DANA, Ind. – Valentine’s Day is extra sweet for Brooke Schmidt and Dana Vicars, owners of Brooke’s Candy Co. and Brooke’s Naturals in Dana, Ind. Their plans for after the …
DANA, Ind. – Valentine’s Day is extra sweet for Brooke Schmidt and Dana Vicars, owners of Brooke’s Candy Co. and Brooke’s Naturals in Dana, Ind. Their plans for after the holiday will satisfy sweet-toothed patrons nationwide
Sisters Schmidt and Vicars began Brooke’s Candy Co. 15 years ago with the help of their family. They pride themselves on using traditional methods and all-natural, quality ingredients in their candy lineup of chocolate-covered caramels, truffles, turtles and their bestselling almond toffee.
“We make all our caramel and toffee in copper kettles,” explained Schmidt, co-owner and president of Brooke’s Candy Co. “We use Belgian chocolate for all of our chocolates, and everything is hand-dipped.”
The approach has gained them a following. Music fans may remember the company’s goodie bags making a splash at the 2015 Grammy Awards. But Schmidt and Vicars have not stopped at candy – love of sweets and their customers inspired a venture into the baking world.
One day a customer asked if they had any gluten- and rice-free brownie mixes, since she was celiac and also intolerant of the rice flour many manufacturers use instead of wheat flour. The sisters were initially daunted, until they looked into creating baking mixes and realized it was entirely within their talents.
The result was a hit with the customer’s family, who had no idea it was gluten-free, and Brooke’s Naturals was born.
The philosophy of Brooke’s Naturals is a gluten-free dessert should be so good, no one needs to make a separate dessert for family and friends who can safely eat gluten. They do this by paying attention to texture and taste and consulting the experts.
“Everything we made, we’ve taste-tested with our kids to make sure everyone likes it,” said Vicars, who is co-owner and vice president.
Brooke’s candy and mixes soon branched into retail. Currently, Baesler’s Market chain carries baking mixes, toffee and frozen brownies, and Sycamore Winery in Terre Haute, Ind., sells prepackaged almond toffee.
Breaking onto store shelves was a switch from selling chocolate locally.
“We evolved, definitely, because we went retail,” Schmidt said.
Specifically, they learned to diversify, think on a broad scale and consider how long products last in the stores. The retail experience fed their next dream: becoming a major name in the gluten-free market. Pursuing that has required even more changes, like working with a brand development firm, focusing on only their best products and inventing new ones.
Their year and a half of hard work is about to pay off. This spring, Brooke’s Naturals will introduce themselves to America through their latest creation, the Now Muffin.
Now Muffins are single-serving, just-add-water desserts in a cup, made with Brooke’s trademark dedication to taste and good ingredients. Schmidt and Vicars are eagerly counting down the weeks until their creation debuts this spring.
“We’re really excited and we know this will be our number one product come this summer,” said Schmidt.
Through retail sales and their online store, they intend to prove it is possible to go big and go home. The plan is to take on a contract packager, or copacker, to help them distribute their desserts nationwide without having to buy expensive packing equipment themselves. This strategy puts money back under the company so they can grow and keep their beloved Dana as their center of operations.
The sisters’ joy and dedication make it obvious their heart-shaped chocolate boxes and shelves of dessert are popular for the same reason: they are made with love, to love.
Anyone wanting to find truly special treats for their significant others – or themselves – can attend Brooke’s Candy Co. Valentine’s Day open houses 9 a.m.-noon today, Feb. 8 and 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Feb. 13 and 14 at the company’s headquarters, 241 Maple Street, Dana.
All of their products are available online at www.brookescandyco.com.