Jacksonville Chocolatier and Candy Maker: Sweet Pete'sJuly 26, 2014 5 comments Print Article
EatDrinkJax.com interviews Allison Behringer of Sweet Pete's. The Natural and Organic Candymaker enjoying national attention (and a little extra capital) from Reality Television.
Dark Chocolate Almond Bar. Photo courtesy Sweet Pete’s.
Talking candy with Allison Behringer
1. Tell us about Sweet Pete’s.
Sweet Pete’s is an all natural candy store. It’s very whimsical. It’s all about having fun. We consider it a madcap confectionary.
2. What kinds of candy do you feature?
We have all kinds of handmade chocolates and candies. We have 20 flavors of organic cotton candy, ice cream, ice cream sundaes, gummies, taffies, home made marshmallows … anything that’s a confectionary product is something we’d consider carrying. We make most of our candy but if there’s something we can't make then we look at bringing in someone else’s product, as long as it’s up to our standards.
3. How do you come up with all your candy ideas?
Pete loves the classic candies so that’s where he starts. We also have really good base recipes and once those are in place you can go in a lot of different directions by experimenting with flavors. For instance, Pete does a really good fondant, which is a cream center. Once you have a really good, hand made fondant, then you can easily turn that into a Bourbon Butter Cream or a Key Lime Center or other exotic flavors.
4. Why the focus on all-natural candies?
Initially when we were forming our concept for Sweet Pete’s we knew we wanted to do something with candy. We were out shopping and came across a pretty expensive lollipop that cost $8 and was being sold as a gourmet item. It was made in China and contained ingredients like titanium dioxide. That started the whole thing and got us going on about just making candy the way it was supposed to be made with pure ingredients. For us, we try to stick with no artificial flavors or colors, no high fructose corn syrup, and no hydrogenated fats. Those are the big things for us. Whenever possible we try to use tapioca syrup. At one point we were just too small to be able to order and store the quantities needed to make it cost effective but I think with our new place that won’t be an issue.
Jelly Beans. Photo courtesy Sweet Pete’s.
5. How did Sweet Pete’s get started?
After our family sold Peterbrooke in 2009 Peter and I weren’t sure what we were going to do. We looked around and ultimately came up with the concept of Sweet Pete’s. It was born out of all the different stores we’d seen and that made a mark on us - candy stores, retail stores, and all types of different stores.
6. What are your respective roles?
Pete is responsible for making the candy and I’m focused on the business side of Sweet Pete’s.
White Chocolate Toffee Cashews. Photo courtesy Sweet Pete’s.
7. What do you like about the candy business?
It’s definitely fun. Customers come in in a good mood - they’re excited and happy when they’re getting candy. From a marketing perspective it’s an easy thing to work with. In terms of what we do, we sell at all different price points. We have really high end candy and corporate chocolate gifts but we also try to always have things that are really attainable, so even though it’s all natural, we try to keep our ice cream at a price point where anyone can come in with 4 kids and $10 and get out the door. It’s been really neat to see people from all economic backgrounds be able to come in and share time with their families.
Chocolate Dipped Potato Chips
8. Who’s the audience for Sweet Pete’s?
We have a very diverse mix - and that makes for a real marketing challenge. We need to have multiple approaches. Initially, what we knew from Peterbrooke’s was to focus on corporate business and gifts. That’s where our brains went to. We knew we wanted to do something different, which was why we brought in all these other candies like lollipops and taffies. We quickly learned that we had a whole different type of customer - people who just like the experience of bringing their family over for something to do while picking up some candy and ice cream. Now we have all those types of customers, from corporate to drop-ins looking for something to do. The class business is a whole other market. That ranges from kids' birthday parties to adults who really do want to learn the craft of making a truffle or a cherry cordial. We even get bachelorette parties that want to bring in a little wine and have some fun making chocolate before they go out. So, we really run the gamut.
Marshmallow and Nougat. Photo courtesy Sweet Pete’s.
9. What’s your most popular candy?
Our most popular candy is our Sea Salt Caramel. It’s a really, really true form of caramel that’s made in a small batch by someone who stands over it and stirs it for 45 minutes. It’s not a secret recipe so much as it’s investing the time in each pot. Once it’s cooked it’s sprinkled with sea salt over the top. Because of the way it’s made, with the sea salt on the top instead of being blended in, you get a punch of salt at the beginning, which our customers really like. With most mass-produced sea salt caramels you don’t get that because when you run it through a machine to wrap the candy it rips the salt off the top. All our caramel is hand wrapped and we don’t have any plans to change that - no matter how big we get.