The Creator of Smarties Is 95 and Still Involved with the Family Business
Now run by Edward Dee's grandchildren, Smarties celebrates its 70th anniversary this year.
For Smarties, those little rolled candies that someone dropped into your trick-or-treat bag every single Halloween, that particular holiday is big, big business. The company starts taking orders for late October a full year ahead of time, and its factories start making those fruit-flavored candies six months in advance, to ensure that there are enough for every little ghost, Baby Shark, or tiny Taco Bell Seven-Layer Burrito.
But this October is an ultra-special month for the New Jersey-based confectioner because it's celebrating the 70th anniversary of the Smarties Candy Company, as well as the 95th birthday of its founder, Edward Dee. (And despite, you know, being 95, he's still the chairman of the Smarties Board of Directors.)
Dee, a British immigrant and third-generation candy man, opened his first factory in Bloomfield, New Jersey in August 1949, less than a year after he and his young family arrived in the United States. Less than 15 years later, he opened another factory in Toronto, Canada—because why should Americans get all that good-good candy? The company still has two factories, and they run 24 hours a day, five-and-a-half days a week, so they can produce more than two billion (with a B) candies every year.
"I’m not really surprised by the candy’s longevity" Dee told Food & Wine. "We had a good item and we made the best of it. It’s the way things turned out. We were lucky.”
Both of his Dee's eventually went into the family business and, perhaps unsurprisingly, so did some of his grandkids. "I remember when my father would come home from work and he would smell like candy, and his car would smell like candy, and now when I come home from work, I smell like candy, and my car smells like candy," Smarties co-president Liz Dee said. "When I see friends after work, they always say to me 'Oh my gosh, you smell just like Smarties.'"
Courtesy of Smarties
Smarties Candy Company now has three co-presidents—Liz Dee, Sarah Dee, and Jessica Dee Sawyer—who have taken on the challenge of finding innovative ways to keep this OG candy icon around for another 70 years. (They have started to point out that Smarties are fat-free, gluten-free, peanut-free, top-allergen-free, and vegan, which weren't really selling points in the late 1940s.)
Last year, they gave the logo a refresh for the first time in a decade, but they did not touch its signature packaging. "We were making round candy tablets and it just made sense to wrap them in the roll," Edward Dee said of those little red-tipped wrappers. "We didn’t realize that the twisted ends would become so iconic for Smarties, but they did!”
With seven decades and five generations worth of history, it seems like the entire Dee family has this whole Smarties thing figured out. That's good news for trick-or-treaters—and better news for those of us who help ourselves to the good stuff before opening the front door.