Todd Baker led us through a tasty story about their family business - Baker's Chocolates. And, he shared meltaways with Lincoln South Rotary Club at The Venue on May 14, 2021.
It is obvious that Todd is passionate about the family business. And he loves his family and sharing their story. He knows there are a lot worse jobs a person can do - he appreciates what he is allowed to do every day.
 
As he circulated the meltaways, he said that he knows that he cannot do a presentation without them. His presentation would be cut very short if he failed to bring samples.
 
They established their business in Greenwood because their family has lived in Cass County for years. Also, Greenwood is only a few minutes from the interstate making it easy to ship supplies in and orders out.
 
We learned that cocoa beans can only grow with a very specific climate - within 20 degrees of the equator. The beans are grown in pods which are harvested at the plantation. The beans are dumped in a vat where they ferment - the process needed to allow the flavor to develop. The solids drift to the bottom of the vat and the liquid - cocoa butter - is then skimmed off the top.
 
Both of these products - the cocoa solid and liquid - are the two main ingredients in making chocolate. So, they grew together, were separated during fermentation, and then reunited as the chocolate is being made.
 
 
Todd proudly shared the story of how his father, Kevin started the business. His dad was in the business of building and maintaining the equipment to mass produce missiles. He would look at the design of the product and then design the equipment to mass produce to those specifications. Mass production was so effective that they would produce large orders at a time. It seems he worked himself out of a job.
 
He connected up with the candy company Bauer and Blum as they hoped he could reinvent machinery for their gourmet chocolates. He realized that the design of equipment could revolutionize the process and set out to create mass production equipment. When he was satisfied with his designs, unfortunately the company he had been working for was no longer in the candy making business.
 
With a lot of thought and family support, Kevin finally decided that they could start a candy making manufacturing business and make the candies better and more affordable because of mass production. Todd asked us to "imagine your thoughts as a 5-year old (him) sitting in the kitchen and hearing your dad say we are starting a candy making company".
 
 
Interestingly, they had the equipment - but no recipes. With most companies, they had the recipes, so then designed the equipment to support the recipes. Instead they had to come up with the recipes that could be made using their equipment. It took about a year to come up with a good recipe.
 
Todd said that the goal when they went into production was to become "Nebraska's Chocolates". He compared it to how we recognize "Nebraska's Pizza" (Valentino's), "Nebraska's Stuffed Sandwich" (Runza) and "Nebraska's Salad Dressing" (Dorothy Lynch). They met that goal - they are "Nebraska's Chocolates".
 
He continued by stating that Nebraskan's are so great - they are proud of where they are from and proud of our products. Nebraskan's sell Nebraska products. Most Nebraskan's take Baker's Chocolates with them when they travel - for their use or to share as gifts. 
 
Of the 40 million meltaways sold per year, about 30 million are shipped Internationally. Todd told us that the stories that are told about those sales indicate that nearly all of them started with a Nebraska connection.
 
 
 
 
 
BIO
Todd is a 2nd generation owner/operator and current CEO of Bakers Candies Inc. in Greenwood NE.  
 
Bakers Candies is Nebraska’s largest manufacturer of gourmet chocolates- annually producing nearly 40 million chocolate meltaways and over 500,000 lbs of gourmet chocolate! As a result, Bakers Candies signature “meltaway” chocolates have become synonymous with the state of Nebraska and have helped to make Nebraska’s unique chocolate making tradition world-renowned for its innovation and quality.  
 
Todd has a unique perspective on family business, entrepreneurship, and the chocolate industry and considers it a privilege any time he gets the chance to tell the story of the Baker’s family business here in Nebraska.