At the Denver factory of Hammond's Candies, two weeks before Christmas means one thing: It's candy cane crunch time.
The 93-year-old business isn't just the oldest handmade candy maker in America -- it's also the nation's largest producer of handmade candy canes. "December is a crazy time in our factory," said Andrew Schuman, owner and CEO of Hammond's Candies.
Hammond's churns out nearly 7 million candy canes every year, each rolled, shaped and cut by hand. They're almost all produced in the second half of the year.
Candy canes are 50% of the company's business, but it also makes all-natural lollipops, ribbon candy, taffy and a signature confection called Mitchell Sweet -- a bite-sized marshmallow covered in caramel -- which has been produced since 1920.
All of this is done in a single 35,000-square-foot facility where 120 people, including 10 cooks, work year-round making the sweets. The employees ramp up to 200 when production peaks in November.
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