It's good to be the king

Published online: Jun 06, 2014
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Chocolate surprisingly made front-page news last week when Ukraine elected Petro Poroshenko as its next president amid growing tensions with Russia.

Poroshenko is a successful businessman affectionately known as the “Chocolate King” because of the confectionery empire he built, which earned him the 1,338th spot on Forbes’ most recent list of richest billionaires.

Though his story was by far the most significant, the Chocolate King was not the only big-time confectioner making news. And amazingly, at $1.3 billion in net worth, he wasn’t even close to being the wealthiest.

Mars Inc. just opened a huge brand-new, state-of-the-art plant in Kansas to help it keep pace with growing demand. As the plant director said in a recent news story: “Mars has certainly grown the business and the major reason to build this new facility was capacity. We’ve exceeded capacity at all our nine other facilities in North America. We wanted to address current needs as well as those for the next 50 years.”

No wonder three members of the Mars family tied for number 36 on Forbes’ list at $20 billion apiece.

But not even the Mars family can touch the net worth of one renowned billionaire known for his uncanny ability to spot business opportunities. Though Warren Buffet’s wealth didn’t come from confections, the number 3 billionaire on the list with $65.4 billion in net worth is a big candy investor.

Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway owns See’s Candies, and he’s been very bullish on the company’s performance. The investment website Motley Fool printed a discussion about See’s Candies at a recent shareholder meeting and noted: “Berkshire Hathaway investors are probably already familiar with the awesome financial results from See’s Candies.  See’s, which Berkshire bought in 1972 for $25 million, has generated $1.7 billion in cumulative pre-tax earnings.”

But Buffet doesn’t invest in sugar. Neither do Poroshenko, the Mars’s or any other Forbes billionaire for that matter. That’s because returns, just like sugar prices, are low while the risks in farming are very high. It’s simply not as good an investment as candy.

And you don’t have to be a billionaire to be enjoying candy’s spoils. The last month has seen numerous good news stories about expansion projects and the financial success of confectioners both big and small. From start-ups, to Main Street and Wall Street, confectioners are excelling.

Many of these articles are chronicled on the American Sugar Alliance’s new website in a section devoted to Big Candy.

When you read the more than 50 entries this year alone, you’re sure to be left wondering: Why are Big Candy lobbyists continuously complaining about sugar farmers and crying poor on Capitol Hill?