Crain’s Chicago Business has a sweet story about a potential Ferrara Pan Candy Co./Kraft Foods chocolate war:
Feeling betrayed by Kraft Foods Inc. after the nation’s largest foodmaker killed a partnership with his family’s Ferrara Pan Candy Co., Mr. Ferrara plans to hit back. This fall, he’ll roll out a line of premium European-style chocolate designed to compete with Toblerone, the flagship Kraft candy bar his company distributed until last year.
A 58-year-old who prefers handshake agreements to formal contracts, Mr. Ferrara isn’t fazed by taking on a bigger competitor with a better-known brand. Nor is he worried that his Forest Park-based company, maker of Lemonheads and Atomic FireBalls, has little experience making chocolate. In fact, he probably knows as much about Toblerone’s business as Kraft does. In two years of distributing Kraft’s European chocolates in the U.S., Ferrara Pan increased those brands’ sales by 150%, he says.
That deal ended in December, just three months after Mr. Ferrara took an early-morning cell phone call. Northfield-based Kraft, he was told, wanted out of the distribution agreement. Mr. Ferrara was completely surprised — and clearly infuriated.
“I was quite upset because we did a very good job — probably too good of a job,” he says.
Mr. Ferrara didn’t stew for long. Shortly after, he determined to create a new specialty chocolate line to rival his former customer’s. He already had the salesforce and wholesale brokers — hired to serve the Kraft account — and quickly developed a new concept: the Ferrara, an angular bar of Belgian chocolate.
Mr. Ferarra’s stick-it-to-the-man chest thumping will make Ferrara bars all the sweeter. I’m buying one.