Peanut Chews' maker to be sold Just Born, of Bethlehem, will buy Goldenberg Candy, of Philadelphia, in a deal that is expected to close in April.

Posted: January 15, 2003

The maker of Marshmallow Peeps has developed a taste for Goldenberg's Peanut Chews.

Just Born Inc., the Bethlehem, Pa., company also known for Hot Tamales and Mike & Ike candies, said yesterday that it had agreed to buy Philadelphia's Goldenberg Candy Co.

The two family-owned companies, which have long histories in the candy industry, did not disclose the sale price. The deal is expected to close in April.

Selling the company was a momentous decision for the Goldenberg family, which has been in the candy business since David Goldenberg, a Romanian immigrant, opened a candy store on Kensington Avenue in 1890.

"It just got more and more difficult through the years," said Carl A. Goldenberg, company chairman and grandson of the founder. "We were still a regional company, and regional companies are having a hard time these days."

Goldenberg, 75, said that, when he started in the business in 1950, the company probably had 1,000 customers, and half of them were family-owned wholesalers.

Today, Goldenberg Candy's customer base is dominated by retailers, such as Wal-Mart, Sam's Club, Rite Aid, and all the big supermarket chains. "You have to have a whole lot of cash to get on the counter," and that does not even guarantee a good spot there, he said.

Goldenberg also said there had been little growth in recent years, particularly since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. "We knew that we had to find a way to run the business a little differently," he said.

He said Goldenberg Candy has roughly $15 million in annual sales. Just Born does not publicize its revenue.

"We think that we were very fortunate that Just Born was looking for something like us," said Goldenberg, who knew the grandfather of Just Born's current owners, cousins Ross Born and David Shaffer.

Peanut Chews has the potential to become a flagship brand for Just Born, which was founded in 1923, Matt Petronio, the company's vice president of marketing, said.

"We're confident that a lot of doors will be opened to Peanut Chews" because of Just Born's national selling and distribution system, he said.

"They are a one-product company, which, on one hand, allowed them to focus and become very good at doing that," Petronio said. "However, from a marketplace standpoint, to go to market with one product makes it very difficult to reach critical mass with retailers."

Just Born plans to continue making Peanut Chews and Chew-ets in the Goldenberg factory, which is visible from Interstate 95, in the Holmesburg section of North Philadelphia.

Most of Goldenberg Candy's 65 employees are expected to keep their jobs. A few clerical jobs may be lost, said Goldenberg, who has tentatively agreed to remain with the company for two years as a consultant.

Goldenberg's son, David Goldenberg, who is president of the company, is expected to be managing director of the Goldenberg's division of Just Born. His cousin, Mindy Goldenberg, who is in charge of sales and marketing, is expected to retain those responsibilities after the sale.

Contact staff writer Harold Brubaker at 215-854-4651 or hbrubaker@phillynews.com.

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