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Governor sweet on Reno candy company


    Gov. Brian Sandoval hands out Halloween candy Wednesday at the Governor's Mansion in Carson City. Reno-based Kimmie Candy donated 3,000 bags of candy to be handed out to the thousands of trick-or-treaters. Other local businesses also donated candy.

Posted: Nov. 1, 2012 | 1:59 a.m.

CARSON CITY - The 3,000 bags of Halloween candy that Gov. Brian Sandoval handed out Wednesday night to trick-or-treaters at the Governor's Mansion weren't Snickers or M&Ms or something made in Hershey, Pa.

Instead, the governor - on Nevada's 148th anniversary of admission into the union - handed out bags of ChocoRocks and Sunbursts donated by the Kimmie Candy Co. of Reno.

"I am looking forward to enjoying a few ChocoRocks myself," Sandoval said before he and his wife, Kathleen, were bombarded by hordes of scary-looking children in costumes.

Nevada governors have handed out candy on Halloween for generations.

Kimmie Candy has become the favored candy of the Sandoval administration, with the governor offering samples of silvery chocolates to visitors to his office. Kimmie owner Joe Dutra accompanied Sandoval on his trade mission to China in October and successfully completed a deal to sell candy in Hong Kong.

"Candy is universal," an energetic Dutra said Tuesday as he moved around dozens of huge pans where candy was being swirled in his factory near the Reno-Tahoe International Airport. "Sugar is the only craving you are born with. Kids love sweet things. Everybody loves candy. You eat it when you are in love. You eat it when you are depressed. It's part of all of our holidays."

It also is recession-proof. Kimmie Candy makes about 9,000 pounds of candy a day. The company has been growing 30 percent a year since Dutra relocated it from Sacramento, Calif., to Reno in 2007. He is finishing plant expansion now and anticipates he will need a larger building in 18 months.

As the father of now-grown children who trick-or-treated, Dutra knows the concerns of parents who worry their children will eat too much Halloween candy.

"Parents need to be cautious," he said. "When my kids came home from trick-or-treating, they would have 50 pounds. I made a decision. For the next 48 hours you can eat all you want. Eat it for breakfast. But after two days, you are done with it. After about 30 hours, the kids would come and say 'Take it all away.' "

And despite a policy that allows his 28 employees to eat as much candy as they want while on the job, none of the employees would be classified as obese or even overweight.

Dutra himself, at age 60, is trim and athletic, as are his adult children, John and Kathryn, who help run the family business. Just eat candy in moderation, Dutra said.

Sunbursts are about as healthy a candy as one could get, he said, describing them as chocolate-covered sunflower kernels. ChocoRocks are the company's best-seller. They are little pieces of coated chocolate that resemble tiny rocks.

Dutra grew up eating Hershey's bars. And he personally sampled dozens, if not hundreds, of pieces of candy before selecting each variety to be sold by Kimmie Candy. He prefers a less sweet chocolate, one that emphasizes the cocoa.

Before getting in the candy business, Dutra was a successful agribusinessman in Sacramento, where he still grows sugar beets.

In the 1980s, he became senior agronomist for a wheat-farming operation in Saudi Arabia. He also was one of the founders of Westec Inc., a company that educated farmers in Brazil on growing tomatoes and developed into an international seed business. Its hybrid corn now is sold in Russia, Moldova, Egypt and other countries.

Dutra named some of his vegetable creations after friends. The Kimmie name comes from the name of a girlfriend of his wife.

Dutra was only a candy eater in 2000 when a business friend offered him a good deal on a 40,000-pound container of chocolate that had been shipped from Korea to California.

He quickly read books on Hershey's and Mars and learned about the candy business.

Then he told his wife, " 'Honey, I think I am going into the candy business.' I figured if I ever went broke, I would be able to eat the 40,000 pounds."

Although Sunburst won industry taste awards in 2003, Kimmie Candy was a relatively small company. Then it relocated to Reno.

"We are proud to be in Nevada," Dutra said. "The smartest move I ever made was moving to Nevada. I was ticked off by the red tape in California. There is a 9.5 percent personal income tax in California. They also nickel-and-dime you in California."

The regulations are fewer and taxes lower in Nevada than in California. Taxes are low enough in Nevada that Dutra said he would not mind paying slightly higher taxes if needed for the good of the state.

"I'm for as low of taxes as possible. But we also have to support our communities," he said.

Dutra attributes his success on the trade mission to China largely to the presence of Sandoval. The governor gave the mission credibility among the Chinese.

"People were willing to talk with you. We should be selling candy in Hong Kong. It's a global economy. That's what we need to do," Dutra said.

It also helps that, like everyone else, the Chinese crave sugar.

Contact Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at or 775-687-3901.