Make no mistake, the American public has a serious sweet tooth, which is why the candy industry in the U.S. is worth $36.4 billion while the global candy market rakes in more than $186 billion each year. Entrepreneurs who wish to buy into a proven business concept have a small but solid shortlist to study with these four best chocolate/candy franchises of 2018.
Rising demand for chocolate fueled the 2.7% growth in the global candy market in 2017, but when you hone in on last year’s growth in the U.S. market (the largest), it was non-chocolate candy that gave the extra boost, increasing in sales by 4.5%, whereas chocolate sales only grew by 2.5%. The global confectionery industry is expected to grow 3.3% this year.
Here are our picks for the top chocolate/candy franchises of 2018:
1. Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory
Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory got its start on Memorial Day weekend in 1981 when Franklin Crail opened the doors of the company’s first location in Durango, Colorado. Today, its 53,000 square-foot factory produces more than 300 kinds of premium chocolates and other candies that are then distributed to its many locations.
Each store also features in-store candy making where customers can see the caramel and fudge bubbling away in traditional copper kettles, and candy-makers spinning skewered apples in hot caramel or making fudge. The range of treats available is huge and diverse, including 15 different kinds of caramel apples, nine different chocolate bars, four kinds of fudge, and all manner of truffles, clusters, caramels, creams, meltaways, and molded chocolates.
The chain went public in 1985 and is traded on the NASDAQ exchange under the stock symbol RMCF. Entrepreneurs seeking a sweet franchise opportunity with this company can choose a full retail store or a kiosk approach for airports, malls, and resorts.
This company is currently ranked #453 on Entrepreneur magazine’s Franchise 500 list. Founded in 1981 and franchising since 1982, the number of locations currently stands at 254, of which four are company-owned and 67 are located outside the U.S.
2. Kilwins Chocolates
Kilwins Chocolates actually started out as Kilwin’s Bakery back in 1947 when Don and Katy Kilwin opened the company’s doors in Petoskey, Michigan. But then they fell in love with candy-making and sold the bakery to pursue candy full-time. The company has changed ownership just twice since those days, now owned by Don and Robin McCarty.
Everything offered at each Kilwins is made fresh using high-quality ingredients. Products include chocolate, toffee, and caramel candies such as Tuttles (pecans and caramels combined with a variety of chocolates), single-origin chocolates (made with beans sourced from particular locations such as Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Peru, and so on), creams, truffles, clusters, and Salt Water Taffy Chews.
There are a dozen different kinds of fudge, 14 choices of caramel apples, and 14 choices of corns and brittles. The stores also make and sell their own ice cream. In-store candy-making make the chain a popular choice for placement in tourist areas.
This company is currently ranked #94 on Entrepreneur magazine’s Franchise 500 list. Founded in 1947 and franchising since 1982, the number of locations has climbed over the past 10 years from 73 in 2008 to the current total of 109, of which two are company-owned.
3. Schakolad Chocolate Factory
Schakolad Chocolate Factory has roots that extend back through three generations of chocolate making in the Schaked family. Baruch “Bernie” Schaked learned chocolate making in his native Argentina from his father-in-law, as well as during many courses and seminars in Europe in the early 1970s. He moved his family to Florida and had his own chocolate shop for many years in Miami until announcing his retirement.
His son, Edgar, chose to give up his engineering career to keep the family business alive and opened the first Schakolad Chocolate Factory in Winter Park, Florida in 1995. The feel of each location is like a neighborhood family-owned corner store where the chocolates are made fresh on-site each day. It markets its products primarily as great gift ideas for all occasions.
Primary products include truffles, chocolate bars, and unique chocolate novelties such as chocolate body paint, a 3D chocolate cornucopia, and an edible chocolate basket with assorted chocolates. Stores will also happily create custom-designed chocolate gifts and promotional items for corporate clients and other special events.
Founded in 1995 and franchising since 1999, the number of locations currently stands at 21, of which one is company-owned and three are located outside the U.S.
4. River Street Sweets – Savannah’s Candy Kitchen
River Street Sweets – Savannah’s Candy Kitchen presents a concept based on handmade southern sweets. It was back in 1978 when the Strickland family converted its gift shop on River Street in Savannah, Georgia into a candy-making store that was an instant hit, and the store is still family-owned and operated by the brother-sister team of Tim and Jennifer Strickland.
Meanwhile, just down the street, their father Stan “The Candy Man” Strickland operates Savannah’s Candy Kitchen, one of the largest candy stores in the south. Beginning in 2014, both brands combined for franchising purposes.
The vast array of products includes pecan pralines, bear claws (what others call turtles), glazed pecans, chocolates and truffles, caramels, gourmet caramel candy apples, homemade fudge, brittle and toffee candies, gourmet popcorn, salt water taffy, pecan divinity and log rolls, roasted and candied nuts, cakes, pies, and pastries.
Gift options include box assortments, baskets, towers (stacked boxes), and tins. Franchisees also have the option of adding ice cream and gelatos to their store.
Founded in 1973 but franchising only since 2015, the number of locations currently stands at 16, of which 14 are company-owned, with another listed on the company website as coming soon.
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.