Wonka candy dating

( Michael Ciaglo / Houston Chronicle ) less Atkinson Candy Company national marketing manager Sarah Atkinson, left, and her father, Atkinson Candy Company president Eric Atkinson, right, walk through a storage room at the company Wednesday, May 17, 2017 ...

more LUFKIN - On a busy highway heading into this industrial East Texas town, a candy factory stands next to a chicken processing plant that sometimes wafts the smell of bird guts across the parking lot that divides them, mixing with the delicate scents of peppermint and peanuts. price supports and trade barriers, Atkinson pays about double what its foreign competitors do for the industry's main ingredient, creating constant pressure on the family-owned business to either sell out, shut down or shift production overseas.

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Dove, now a household name for fine chocolate, began as a family-owned candy shop dating back to 1939, Chicago.

The flourishing business passed through family generations and was eventually acquired by M&M/Mars, making it accessible nationwide.

"We finally just said, we've got to step out and do something about the opportunities that are out there." Protecting the sugar industry is just as much of an American tradition as the Atkinsons' Chick-O-Sticks, a wafery, peanut buttery mouthful coated with toasted coconut. Department of Agriculture agreeing to buy sugar when necessary to support the price.

It started in the Depression - right around the time that Atkinson's grandfather started selling candies out of the back of his truck - when the government put quotas on sugar imports and provided farmers with a direct subsidy in order to stabilize the industry. Adjustments in the 2008 Farm Bill were even more favorable to the sugar industry, and the price of raw sugar in the U. nearly doubled from 21 cents per pound that year to 38 cents in 2011, according to the USDA. sugar industry accused Mexican producers of "dumping" their product on the market, and succeeded in getting duties imposed in 2014. "I know that my price for sugar just went up 21 percent," Atkinson said.

But President Ronald Reagan's signature of the 1981 Farm Bill was what really drove a wedge between U. There was then a short reprieve, as a bumper crop in Mexico boosted sugar imports; Atkinson brought it in by railcar and built a facility to liquefy it himself. RELATED: Auto dealerships are America's most powerful middlemen And the sugar wars continue.

The commodity was one of the first trade matters confronting the Trump administration, and this week Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced a deal with Mexico's economic minister that lowers the amount of refined sugar that can be brought over the southern border. "While sugar has been protected, it's been a lot easier to move confectionery products into and out of the U. Employment in non-chocolate confectionery manufacturing declined from 27,000 people in 1998 to fewer than 20,000 in 2015.

Another one, dating from the 1960s, is being shipped back to England, where it was made, for an upgrade.

Other machines, imported from Germany and Italy, are more modern, able to cut and wrap thousands of individual candies per minute.

RELATED: The Brahman Connection Instead of automation, Atkinson is betting on sanitation, embarking on a million renovation and expansion to obtain a food safety certification that will allow them to sell to larger buyers - like pharmacy chains and grocery stores - that now insist on it.

That means installing a segmented HVAC system and putting walls in between each kind of candy production line. In an era when more people want simple ingredients, Atkinson's is swapping artificial additives for more natural ones, like Vitamin E for butylated hydroxytoluene, an antioxidant.

All this has Eric Atkinson, who wears his gray hair slicked back like a Texas-style Willy Wonka, worried whether he'll be able to pass the company onto a fourth generation.

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