Yes, it’s summertime, and candy canes are probably the last thing on your mind. But do your sweet tooth a huge favor and sample the candy canes made by Doscher’s Candy Co. If you try one, you’ll never want to eat any other. Why? Doscher’s handcrafts its candy canes in small batches using a secret recipe that includes real peppermint oil and is nearly 150 years old. The delightful result is candy canes that are much lighter and chewier than the mass-produced kind.
Claus Doscher hand-hooked his first candy cane in Cincinnati in 1871. He also took advantage of the “taffy craze” that swept France in the 1890s by developing a version that he called the French Chew. Several generations of Doschers subsequently made candy in Cincinnati, but a new group of owners – the Nielsen, Gilligan and Clark families – moved the company from downtown to a circa 1835 farmhouse in suburban Newtown in 2017. Today, Doscher’s not only is the nation’s oldest candy cane manufacturer, but also the oldest continuously operated U.S. candy company.
“We’re incredibly proud of our heritage and we’re eager to share this story with more and more consumers across the country,” says co-president Jon Neilsen. “There is nothing like a handmade candy cane!”
With its gabled roof and wide front porch, the farmhouse is something of a landmark on Newtown’s Main Street and provides a unique and inviting setting for Doscher’s one and only retail candy store. Fittingly enough, the company’s recently constructed manufacturing facility was designed to look like a rambling red barn and sits just behind the farmhouse.
Past tours have let you see candy being made in Claus’s copper kettles, while watching workers use old-fashioned techniques to hand roll, knead and stripe the canes. Thanks to Claus, red-and-white striped peppermint candy canes remain the company’s bestseller. But Doscher’s also makes canes in other flavors and equally yummy colors like green-and yellow lemon lime, pink-and-blue cotton candy and blue-and-white blueberry.
Since Doscher’s has been producing French Chews for decades, customers frequently comment that the candy reminds them of their childhood. Cornstarch is used to keep the confection from sticking to production equipment and packaging, so be advised that part of the experience of sinking your teeth into a French Chew is getting powdery fingertips. While vanilla is the signature French Chew flavor, you also can enjoy them in chocolate, strawberry, banana and even cookies-and-cream.
No sweet, however, has a higher nostalgia quotient than Doscher’s Candy Buttons. The colorful dots of sugar on a strip of paper have been an iconic American candy since the early 1900s, but a couple of years ago, Doscher’s bought the brand and is now the exclusive manufacturer. Although it also acquired the vintage equipment for making Candy Buttons, the company is giving the old favorite a new twist by cranking out Holiday Buttons (for Christmas), Spring Buttons (for Easter), Halloween Buttons and soon-to-debut Sour Buttons.
You can shop for all of Doscher’s retro candies and well as its award-winning Béquet® caramels on online. But if you’re in Cincinnati this summer, look for the company’s latest back-to-the-future innovation – a candy bus. Doscher’s plans to roll out the converted 1970s VW bus in July, and it will make stops throughout the city to dispense treats to candy lovers. Now how sweet is that?