details with me “just yet”. I’ll be anxiously waiting to try this new item at the birthday party.
When I asked about Dark Peppermint ROCA®, a nominee for most innovative seasonal product, I was happily greeted with a several pound sample bag of the new candy. Dark Peppermint ROCA® is perfectly balanced with cool, rich peppermint (suggestive of an American grown peppermint oil), dark chocolate, and rich milky toffee.
Brown & Haley uses local ingredients when possible and sources all it’s butter from Washington State. Pierson told me about his mother’s favorite candy, Vernell’s butter mints, something I’ve never had the pleasure of trying. Vernell’s buttermints blended the rich creaminess of butter with cool peppermint. Butter and peppermint are a heavenly combination; Peppermint ROCA® is outstanding. Please don’t make me wait for the holidays to get more of this candy!
How does an American confectionary company stay a success; through good leadership. Kouzes& Posner describe qualities of a good leader in their book “The Leadership Challenge”.
1) Model the way and demonstrate integrity: Integrity is the culture of Brown & Haley. Pierson Clair has high standards for Brown & Haley’s Almond Roca: all natural, no high fructose corn syrup, no artificial colors, natural vanilla (not vanillin). Brown & Haley could increase their profit margin immensely if they switched from natural vanilla to vanillin(artificial flavor), but quality comes before bottom line for Brown & Haley. Switching vanillin for natural vanilla is comparable to calling a mixture of sugar, acid and alcohol wine. Wine is more that the characterizing components: sugar, acid and alcohol. Vanillin is merely the characterizing component of vanilla extract and in no way a substitute for the entire flavor. Brown & Haley’s motto is “Do the right thing”. In this day of age, with the Madoff Ponzi scheme and Penn State scandal, it is refreshing to know there are companies focused on the right thing.
2) Inspire a shared vision: Brown & Haley is looking forward and sees what’s possible. Pierson and Kathi took two hours of their valuable time to enlist my enthusiasm. It is understood that they’ve dedicated many more hours into enlisting others.
3) Challenge the process: Can an American company have success in China and manufacture in the United States? Sure they can, just ask Diane Sawyer about “the little engine that could”. Washington State exports $6 billion dollars of goods to China annually and Brown & Haley’s Almond ROCA® is one of those products. President Obama should embrace ROCA® as his candy of choice. Maybe Brown & Haley can make a “salted” ROCA ® version to entice the president?
4) Enable others to act: Pierson and Kathi described Brown & Haley employees as “bright, engaged and loyal”. With fierce pride, Kathi told me about “ROCA Masters” whom have been entrusted with making the famous buttercrunch candy. There is high respect for these individuals who have the experience, training and “touch” to create ROCA® .
5) Encourage the heart: Pierson Clair is passionate about confections and has his heart in the business. He values employees that are just as engaged and makes it a point to know his employees. He was kind enough to compliment me on my blog and writing, www.flavorscientist.com and I thoroughly appreciate the encouragement. (and to know that someone is reading my blog)
It’s exciting for me to form a relationship with Brown & Haley and have the opportunity to try their products “first”. There are exciting new products coming my way and I know they are going to taste good; after all, Brown & Haley’s focus is “delighting the customer”. Can’t wait!