LANSING, Mich. – The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) has selected Dr. John’s Candies of Comstock Park as the recipient of the “2018 Michigan Agricultural Exporter of the Year” award. The award was presented today to company officials by Gov. Rick Snyder. (Photo at right: Left to Right – Dr. John Bruinsma, Dr. John’s Candies; Governor Rick Snyder, Debra Bruinsma, Dr. John’s Candies.)
“It’s always a thrill to watch great entrepreneurs like John and Debra burst onto the world market like they have,” said MDARD Director Gordon Wenk. “And it’s an even bigger thrill when MDARD can play a small role in helping them succeed, bring attention to their wonderfully unique products, or recognize them in this way.”
Photo - Left to Right – Dr. John Bruinsma, of Dr. John’s Candies; Governor Rick Snyder, Debra Bruinsma, of Dr. John’s Candies;
Dr. John’s Candies was established in 1995 by John and Debra Bruinsma—a dentist and a dental hygienist—as an innovative candy manufacturer. The company specializes in the world’s only natural, sugar-free lollipops and hard candies, which are made from premium ingredients, have no artificial colors, flavors or sweeteners, and are free of major allergens.
“We are honored to be the recipient of the 2018 Ag Exporter of the Year award,” said Debra Bruinsma, Co-Founder of Dr. John’s Candies. “We never dreamed a dentist and a dental hygienist looking for a better alternative for our patients could grow a cottage business into an internationally sought-after brand of candy that provides nutritional benefits and fights tooth decay.”
Since 2000, Dr. John’s Candies has had significant export success. The company’s sugar-free lollipops, hard candies, caramels, and taffy are currently exported to Canada, Germany, Korea, Japan, China, and New Zealand. Dr. John’s Candies has been able to export 22 percent of its annual sales and create two Michigan jobs due to its exporting activities in 2017.
Food and agriculture exports are an important part of Michigan’s economy, contributing more than $2 billion annually. Dr. John’s Candies is helping to generate economic activity and leave a local impact on the state of Michigan.
The award review committee consisted of representatives from Michigan State University; Michigan Farm Bureau; Comerica Bank; Foster, Swift, Collins & Smith P.C.; and the Van Andel Global Trade Center. The decision was based upon several factors including marketing plans, ability to expand into new markets, alliances with other organizations, and export sales growth over the last three years.
In 2016, the “Michigan Agricultural Exporter of the Year” was awarded to Bayside Best Beans for increasing exports by 15 percent in one year and establishing strategic global partnerships. To be eligible, the products must be more than 50 percent grown, processed, or manufactured in Michigan.
The Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development International Marketing team has ample resources to support your export activities, whether it is your first time exporting or already have some experience in exports. In the fiscal year of 2017, we hosted numerous trade shows and trade missions that allow Michigan companies to exhibit their products and connect with buyers. We also hosted the first ever Michigan Food and Agriculture trade mission to China. This event included Michigan companies traveling to China to participate in trade events that increased their export opportunities. In addition, we hosted trade missions to Korea, Germany, Saudi Arabia, and Canada that provided Michigan companies the opportunities to meet one-on-one with buyers and learn firsthand about overseas market insights. Along with trade shows and trade missions, we work with a diverse range of partners and stakeholders to facilitate food processing facilities, infrastructure building, and foster a sustainable supply chain. Those efforts were achieved through database development, financial resources support, and partnership building such as Michigan small business initiative. Through our efforts, we are able to create significant jobs and attract investments for food and agriculture businesses in Michigan.
In celebrating our achievements, MDARD welcomes a new year of many new hopes and new excitements. Life is all about challenging yourself and thinking outside of the box. Why not taking the opportunities to make a change and go global? Whatever assistance you need, they are there to help you.