Revised and updated January 4, 2020.
Of the 326+ million people in the US, nearly 266 million say they eat chocolate and other candy. That’s more than 81% of the population! Yes, America definitely has a collective sweet tooth, and savvy entrepreneurs who want to capitalize on it have several great choices to examine on this list of the 5 best chocolate/candy franchises of 2020.
In 2019, the candy industry was worth $10 billion. And that’s in spite of a growing awareness among consumers how candy isn’t exactly a healthy thing to be eating on a regular basis. Chocolate remains a major (and growing) component of the candy industry, and while the big candy companies dominate (Mars, Hershey), there is plenty of room for smaller companies to make inroads, including higher-end boutique approaches to chocolate and candy that are becoming increasingly popular.
Here are the top 5 candy franchises of 2020:
1. Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory
Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory makes a wide array of chocolates and other candy in its 53,000-square-foot production facility for distribution to its franchised shops. Each location also demonstrates candy making, including fudge in big copper kettles, candied and caramel apples, and other classic confections. A big part of finding success in this kind of candy making includes premium chocolates and candies that make good gifts during the holiday season, and Rocky Mountain makes the most of this approach.
This is a publicly-traded company on the NASDAQ exchange under the stock symbol RMCF. Franchisees can choose between two different models, including a full retail store or a kiosk approach for airports, malls, and resorts.
Founded by Franklin Crail in Durango, Colorado in 1981 and franchising since 1982, the number of locations has been declining in recent years from 330 in 2009 to the current total of 246, of which two are company-owned and 63 are located outside the US.
2. Kilwins Chocolates
Kilwins Chocolates has only changed ownership twice since its founding in the 1940s. Don and Robin McCarty have been the principal owners since 1995. Each location has its own kitchen where the chocolates are made fresh using premium ingredients and proprietary “Heritage” recipes. The company uses Fair Trade Certified cocoa beans carefully selected, roasted, and ground into chocolate liquor.
It makes a full range of chocolates and candies, including caramel apples and its own brand of ice cream. With live candy making, Kilwins is a good choice for areas that get a lot of tourists.
Founded by Don and Katy Kilwin in Petoskey, Michigan in 1947 and franchising since 1982, the number of locations has climbed in recent years from 70 in 2009 to the current total of 132 (14 more than the previous year’s total of 118), of which two are company-owned and all are located in the US.
3. River Street Sweets – Savannah’s Candy Kitchen
River Street Sweets – Savannah’s Candy Kitchen is a combination of two candy store concepts, both originating with the Strickland family. Savannah’s Candy Kitchen was started by Stan “The Candy Man” Strickland, while River Street Sweets is owned and operated by siblings Tim and Jennifer Strickland.
Unlike the other companies on this list, chocolates are not the primary focus, but just one category of product among its huge array of handmade Southern sweets. Franchisees can also add in ice cream and gelato to their stores if they desire.
Founded in 1973 but franchising only since 2015, there are now 19 locations (two more than last year), of which 15 are company-owned and all are located in the US.
4. Schakolad Chocolate Factory
Schakolad Chocolate Factory makes everything it sells fresh in each store location with an ambience that feels like the family-owned corner stores of yesteryear. The recipes come from the Schaked family of Argentina and three generations of chocolate making.
Like other boutique chocolate and candy shops, this chain’s products are promoted as making great gifts for any occasion. They make a full range of chocolates and chocolate novelties, and will also create customized flavors for events, corporate gift giving, and special occasions.
Founded by Edgar Schaked in Winer Park, Florida in 1995 and franchising since 1999, the number of locations has been declining in recent years from 33 in 2009 to the current total of 13 as listed on the company website.
5. Oh My Gosh Brigadeiros
Oh My Gosh Brigadeiros has the challenge of constantly explaining its name, since most people in the US are not familiar with the brigadeiro, a traditional Brazilian treat made with condensed milk, cocoa powder, butter, and chocolate sprinkles. It can be categorized as a kind of truffle. OMG Brigadeiros brings its own twists and turns to the candy, with 15 different signature flavors.
In addition to several other kinds of desserts, the company is making a name for its hot chocolate and cappuccino rimmed with Nutella and various toppings.
Founded in 2014 and franchising since 2018, there is currently only one company-owned location in Miami on Coral Way, but the franchising program of the company is still in its infancy. The company website notes that a second location will soon be opening in the MiMo District of Miami.
An Important Note About Our Methodology
The franchises on this list were ranked according to the number of units in the franchise system. If you are a prospective franchisee searching for franchise opportunities that meet or exceed certain performance benchmarks for sales, profits, and return on investment, please check out this list of America’s Most Lucrative Franchises.