Mahoning Valley candy makers ready for Easter

Area candy companies are prepared for the holiday



John Giannios is used to the stares that often accompany the unorthodox delivery of his candy company’s 20-pound, semisolid chocolate bunnies that, at almost 3 feet tall, are bigger than some children.

“When we have to deliver them, I put them in my front seat and put my seatbelt over it,” said Giannios, an owner of Giannios Candy Co. at 430 Youngstown-Poland Road.

But with Easter as the holiday that makes up about 50 percent of his 104-year-old company’s business for the entire year, the funny looks are worth it.

Other area candy makers similarly depend upon Easter sales, with most beginning to get ready for their busiest season — one that is filled with millions of pounds of chocolate bunnies and eggs — months in advance.

This flurry of activity continues all the way up until Easter, which is next Sunday.

Giannios said Easter’s being late this year gives the company two extra weeks to create and sell about half-a-million pounds of Easter candy, including some 80,000 one-pound chocolate eggs filled with peanut butter, nuts and coconut, among other flavors.

Traditionally, a late Easter results in a higher volume of sales, thanks to a longer buying season, Giannios added.

Further sweetening this year’s Easter season is Orthodox Easter’s falling on the same day — it often occurs a few weeks after the Easter celebrated by many Western churches, and those who observe it frequently buy later, taking advantage of post-Easter candy sales.

“With a late Easter, people buy candy early, then take it home and eat it,” and have to buy more, Giannios said. “With an early Easter, people don’t realize it’s Easter.”

Despite less procrastination being associated with a late Easter, the last two weeks before the holiday are regularly the busiest for sales, said Jeff Thacker, retail coordinator for Gorant Chocolatier, which was founded in 1949 and is based at 8301 Market St. in Boardman.

Some products do begin selling before then, so the company starts preparing for Easter as much as it can right after Valentine’s Day — another one of the major candy holidays. Then, as Easter moves closer and closer, candy production continues, and retail store hours are extended.

Thacker added that the most popular Easter products, including molded lambs and crosses and 1-ounce foil eggs, remain steady from year to year. He noted, too, that Gorant Chocolatier’s three retail stores and one licensed store carry everything needed to make up an Easter basket — even the baskets themselves.

Georgia Picciotto, a bookkeeper at the Sharon, Pa.-based Daffin’s Candies, emphasized that though Christmas is another important holiday for the company her uncle, Pete Daffin, started in 1947, Easter is “totally different.”

With Christmas, it’s a lot of boxed candies. But with Easter, it’s a smorgasboard of chocolate eggs, most weighing from a quarter-pound up to a pound, and chocolate molds shaped like cars, cats and cheerleaders, to name only a few.

Production on these often begins right after Christmas, Picciotto added.

But Spyros Macris, president of the 95-year-old Philadelphia Candies based in Hermitage, Pa., explained that thinking about Easter marketing and products is a “constant” in the candy-making business.

Regardless of what time of year it is, Macris said, he always has this most-important holiday — and its myriad chocolate eggs, including the ever-popular marshmallow egg that sells out every year, and novelty chocolates, “all the way from airplanes, to horses, to baseball mitts” — in mind.

He noted that despite the abundance of candy companies in the area, and especially family-owned candy companies, the competition is friendly. Each company’s products has its own unique taste — and nothing is more satisfying to a candy manufacturer than seeing others’ “joy from a product you made,” Macris said.

It’s the same feeling for Greg Giannios, who owns the candy company with his two brothers, no matter the time of year.

“We’re all family, and everything we do comes from our heart,” he said. “If it’s not done right, I don’t want it. ... It’s all personal.”

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