Candy Factory Tours Are A Sweet Distraction

Candy Factory Tours Are A Sweet Distraction

What do you do when you are traveling across the country in your RV and a craving for candy hits? Stopping in at the local grocery store is one option, but the selection may be limited. And, what about the expiration date on that package of jelly beans or gummies?

When satisfying your sweet tooth produces more questions than satisfaction, you might want to opt for a candy factory tour. Several candy factories are nationally known for their confections and offer their customers the opportunity to see the candy making process and provide a bit of indulgence along the way. In many cases, these tours are free, which is always an incentive.

As with any business that welcomes the public, the times of Covid-19 have resulted in closure of factories and visitor centers to outside guests at some of these candy factories. Check online or with the location directly to see if tours are available and to be aware of any restrictions.

Factory tours in general have been around for more than a century. In the early days of mass manufacturing three commodities most often offered tours, with breweries, mines and textiles the oldest on record, according to Dr. Allison Marsh, a professor at the University of South Carolina. In fact, touring a factory became as much a part of a vacation as finding lodging and experiencing local culture.

These early tours helped familiarize the American consumer with the mechanized process of making products for American consumption. As households moved from a make it, can it, etc. mentality to looking for a ready-made lifestyle, tours brought consumers in to see the process for themselves. This helped spur purchases of foods, such as cereals, pickles, and candy.

These early tours would not meet the strict safety and sanitary guidelines now in place. In some factories, visitors are not welcomed onto the manufacturing floor. Instead, companies such as Hershey’s has adopted an attraction-based approach to visitors who want to see how their candies are made. Hershey’s Chocolate World is one of the most popular candy factory tours, hitting the 100 millionth visitor mark in 2016, 40 years after it opened the visitor center to the public.

Hershey, Pennsylvania is a popular destination for travelers of all ages and nationalities. In addition to the free factory tour, Hershey, Pennsylvania offers more attractions and things to do that it has become a one-stop family vacation destination.

But Hershey is not the only place in the United States that gives candy fans a close-up experience. Several nationally known brands also have visitor centers which offer a view into the candy manufacturing world.

Here are a few:

  • PEZ Candies have been a staple of children for generations, with more than 3 billion candies eaten each year in the US. PEZ’s appeal is more than just the candies; the dispensers have become collectible. It represented the first interactive candy sold to consumers.
  • Located in Orange, Connecticut, the PEZ visitors center provides a self-guided tour that explains the manufacturing process. It is also the manufacturing hub, so access to the manufacturing floor is not permitted. Visitor’s however can get a view into the process of making the shaped candies through windows and monitors that demonstrate the manufacturing processes of the dispensers and the candies.
  • The tour is not free; there is an admission charge which is offset by a store credit valid on the same day of your tour. Admission is $4 for children 3 – 12 and for seniors, $5 for adults. Children under three years of age are free.
  • Albanese Confectionary Group is known for its selection of gummies and chocolates as well as other sweet treats. Its signature candy is the Gummi Bear. Located in Merrillville, Indiana, it is convenient to Interstate routes to Chicago and Indianapolis. Relatively new to the candy scene, the company was founded in 1983 and has been recognized by the industry for its products and innovations.
  • The factory tour here is free. According to the company’s website, this is the only tour offered on the production of gummi candies. Visitors of all ages and abilities can view the operation through 10 windows and two videos. A tour guidebook is also provided. Tours take between 30 – 50 minutes.
  • If jelly beans are your favorite sweet treat, Jelly Belly offers factory tours at two locations – one in Kenosha, Wisconsin and Fairfield, California.
  • Tours of the California facility include a ¼ mile walking above the factory floor that also features interactive exhibits and games. Free samples are offered at the conclusion of the tour.
  • In Wisconsin, guests embark on a train ride that takes them through the jelly bean making process. The Kenosha site is a warehouse, but it also houses a visitor center. An interesting exhibit is the art gallery featuring works of art created with jelly beans.

Don’t forget about the local candy shops in the towns and villages you travel through. Popular locations such as Frankenmuth, Michigan, Helen, Georgia and other areas will always have a local candy maker or fudge shop in town. Whether it is watching someone make pralines in New Orleans or fudge on Mackinac Island, a little sugar, a little chocolate can elevate the mood and be a fun diversion.

Adding a factory tour to your travel itinerary can be a welcome break from the road. These tours do not usually take very long and can offer the opportunity to fill up the snack bag as you head on to your next destination. Do you have a favorite candy? Check to see if tours are offered by the candy maker for a new perspective on how your favorite treat is made.

Aug 7th 2020 Lois Tomaszewski

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