September 12th, 2015 → 11:00 pm @ linette
It was only after he lost his biggest customer that candy maker Scott Rehm realized who cared most about his peppermints.
For years, the Florida Candy Factory made the bulk of its Angel Mints and Old Fashioned Salt Water Taffy for the Walt Disney Co., where the sweets were sold in theme park gift shops and catalogs and stuffed in commemorative mugs.
The 4,000-square-foot factory on Lakeview Road reached sales of $1.2 million a year with Disney and smaller customers, like convenience stores and hospital gift shops.
But in 2000, Disney cut ties with the factory to lower costs and outsource candy manufacturing. The loss forced Rehm to go from 25 employees to seven, from nonstop production to having idle time.
As Rehm grappled with what to do next, he finally read the letters that for years had piled up on his desk.
Customers had written gripping testimonials about how Angel Mints kept their appetite alive as chemotherapy pillaged the rest of their body, how that little burst of peppermint made from a century-old recipe enlivened dormant taste buds, how the mint was a terminally ill friend’s last request.
“Eating the Angel Mint has not only stopped this taste from interrupting my sleep for the entire night, but it also brings me a sense of peace because it’s so comforting.”
Rehm knew then that he had a new focus for his business.
• • •
Peppermint is considered one of the world’s oldest medicines and has been used as a palliative therapy for nausea, indigestion and other discomforts.
In large batches, Rehm said, the oil is strong enough to suck stains out of wood and burn through jeans.
Lauri Wright, a dietitian and associate professor of nutrition at University of South Florida Health, said peppermint helps patients deal with chemotherapy, which leaves a bizarre, metallic taste on their tongues, sometimes called chemo mouth.
“Eating is such a personal thing, and they’re already experiencing such a scare in their life, then to take away one of the most simple pleasures of eating, that’s why we see more depression in patients going through the process,” Wright said.
Experts are not entirely sure why chemotherapy has this effect, but it’s in part because the chemicals destroy cells in the mouth, Wright said.
It leaves patients unable to taste their food, which can discourage them from eating and further weakness and weight loss. Wright said peppermint is potent enough to mask chemo mouth, even if it’s only a short while of relief.
• • •
My mother passed away a few years ago, and the only thing she could enjoy toward the end were Angel Mints. My best friend’s mom was very ill, and so I passed the candy on. It was the last thing she asked for.
• • •
Rehm said his mints have a palliative effect that other artificial candies may not because of the simple ingredients, cooking method and temperature, which haven’t changed since 1919 when they were first sold on the Atlantic City Boardwalk.
The mints are made from pure peppermint oil, cane sugar, non-high fructose corn syrup and a dash of cream of tartar to help bind them together. That’s it.
“I’m not trying to say we’re curing cancer. We’re not advanced medicine here, but from a therapeutic, palliative perspective,” there’s something to it, he said.
At the factory, sugar cane boils in copper kettles over gas stoves from the 1940s. Machines that stretch the candy and twist it into bite size pieces are more than 100 years old.
Rehm’s father, Jerry Rehm, bought the company and recipes in 1984 from a New Jersey entrepreneur and moved the factory to the Clearwater location, in a shopping plaza with a sandwich shop and home decor store.
The family business now produces 30,000 mints each day. They are sold in Whole Foods, Wawa convenience stores, Ace Hardware stores and upward of 3,000 hospital gift shops across the country. Sales total about $450,000 a year, less than half of what they did with Disney, but Rehm said the factory’s homey atmosphere is another secret to quality.
Candy making was the first job plant manager Richie Mattiace, 57, landed after high school in Philadelphia and was the only thing he wanted to do when he relocated to Florida with his wife in 1993.
He found the Florida Candy Factory while flipping through the yellow pages looking for work, and for the past 22 years has been part of a tiny staff in a little-known factory that is working to carry on a century’s old tradition.
“Candy is the only job I’ve ever had in my entire life,” Mattiace said. “Willy Wonka is my favorite character. I feel like I’m one of the Oompa Loompas. Candy just makes you happy. It makes people happy.”
• • •
I ordered these for my father in law who is living in Florida currently and is fighting terminal brain cancer. Chemo and radiation have cut his appetite and nothing tastes right. He loves candy, however!
About eight years ago, Rehm said family friend Rep. C.W. Bill Young arranged for him to meet with pharmaceutical company Bristol-Myers Squibb in Washington to discuss a possible partnership that could expand the mints’ reach. The idea was to have Bristol-Myers sponsor the Angel Mint, slap its name on the wrapper, and hand it out to patients for free, like they do pens.
But after four months of discussions, Rehm said the company passed on the deal for liability reasons.
A few years later, Rehm approached Moffitt Cancer Center with a similar pitch, but the deal would have required product testing costing upwards of $50,000, Rehm said.
“We decided then it just had to be grass roots,” he said.
Rehm said the first step in his company’s self discovery was losing a million-dollar client. The next is figuring out how to reach more patients in hospitals and cancer rooms.
“We’ll never be a Nestle or a Hershey,” he said, ” but I really think there’s a purpose to our product.”
Contact Tracey McManus at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 445-4151. Follow @TroMcManus.
Many thanks to Tampa Bay Times (@TB_Times) and Tracey McManus for this wonderful article!
Please visit Tampa Bay Times to read more…
September 2nd, 2015 → 1:58 pm @ scott
We are happy to announce, the Food Factory TV show produced a story about our Angel Mint candy! The segment is scheduled to air on the FYI channel, Labor Day – beginning at 7 pm. The Food Factory episode is called From Argentina With Love.
April 1st, 2015 → 11:21 pm @ linette
October 6th, 2014 → 5:34 am @ linette
September 14th, 2014 → 11:22 pm @ linette
One of Florida Candy Factory’s sweet Angel’s was recently married. Attached is a wonderful video segment of the heavenly event. The bride (Lindsey) is the daughter of Scott Rehm, Florida Candy Factory President. We hope you enjoy the video!
September 5th, 2013 → 4:40 pm @ scott
Fox 13’s Charley Belcher visited Florida Candy Factory to see how the Angel Mint and Salt Water Taffy were made. A wonderful day had by all! Please visit Fox 13’s coverage of our factory.
FOX 13 News
September 26th, 2012 → 1:35 pm @ scott
The Angel Mint was recently included in the September / October 2012 Convenience Distribution magazine article, titled – The Gum & Mint Revolution by Lisa White. The article link is above for your reading pleasure!
November 11th, 2011 → 6:09 pm @ scott
They say that if you’re looking for love, you need to stop looking.
That’s clear as mud, right?
The theory is that if you’re in the market for a love interest, you’re more likely to meet someone when you’re not looking or at least not “trying” to meet someone special.
I used to wonder about that “back in the day” before I met the Big Man. It seemed a bit of an oxymoron. How are you supposed to not look when you’re open to romance and potential suitors might be anywhere? I never did figure that out since, in all honesty, I was technically “looking” when the Big Man and I met.
I think the theory works better for matters of the non-heart variety.
I had this experience on a road trip with the Big Man. I wasn’t looking for my new favorite thing, but I found it.
On our way to a college football game in Michigan, we planned a short stopover in Toledo, OH so that he could fulfill yet another of his food pilgrimage dreams—eating Hungarian hot dogs from Tony Packo’s Restaurant. These are the hot dogs that Klinger always talked about on the TV series M A S H.
The restaurant has a small gift shop where we bought a couple t-shirts. I also bought a handful of mints called Angel Mints.
That handful of mints didn’t make it out of Ohio. One taste and I couldn’t stop eating them!
Each mint is approximately 2 inches in length and looks like a piece of snowy white chalk, but tastes ever so much better. When you put one in your mouth you expect the texture to be dry and flaky, but these mints are anything but chalklike. The texture is very creamy and the mint melts in your mouth.
The manufacturer—Florida Candy Factory, Inc.—managed to achieve the perfect amount of mintiness in this candy. The peppermint flavor is just strong enough, but not that “curiously strong” kind where you feel like you’re eating medicine.
Naturally, after I snarfed down my meager handful of mints, I began to obsess about getting some more. Fortunately, I saved a wrapper from one of them and found the Florida Candy Factory online where I learned that the mints not only taste fabulous, but are practically health food.
Score! I ordered a couple bags of them.
The mints contain no preservatives, gluten, fat, soy or salt. They’ve also been certified by a nonprofit group that promotes public health through the study of diet, food and nutrition as being free from synthetic (artificial) coloring, synthetic flavoring, synthetic fragrance, BHT, BHA, TBHQ & aspartame.
And if that’s not enough, Angel Mints have one more very big thing going for them. They have palliative therapy benefits that have been shown to help individuals undergoing chemotherapy by providing 30-45 minutes of relief from the musty, metallic taste left behind by chemo treatments. The pure peppermint is known to be very therapeutic in combating nausea.
I believe I may have found the perfect little indulgence. Must have been divine intervention that introduced me to Angel Mints (with a little help from Hungarian hotdogs).
Chickaliciousness: 5 for heavenly taste
March 11th, 2011 → 4:25 pm @ scott
Florida Candy Factory, Inc., is proud to announce that in February 2011 Tree of Life, a KeHE Company added both the Angel Mint and “All Natural” Salt Water Taffy to their line of great natural food products.
Please call Scott at 1-866-865-5766 or email to email@example.com for ordering information of these two wonderful products through Tree of Life, a KeHE Company.
Decades of Dedication
Tree of Life’s partnership with natural food retailers is in their roots. Tree of Life started in 1970 as a retail natural food store, purchasing bulk nuts, dried fruit, seeds and grains for its customers and distributing them to other natural food stores in the region. By 1973, the retail store was sold so that the company could focus on its rapidly expanding distribution business. In 1986, Tree of Life began a process of expansion and by 1989 had become the first nationwide distributor of natural and organic products.
Through almost 40 years of hard work and dedication, Tree of Life has become a highly respected distributor of natural, organic, specialty and multicultural food products. Today, they’re proud to support thousands of retailers with the most complete selection of healthy lifestyle products available, from suppliers around the world.