Atkinson Candy Company has been around here in Texas for 85 years and is perhaps best known for its famous Chick-O-Stick bars, found in stores nationwide. But the company, like all U.S. candy companies, is facing a challenge moving into this century as sugar prices have been on the rise. Atkinson pays double what foreign companies do for sugar, which produces constant economic pressure on the confectioner. Because of this and legislative issues, Atkinson CC faces some tough choices as a Texas business.
“All of my competition for the past 30 years has been from companies offshore,” Eric Atkinson, third in a line of Atkinsons to run the company, told the Houston Chronicle . “Right now it’s kind of like playing football on the side of a mountain, and we got the bottom goal.”
Atkinson’s situation is a reminder of the struggles of Texas manufacturing facing tough competition from overseas firms that, in addition to lower labor costs, frequently have lower materials costs as well. The U.S. candy industry has lost about 25% of its jobs over the last twenty years, as more and more companies are simply forced to relocate overseas. A recent deal from the Commerce Department limiting sugar imports from Mexico will produce added pressures and, doubtless, send prices soaring.
Atkinson’s owner is worried about how his company will survive to a fourth generation of ownership in his family here in Texas, pointing to the need for additional lobbying at the state level on behalf of local companies.
“I can’t tell you the number of my competitors that went the way of the dodo bird trying to compete,” Atkinson said. “We finally just said, we’ve got to step out and do something about the opportunities that are out there.”
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