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Fritz Toffee wins awards, continues to grow

Kylee Mullen
Ames Tribune
Fritz Toffee won bronze in the Top Toffee category and placed first in Best Texture in the annual Toffee AWARDS Competition, hosted by The International Chocolate Salon. Tribune File Photo

Business has been sweet for Story County’s Fritz Toffee, and the good news keeps coming despite setbacks caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

According to owner James Fritz, it’s been an “amazing” journey for the Ames and Colo-based business, which has grown from selling containers of toffee from behind the counter of the family’s restaurant to winning international awards earlier this month.

“We haven’t even been a company for more than a year yet, and we are already placing (among the top toffee-makers in the world,) so that’s really incredible,” Fritz said.

Award-winning toffee

Fritz has always believed his family’s toffee recipe, which was passed down by his grandmother and perfected by his mother, was the best.

Now, after the toffee received two top awards in the annual Toffee AWARDS Competition, he can say he knows for sure.

“When the results came out, we had a number of people who said, ‘yeah, that doesn’t surprise me,’ because our customers already knew (we were the best,)” Fritz said.

Fritz entered the competition in January. It is, according to a media release, hosted by The International Chocolate Salon and is “hailed as the Academy Awards, or Oscars, among toffee and chocolate connoisseurs around the world.” The results were released July 6.

Fritz Toffee won bronze in the Top Toffee category and placed first in Best Texture.

“And that’s considering that we just sent our generic topping, while every other toffee company sent in differently-flavored toffee,” Fritz told the Tribune. “You’ve got a ton of toffee companies and a lot of them are elite brands who have massive operations and stuff, and here we are just a local business.”

Fritz attributes the success to the “perfect combination” of milk chocolate, sugar, butter, almonds and pecans his mother crafted years ago, and he looks forward to entering the contest again next year — only next time, it will be with a unique flavor currently being developed.

“We really didn’t know what to expect but I was really, really happy with the results considering we haven’t even been a company for very long,” Fritz said.

Growing beyond its humble beginnings

The award is not the only good news Fritz Toffee has received.

The business also has continued to expand and recently began appearing on the shelves of select Ames and Des Moines Hy-Vee locations.

Considering it was only sold from behind the counter of The Country House Family Restaurant in Colo two years ago, and was only just beginning to sell outside of Story County eight months ago, it’s been a pretty big leap, Fritz said.

The company itself began as a way of sharing a community favorite with the rest of the nation.

Fritz’s mother, Sandy, had learned to make it by watching her own mother. Through trial-and-error, she made it her own and it has been a hit with “everyone who tries it” ever since.

“I grew up eating this toffee, and my mom has made it for so long,” Fritz previously told the Ames Tribune. “She really perfected it, and found a balance where the texture and flavor is like a symphony that you just don’t get anywhere else. There’s a quality that stands on its own.”

Fritz and his wife, Molly, saw potential in the toffee and began selling it at boutique shows in 2018, and when it proved successful they decided to take it to the next level by building a business completely centered on the treat.

Since then, the family restaurant has closed and the building has become home to the toffee-making operation. The Fritz family makes more than 100 pounds of toffee each week and ships it across the United States and beyond.

Finding success and moving forward despite COVID-19

Despite its continued growth, Fritz said the coronavirus pandemic has had a large impact on the operation.

It’s been a struggle for us, just like it has been for everybody else, but trying to grow a business during this time is very, very hard,” Fritz said. “It affects the economy, and when the economy is affected people are not as likely to go spend their money on candy online. That’s not an essential item. So it’s affected our ability to work with different companies, it’s affected our ability to produce and for people to go out and buy it up. So just like every small business, it’s been a setback.

“Still, it has been fun watching it grow and expand.”

He said he looks forward to seeing more area boutique shows and farmers’ markets open up.

For now, they will continue selling online and are also selling their toffee every week at Maxwell’s Market in the Park, where “a lot of people come out there, there’s a ton of great vendors, and it’s a lot of fun.”

So, he said, despite the setbacks, “We are excited to grow even more in the U.S. market and other markets around the world.”

“Running a family business and now being a household name is a ‘sweet’ adventure of us,” he said in the media release. “Our family is grateful for everyone’s support, and we are thrilled to be recognized now as a top brand in the toffee world.”