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Smarties — a 'recession-proof' candy — turns 70 years old with a brand-new look

The iconic Smarties Candy Company is celebrating its 70 birthday with a brand re-fresh just in time for its busiest holiday — Halloween. But the candy from the third generation-run confectionery is still recognizable.

“We’ve retained the classic candy silhouette,” says Smarties co-president, Liz Dee. “What was most important to us was for people to see it, recognize it, and know it’s a Smarties roll.”

The updated Smarties logo and packaging (above) is not too different from the previous look (below).

“You’re still looking at a candy roll with a Smarties word mark inside, but the color scheme has been tweaked. The colors are a little bit more vibrant in some areas and muted in others, and we actually tweaked the font to be slightly more modern.”

Dee took over as co-president of Smarties, along with her sister and cousin, in 2017, continuing a legacy begun by her grandfather in 1949.

Edward Dee, founder of the Smarties Candy Co.

Edward Dee, a third generation candymaker from England, first began producing the classic candy rolls in a rented New Jersey factory in Bloomfield, New Jersey. He used a similar technology to gun powder pellet-making machines from WWII as a candy tablet presser.

Originally named Ce De Candy Inc., Dee later changed the name to Smarties Candy Company.

“He chose the name Smarties because he wanted to encourage people to be smart,” says Dee. “Education has always been very important to him.”

At 95 years old, Dee still visits the factory, now located in Union, New Jersey, and likes to quiz his grown grandchildren on current events.

Recession-proof candy

The Smarties Candy Co. has weathered wartime and recessions over the decades. Dee says that’s because it remains an affordable indulgence.

“This is a simple treat that people turn to when perhaps other things are out of reach. I know the first thing to go for me when I’m budgeting is travel,” says Dee. “So things that are everyday treats, that bring joy to my life, stay. I think other people feel that way too. So yes, I think Smarties are recession-proof, and I hope we don’t have to find out anytime soon.”

Behind the scenes at Smarties

Yahoo Finance was given a rare opportunity to tour the New Jersey facility, where over a billion Smarties rolls are pumped out each year. Check out the video above for a peek at how the colorful roll of pastel candies is made.

Smarties also owns a factory in Newmarket, Ontario, which also produces over a billion Smarties rolls annually and the two factories employ nearly 200 workers.

“People like the nostalgic elements of candy,” Dee says. That’s a big reason why the company hasn’t tinkered with success. It’s kept the same proprietary recipe her grandfather used 70 years ago.

Each roll contains 15 fruit-flavored tablets that are a random assortment of the six original flavors: white (orange cream), pink (cherry), purple (grape), yellow (pineapple) and the real stumper — green (which is actually strawberry flavored).

One flavor that hasn’t survived is the “spiced flavor roll.” Dee says in the 1950s her grandfather thought people would like the cinnamon and clove mix, but it proved to be a dud with consumers and was quickly discontinued.

Dee says the brand has staying power because it fulfills customers’ needs. “Each roll is just 25 calories,” Dee says.

“Today’s consumers have changing needs. They’re looking for more fat-free candy — gluten-free, peanut-free, vegan, dairy-free — and Smarties can tick all of those boxes.”

Not-for-sale

As one of just a handful of massed-produced family-run candy businesses, Smarties isn’t looking to sell anytime soon.

Smarties Candy Co. Co-presidents left to right: Liz Dee, Sarah Dee and Jessica Dee Sawyer.

“We receive offers pretty regularly to purchase our company, and our response is always the same — our Smarties Candy Company is not for sale,” Dee said.

She declined to specify which companies have approached her and how much she has been offered.

“A lot of candy is made overseas now because the labor is less expensive, but we are committed to staying right here in New Jersey and in Canada,” Dee says.

Alexis Christoforous is co-anchor of Yahoo Finance’s “The First Trade.” Follow her on Twitter @AlexisTVNews.

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