It may be tough for some companies to compete in the highly saturated candy industry, but Hillside, N.J.-based Hillside Candy Co. has found success in a niche that caters to consumers who lead a healthy lifestyle but still want to enjoy the sweeter things in life, President and CEO Ted Cohen says. Hillside Candy’s GoLightly brand of sugar-free candies is one of the leading sugar-free candy brands on the market.
Its GoNaturally brand is making waves in the organic candy market as a premier line of USDA-certified organic candy. And Hillside Sweets is a line of sugar-added, old-fashioned hard candies.
All three brands are kosher certified and sold in drug store chains, mass merchandisers, grocery chains and supermarkets, gourmet stores and through natural and organic stores. Each brand offers a level of quality, consistency and deliciousness that is unmatched in the industry, Cohen asserts. “It’s a great feeling to know we hit on a winning, high-quality product and have filled a need in the market,” he says.
Hillside Candy celebrates its 30th anniversary this year, but its roots trace back to 1945 with Moru Industries Co., which did not mass-produce candy, but made a simple, individually wrapped honey drop confection. Founder Moses Rubinstein eventually turned the company over to his nephew, Myron Fisher, a candy chemist by trade. In 1980, Fisher grew tired of working 100 hours per week and agreed to sell the company to a group of investors. William Cohen, father of Ted Cohen, was one of the investors. Fisher initially agreed to stay on for 60 days, but he ended up working for the company for 19 more years.
Ted Cohen was asked by the investors to join the business. He was the second employee of the company and changed its name to GoLightly reflecting consumer interest in sugar-free, health-conscious foods in the mid-1980s. Cohen helped the company create a corporate identity and expand its portfolio to include more than 100 products. Today, GoLightly is shipped to thousands of U.S. accounts and exported to more than 20 countries. GoLightly includes chewy candy in flavors such as vanilla caramel, toffee and fudgie rolls, and hard candy in flavors such as butterscotch, cinnamon, coffee, licorice, mint and watermelon. In addition, GoLightly makes a sugar-free cough suppressant in honey lemon, menthol and wild cherry.
A Natural Winner
Ever attentive to consumer trends, the company delved into the organic market five years ago and obtained Quality Assurance International certification. No artificial colors are used in the production process, so each GoNaturally item has its own wrapper color. Its flavors include ginger, apple, cherry, honey, honey lemon, pomegranate, blood orange and iced mint mango – the latter two of which are brand new, Cohen says.
“We like to see what is happening in the market, what people really seem to like and enjoy, and what will stay,” he states. “When we come out with new flavors, we hope we can do it right and have our homework done so we can make sure they’re successful.”
Although the economy has been challenging, few consumers are willing to go without their candy, Cohen notes. “If the economy is poor and expendables are down, people are not going to go out as much,” he says. “But one thing that is still affordable is their sweets. People are willing to indulge in sweets because it’s a luxury without having to make a major investment. In addition to being a wonderful-tasting candy, we offer something that is a more healthy and a more natural alternative, so if you pick up our product, we guarantee we have a customer for life.”