Building a Brand Name – A Love Affair with Chocolate

About the Episode

Chocolate makes the world go round – at least it does for Sarris Chocolates. William Sarris discusses the growth and evolution of a small family chocolate company into a major player in the independent chocolate business, Sarris Chocolates. He discusses the universal love of chocolate, the company’s growth from the family’s basement to a destination retail shop, the production facilities that produce over 3000 chocolate novelties, and how this family has built a brand that continues to evolve and grow.

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“Make your own brand. You’ve got to build your brand – one person at a time.”

William Sarris

In this Episode

1:29 What makes chocolate so popular?
3:44 William Sarris’ background and a brief history of Sarris Candies.
9:02 How did the acquisition of Gardners Candies come about in 1997?
12:01 What are the biggest challenges in working with and sourcing chocolate?
15:30 What are the supply-side risks of sourcing cacao, and is it possible to mitigate risk?
18:50 What is the production chain for chocolate candies?
22:39 What exact chemicals are in cacao that leave human beings feeling good?
28:32 How has the candy industry changed since Sarris Chocolates started in the early 1960s?
31:26 What is involved in chocolate production? How hard is it for a small company to start and stay in the chocolate industry?
34:40 How long does it take to go through the production process from the beginning to shipping a final product?
39:34 What is the in-store shopping experience like for visitors at the Sarris Candies store?
43:42 How difficult is it to balance the company’s brand in the chocolate industry versus the brand image with customers?
46:43 What lessons can be learned from business decisions that may be good or bad?
52:10 What are some considerations for making an acquisition in the chocolate industry?
55:32 What has contributed to the success of Sarris Candies?
56:42 What are the challenges in maintaining a retail business in general and in the chocolate industry specifically?
1:03:45 What lies ahead for the chocolate industry, and what will be the biggest changes in the next generation?

Learn More About This Episode

Resources Mentioned in This Episode

Acronyms or Terms Used in This Episode

  • CBD: Cannabidiol – a compound derived from cannabis plants with potential therapeutic properties.
  • NFL: National Football League – the highest level of professional American football in the United States.
  • NHL: National Hockey League – the premier professional ice hockey league in North America.
  • PR: Public Relations – the practice of managing communication between an organization and the public to build a positive image.
  • RCA Records: Radio Corporation of America Records – a historic record label that was one of the most influential in the music industry.
  • R&D Department: Research and Development Department – a division within a company focused on innovation and product improvement.
  • UPS: United Parcel Service – an American multinational package delivery and supply chain management company.

Meet Our Guest

William Sarris

William Sarris

CEO of Sarris Candies

William Sarris is CEO of Sarris Candies, a family-owned business that his father started in the basement of the family home in 1960. Bill began working in the family business as a small boy, then joined full-time after graduating from Washington & Jefferson College with a BS in chemistry and physics. Bill has used his chemistry background in the development of chocolate recipes Sarris still uses today. 

Sarris Candies has grown from being a home-based business to being available in over 1800 locations across more than 11 states. The Sarris Chocolate Factory and Ice Cream Parlour in Canonsburg, PA, has a production and retail facility that covers an area the size of a full city block, with over 100 yards of chocolate, penny candy, ice cream, and life-like plush toys. The company is also active through its online store and operates Gardners Candies store in central Pennsylvania. Bill was named Ernst & Young’s 2014 Entrepreneur of the Year in the Family Business Category for the Western Pennsylvania and West Virginia region.

Location Location: Canonsburg, Pennsylvania

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