Tennessee factory churns out candy corn for season

Sunday, October 28, 2001

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. -- Edmund Pyrz describes the candy pieces coming out of a cooler as looking like soldiers -- row up on row, just in time for Halloween.

Pyrz, the manager of Brach's Confections Inc.'s Chattanooga plant, has spent the last 39 years making candies of all kinds -- and breathing the workplace aromas of cooking sugars and fruits.

This time of year, the tradition is candy corn, an institution for a company that produces billions of the sweet little morsels every year.

Inside the plant, 230 workers handle trays of starches and gelatins alongside conveyor belts and gadgets that dye, mix, sort, wrap and package candies and fruit snacks. Other workers watch computer screens and laboratory monitors in the round-the-clock operation.

Part of everybody's job is keeping the place shiny and clean enough to eat candy off the floor, Pyrz said. When the cooking and wrapping are done -- which takes a little more than 24 hours for candy corn -- the treats are shipped across North America.

The work was harder before computers, Pyrz said.

Candy corn evokes early colonial history, when the Pilgrims relied on eating corn kernels to survive their first winter and planted corn the following spring, Jackson said. This year's harvest at Brach's includes the traditional corn-syrup flavor, and other recipes, such as caramel-apple and honey.

Kevin Jackson, marketing manager for Brach's Confections, said sales have remained strong over the past several years at Brach's, which expects to sell over 5 billion pieces of candy corn this Halloween season.

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