Food Service & Agriculture, Manufacturing, and Retail

Candy maker wins statewide Exporter of the Year award

August 31, 2018
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John Bruinsma, left, Gov. Rick Snyder, Debra Bruinsma 2018 Ag Exporter of the Year award
John Bruinsma, left, Governor Rick Snyder, and Debra Bruinsma. Courtesy Dr. John’s Candies

A candy maker in the area has been honored by the Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development.

Comstock Park-based Dr. John’s Candies was the recipient of the 2018 Michigan Agricultural Exporter of the Year award, which was presented by Governor Rick Snyder.

Dr. John’s Candies was founded in 1995 by dentist John Bruinsma and his dental hygienist wife Debra Bruinsma.

“It’s always a thrill to watch great entrepreneurs like John and Debra burst onto the world market like they have,” said Gordon Wenk, director, MDARD. “And it’s an even bigger thrill when MDARD can play a small role in helping them succeed, bring attention to their wonderfully unique products or recognize them in this way.”

The company makes sugar-free lollipops, hard candies, caramels, chocolates, gums and taffies, which have no artificial colors, flavors or sweeteners and are free of major allergens.

“We are honored to be the recipient of the 2018 Ag Exporter of the Year award,” said Debra Bruinsma, co-founder, Dr. John’s Candies. “We never dreamed a dentist and a dental hygienist looking for a better alternative for our patients could grow a cottage business into an internationally sought-after brand of candy that provides nutritional benefits and fights tooth decay.”

There are multiple factors that go into naming a Michigan Agricultural Exporter of the Year. Some of the factors include marketing plans, the ability to expand into new markets, alliances with other organizations and export sales growth over the last three years.

Dr. John’s Candies sold about 260,000 pounds of candy in 2017, and it expects to sell more than 350,000 pounds of candy in 2018, according to Debra Bruinsma.

The candies are sold in the U.S., and the company also exports 22 percent of its annual sales to numerous countries, such as Canada, Germany, South Korea, Japan, China and New Zealand.

Dr. John’s Candies manufactures its own candies, except its gums and chocolates, in White Pigeon and soon Comstock Park. Its chocolates are manufactured in Chicago, and its gums are made in New York.

Its distribution office is in Comstock Park.

Dr. John’s Candies employ 20 people, but it is hoping to increase its employee base.

Debra Bruinsma said they are looking to hire six to eight people in the next few months as they look to open a new facility in Grand Rapids.

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