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Our History

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The Palmer family has been making candy together for over 139 years; that is a lot of family time!  We have continued to grow together, sharing in one another's triumphs, learning from our mistakes and enjoying more than a few good laughs.  We are proud of our unique history that is highlighted by five generations of family ownership and management.  The Palmer Candy Company operates today as not only one of the oldest country's candy companies but as the very oldest company of of its size to be under continued family ownership in the United States!

It all began in 1878 when a fire destroyed the St. Joseph, Michigan home of Edward Cook (E.C.) Palmer. Instead of rebuilding, the adventurous E.C. decided to pack up his family and move to the fast-growing frontier town of Sioux City, Iowa to purchase a wholesale grocery operation. In 1892, E.C.'s eldest son, William B. Palmer, decided to go into business and opened up a wholesale fruit company with his father and brother, forming Palmer and Company.

Prior to the turn of the century, the Palmers identified the need to diversify and delved into the candy business, selling bulk and hard candy in wooden containers from the back of their fruit house. The company quickly outgrew its quarters and in 1900 moved into a new four-story building. They were extremely proud of their high-rise, modern facility that bragged such up-to-date technologies as ammonia cold storage and its own electric generator.  The factory made fancy hand-dipped boxed chocolates, penny candy, gumdrops and marshmallows. 

The roaring 20s brought prosperity to our country and increased sales to the Palmer fruit and candy business. The year 1923, marked the birth of Palmer Candy Company's Bing candy bar. At the time, candy bars were an innovative concept that was rapidly sweeping the nation.  Bings originally came in four flavors; maple, vanilla, pineapple and cherry.  Today, the Cherry Bing is still produced by hand and remains a Midwest regional favorite!

The Palmers purchased Sioux City's Soo Candy Company and its peanut-roasting department in 1941. This was the beginning of the Palmer peanut and nutmeat business that still exists today. In 1956, the company purchased the candy division of the Johnson Biscuit Company, claiming the rights to the popular La Fama candy brand.  At the same time, the company began purchasing candy from other manufacturers and expanded into the repack and rack business.

In 1969, the fruit company closed its doors, allowing the Palmer Company to focus its energy on the candy business. As the company's growth continued, so did the need to expand into an updated, larger facility. In 1979, the Palmer Candy Company moved to a large factory remodeled exclusively for the production of candy.

In 1979, the Palmer Candy Company purchased a bottling plant from the Chesterman Company which was gutted and rebuilt as a candy plant, big enough to last for the foreseeable future.  The president at that time, Bill Palmer, used his engineering background to automate the production processes by using gravity and piping to move chocolate and materials throughout the building.  Much of his innovative design is still used today! 

In 2004, the prospect of continued growth required that the company add another sizeable facility to its organization.  With the addition of a new building housing the packaging, warehousing, logistics,  non-chocolate and bark production, the company operations occupy more than 300,000 square feet of space.  The company continues to focus on chocolate and candy bulk sales to Grocery and Specialty stores, Contract Manufacturing and Private Label, Rebagging and the famous Bing candy bar line.

In hopes of offering the community a bit of nostalgia, history and delicious candy, the Palmer Candy Company relocated and expanded the Old Time Candy Shoppe in 2007.  Located convenientally close to I-29, the Shoppe contains a museum decorated with old pictures, antique advertising and packaging as well as other interesting company artifacts.  Our staff is happy to assist you with the hundreds of candy selections, including some classic favorites such as the Twin Bing, La Fama and our famous peanut clusters. 

Some things really do get better with age!

Today, over 138 years later, a fifth-generation family member, the great-great grandson of founder, E.C. Palmer, runs the Palmer Candy Company. Even though the company continues to grow, we never forget our early roots by continuing to make quality candies one batch at a time using the finest ingredients and careful time honored production techniques.  We pride ourselves on being one of the oldest family owned and operated companies in the country.   We love making chocolate confections and enjoy living up to our 100 year old motto - “Making Life Sweeter Since 1878”!

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Vintage carton for the Cherry Bing.  While the origin of the name Bing is unknown, one theory suggests a Scottish influence as the Scottish word Bing means heap.

Palmer employees in the year 1917. 

Palmer employees in the year 1917.

Palmer employees in the year 1917.

Palmer employees in the year 1917.

Palmer employees in the year 1917.

Palmer employees in the year 1917.

Palmer employees in the year 1917.

  60th Anniversary Party