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A 4,000-mile round trip commute every week doesn't faze Chino, Calif.-based Morgan Confections' new chief executive officer Kimberly Dickerson any. United Airlines has found at least one loyal customer in Dickerson, who leaves Chicago to come to Southern California every week. Since November 2002, when the Hartford, Conn.-based private investment firm Smith Whiley & Co. purchased Morgan Confections through the S.W. Pelham Fund, Dickerson has taken the lead in management of the company. Moreover, as a member of the investment committee for the Fund, she also has a vested interest in the company as a financier.
Morgan Confections has weathered the reigns of many different owners over the past few years. The S.W. Pelham Fund financiers saw many different attributes in Morgan Confections, but the one that rises above the others was the company's very stable Allen Wertz and Allen Wertz Simply Sugar Free branded products.
Allen Wertz, the brand's founder, began his reputation as a master confectioner in Europe generations before he migrated to the United States. By 1937, Wertz had moved to Southern California and began manufacturing confections and fine chocolates.
"One of the things that I love about the brand is that it has had that stability, and it also has never wavered from its original goal to provide very high quality traditional chocolates to people," Dickerson says.
Not only did the business have two very solid brand names, but it also had tremendous capacity to manufacture functional food bars. In 2002, functional food bars were becoming extremely popular and low carbohydrate and sugar-free products were just beginning to gain momentum.
"This company had a lot of capacity in our bar lines that was being underutilized to take on this functional food business," Dickerson explains.
"From November 2002, in just under 18 months, our business has doubled. A large part of that has been driven by private-label co-packers for functional foods, but also important to us is the continued development of the Allen Wertz brand ... We've been equally successful in bringing on co-pack customers, which represent some of the biggest brands in the country, as well as growing our own brand. Sales for Allen Wertz and Simply Sugar Free are up about 40% year over year. A lot of that is just aggressive selling."
Morgan Confections' v.p. of sales and marketing Diane Flowe, who has played a significant role in the development of the Allen Wertz brand over the years, keeps track of candy business trends and helps with new product development and packaging. With her lead, Morgan Confections has launched several new products in the last 16 months under the Allen Wertz and the Simply Sugar Free brand names, such as new varieties in Allen Wertz's nut cluster line and Nougat Fluffs. A gourmet chocolate-covered pretzel box and Slowpoke box, the company's …