Living the ‘Sweet’ Life

A recent European American Chamber of Commerce networking event brought me to the Willie Wonka of Erlanger, Perfetti Van Melle – bAirheadsest known in the US for their candies Airheads™, Airheads Xtremes™ and Mentos™ (the freshmaker).  Fresh indeed is the candy made here!  I’ll liken the experience of eating freshly pinched airhead dough to eating a Krispy Kreme doughnut straight from the line – you’ll never have a fresher, warmer bite!  Afterward, the group basked in the soft candy glow from the extruder acknowledging that we each bear evidence of the flavor airhead sampled with colored tongues.  Did I mention that this tour is usually restricted to the 12 and under crowd?

Behind the delicious, famous candies is a sweet, sweet corporate culture.  The privately-held confectionary mogul has a very impressive global footprint and still I couldn’t help but notice how much their culture resonated with ours here at Barnes Dennig – striving for the ‘employer of choice’ workplace, a dedicated focus on giving back to the community, and a strategic plan to make “each day better than the next” as eloquently put by CEO Mehmet Yuksek.

As you might assume, what tax season is to CPAs, Halloween is for candy manufacturers (and perhaps dentists).  A fun ‘busy season’ activity at Perfetti Van Melle that doesn’t go unnoticed in their work environment reminded me of a past tour I was on at Zappos HQ in Las Vegas, NV.  Each team takes decorating their space for Halloween very seriously.  I pondered what our office would look like if we decorated for tax season, but quickly realize that April 15 can be scary enough without any decorations.airheads extremes

What struck me most, other than the sugar buzz, was that for being the 3rd largest confectionary candy maker in the world, you still have a small company feel at the Erlanger plant.  So next time you bite into an Airhead™ – be sure to check the back of the wrapper – it’s made here right in our back yard, where life is most definitely sweeter.

Thank you to the EACC and Perfetti Van Melle for hosting us and Happy Halloween to all.  May your treat bags be overflowing with Airheads™ and Mentos™ candies!


Some fun facts about Airheads:

  • Airheads travel about a mile through the factory from start to finish.
  • There’s a growing number of crafts and recipes using Airheads on Pinterest.
  • Cincinnati held (briefly) the world record for the largest concurrent mentos/diet coke explosions.  I witnessed this on Fountain Square.  See for yourself here.
  • One fact I was not able to obtain is the flavor the “White Mystery” airhead is made from – trade secret!
  • When they come off the line to packaging, they actually are not smooth.  The smoothness comes as it cools in the wrapper.
  • The next generation of Airheads are called Airhead Bites.  Mentos-sized individual bites with a slightly harder outer shell.
  • Airheads are can only be found in the US (pun intended).  Though there is a whole portfolio of other very popular candy made by Perfetti Van Melle around the globe.