For 70 years a family-owned business in Berks County has filled Easter baskets, Christmas stockings, Halloween bags and Valentine’s Day hearts with hollow bunnies, gold coins, Santas and many other types of character or theme candy.
R.M. Palmer Co. in West Reading, was founded by the late Richard M. Palmer Sr. in 1948. A native of Berks County, Palmer’s vision was to create holiday candy that not only tasted good but was fun as well.
“The company has grown tremendously,” said Mark Schlott, executive vice president of operations and COO at the company today. “We’re now the fifth-largest chocolate manufacturer in the U.S.”
R.M. Palmer’s first success, Baby Binks, are hollow Easter Bunnies with yellow and blue eyes. All the company’s candy is hollow, which sets it apart from other candies. Yahoo milk is another well-known R.M. Palmer product.
According to the company’s web site, Palmer opened his first location in West Reading with four employees. He and his son, current company CEO Richard M. Palmer Jr., eventually opened a manufacturing facility in Wyomissing and a distribution center in Exeter.
The company currently employs 850 people: 570 full-time and the remainder on a seasonal basis. Schlott, who has been with R.M. Palmer for 33 years, is one of many employees who have enjoyed long careers with the company. He added that one employee recently retired after a 49-year career.
The company markets its products worldwide, Schott said, with candy selling particularly well in Japan and Canada. Several new products such as a selfie bunny as well as male and female superhero bunnies were rolled out over the Easter holiday. A selfie campaign contest was launched nationwide and largely driven by social media outlets Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and the company web site.
“We also utilized public relations and partnered with several blogger/online influencers to get the word out, create awareness of the selfie bunnies,” said John Kerr, Palmer’s director of marketing.
Employee engagement was also a big endeavor, Schlott said, with staff taking part in the United Way Campaign, which has been a long tradition at R.M. Palmer.
“R.M. Palmer Co. has a long-standing history of supporting United Way and our community,” said Tammy White, president of the United Way of Berks County. “Rich Palmer served as our board chair in the early 1990s, supported our loaned campaign specialist program for many years and helped us implement a campaign analysis process that we use to this day to develop campaign strategies.”
What’s new for the 71st year?
“We’re coming out with a real-size football,” Schlott said. “It’s nothing anyone has really ever seen before. We’re launching it for Christmas as one of our new hollow innovations.”