The Pearson’s Candy Company has produced some of Minnesota’s best-loved candies since its founding in 1909. The milk chocolate-coated Nut Goodie, introduced in 1912, has survived several changes in company ownership and a temporary departure from its original recipe to remain a regional favorite.
The Pearson brothers, P. Edward, John Albert, and Oscar F., began a candy-making business at 108 Western Avenue in Minneapolis in 1909. The Pearson’s Candy Company began to manufacture what would become one of their most successful products, the Nut Goodie, in 1912. The Nut Goodie bar featured a maple cream center surrounded by milk chocolate-covered Virginia peanuts. It sold for a nickel.
The company flourished during the Great Depression, though by 1936, an ad for the Nut Goodie bar showed that the price had dropped to three cents each. In the meantime, Pearson’s introduced another key product, the Salted Nut Roll.
Pearson’s Candy Company moved its operations to 411 Broadway Street in downtown St. Paul in 1952. Shortly after the move, the Pearson brothers purchased the Trudeau Candy Company, bringing Mint Patties and the Seven Up Bar under the Pearson’s label. The company’s sales reached $6 million in 1958 —a substantial profit at a time when the Nut Goodie sold for just a dime. The success prompted a move to a new, 85,000 square-foot facility at 2140 West Seventh Street in St. Paul that was capable of producing thousands of Nut Goodies and other candy items each week.
The Nut Goodie’s annual revenues in the mid-1960s totaled nearly $3 million. The Pearson family sold the company to the New York-based International Telephone and Telegraph/Continental Baking (ITTCB) in 1969. ITTCB continued to produce the traditional product lines, but altered the original Nut Goodie recipe in response to higher production costs and perceived consumer preferences. Ten years later, the Confections Group of Chicago purchased Pearson’s. The new owners replaced the Nut Goodie’s familiar red, green, and white wrapper with new packaging in brown, red, yellow, and white in an effort to modernize the brand. The changes met with customer disapproval and sales began to fall. By 1981, annual profits from the Nut Goodie had dropped to about $200,000.
Pearson’s employees Larry Hassler and Judith Johnston purchased the company three years later. With a goal of producing a quality product, Pearson’s returned to the traditional Nut Goodie recipe and packaging. Sales increased, in spite of a price increase to fifty cents per bar.
The candy’s regional popularity prompted another Minnesota company, Kemps Dairy, to create an ice cream flavor featuring the Nut Goodie. They introduced Pearson’s Nut Goodie Ice Cream in March 1987 as one of four new Candy Bar Ice Cream flavors. Pearson’s later introduced Nut Goodie Nibbles, a bite-sized version of the Nut Goodie bar.
In 1996, a “Mr. Fixit” column in the Minneapolis Tribune reported that Minnesota had no official state candy. An Edina resident suggested the Nut Goodie as the obvious choice. A state representative sponsored a bill during the following legislative session for a state candy, but she nominated licorice produced by a company in her district instead of the venerable Nut Goodie. It failed to pass.
Pearson’s Candy Company celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2009. Hassler sold the company in 2011 to Brynwood Partners in Connecticut. The following year, the Nut Goodie reached the 100-year mark with a big anniversary celebration that included the introduction of a new flavor, the Sea Salt Caramel Nut Goodie.
In 2018, Spell Capital Partners of Minneapolis acquired Pearson’s, bringing the company’s ownership back to Minnesota. At the time, the company reported profits of $89 million.
The original Nut Goodie continues to be a regional favorite. Minnesotans living out of state stock up on the treat when visiting their home state. For those deprived of easy access to the candy, a recipe for a homemade version is in wide circulation online. The candy’s fan base even extends to the microbrewery crowd. The Tin Whiskers Brewing Company of St. Paul created the award-winning Nut Goodie Porter as a limited release in 2018 in collaboration with Pearson’s Candy Company.
For more information on this topic, check out the original entry on MNopedia.