Otto Schnering – Biography of the “U.S. Candy Bar King”

While eating the delicious Baby Ruth bar or enjoying Butterfinger’s, there are fireworks in the mouth and a feeling of happiness appears out of nowhere. Have you ever experienced it? Well, we definitely have. Do you wonder who managed to create such a delicious treat and how it was created? Probably some magician or genius. After all, Baby Ruth and Butterfingers have been around for decades and are still among our favorite treats.

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Otto Schnering, also known as the U.S. Candy Bar King, was the creator of one of the first and most famous candy companies in the USA. His success was not easy, and he had to work very hard to do what he did. In this article, we are going to tell you about the U.S. Candy Bar King’s life. 

Otto Schnering was born in October 1891 in Chicago, Illinois. He was named after his father’s friend and co-worker. His parents were Helen Curtis and Julius Schnering. His father was an immigrant from Germany. He and his friend (who was also called Otto) had a wholesale jewelry business.

Otto Schnering’s mother was Helen Elizabeth Curtiss, who was from a wealthy New England family. However, they were hard-working people and never stopped working. The family was like a team, always supporting, helping, and appreciating each other. 

Otto Schnering was married twice. A very important person for his company and his business was his second wife’s son. He was very smart and had a very good sense of business and management. Years later, their stepson took over the business. 

After graduating with a degree in philosophy from the University of Chicago in 1913, Otto Schnering became a philanthropist and a visionary businessman. He valued hard work and education the most. And it was indeed coming from his parents because they believed that hard work and education were the most important factors in success in life. Probably because of the German roots. In Germany, the education system flourished back then. Technical knowledge was considered very important.

Otto Schnering Biography of the U.S. Candy Bar King

When Business is in the Blood

Most successful people have worked hard to create their own businesses and put everything into them. For most iconic people, not giving up on dreams and having faith is the key to success. Our U.S. Candy Bar King was just one of those people. 

Surprisingly, even though Otto Schnering was called the U.S. Candy Bar King, he managed to do many other great deeds. He was also the founder of the Equipment Finance Corporation – the company that operated as the Candy Factory’s employees’  Retirement Fund. Turns out, he loved animals (One more reason to adore him) at the age of twelve. He started his first business when he was twelve years old: a breeding zoo. After years, his love for animals helped him to create the bigger farm in Cary.  

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Otto Schnering worked as a salesman for a piano company, and it was actually his first job too. Despite the fact that his family had money, he had a very devout and hard-working personality. He started his candy-making business with $100 worth of equipment and kept improving. He had great sales skills, understood how the business worked, and had some pretty unique marketing ideas too (which actually made the candy popular). 

His creative and analytical skills helped him to remain famous, not only as the Candy Bar King but also he was widely known for his distribution strategy, the Corporate Vertical Marketing System. Using the strategy helped him to find out about the ongoing problems immediately, which gave him the time to work on solving them.

Honoring his parents and encouraging his workers, Otto Schnering created two educational foundations. “Helen Curtiss Schnering Education Foundation” and “Julius Schnering Education Foundation”. His employees could apply there for scholarships. All those things helped him to expand the business into agriculture and create the Curtiss Farm.

Otto Schnering The U.S. Candy Bar King

As we mentioned above, Otto Schnering was a very good businessman. He was especially good at marketing and advertising. Everything started in 1916 when the Curtiss Candy Company was created. Otto Schnering named the company after his mother’s middle name. Some people think that he did so to avoid anti-German sentiments after World War 1.

However, Otto Schnering mentioned that he named the business after his mother’s middle name because it was a “tribute to his mother.” The company was founded in the backroom of the second-floor building on North Halsted Street in Chicago. Who knew that he and his company would shake the U.S. candy industry?

Babe Ruth or Ruth Cleveland? – A Legal Battle Regarding Baby Ruth Bar

In 1920, Otto Schnering invented Baby Ruth“. It was the first candy that cost five cents. An interesting fact about the candy is that it was named after President Grover Cleveland’s daughter. However, Ruth Cleveland isn’t the only person who’s associated with the Baby Ruth bar. In fact, some people believe that the bar was named after Babe Ruth – an American professional baseball player. Rumors say that Schnering intentionally named the bar after Babe Ruth. That way he would take advantage of the popularity of the player and increase the sales.

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Indeed, by 1926 the sales of Baby Ruth Bar reached $1 million in a single month. That’s probably why Ruth decided to enter the candy market. He lent his name to another candy company that introduced a new candy called “Ruth’s Home Run Candy” in 1928. The wrapper had Ruth’s signature printed on it which badly affected Schnering’s new product.

However, the company continued to claim the bar was named after Ruth Cleveland. The battle went on but Baby Ruth’s connection to the sports industry strengthened. Candy manufacturers made great use of the debates and as a result, in 2006 Baby Ruth bar became the official candy of major league baseball. 

Baby Ruth Bar
BABY RUTH BAR

The success of Baby Ruth Goes On

Back in that time, there were few candy and chocolate companies in the USA, and they were not very successful. Most Americans did not eat any candy. However, let’s not forget that kids are the main users of candy. So, the lower price offered by “Candy Bar King” was more in their price range. The price for Baby Ruth was just five cents. Eventually, it became the best-selling chocolate of that time. So, it forced other factories to go over their pricing once again and lower their prices. 

Otto Schnering created his own recipe for the Baby Ruth bar and cooked the candy in a five-gallon kettle. It all started in 1916. His first formulas for the candy were more experimental than traditional. Before 1920, he managed to create some new products. He made Polar Bar, Vanilla Coconut, Jolly Jacks, HoneyComb Chip, and others. However, the company was still lacking in signature candies. In 2020, Otto decided to take some new steps.

First, he made the five-cent chocolate bar. Also, he made another drastic change—he promoted his reliance on machinery. It was a good marketing move because he was proving that human hands were not touching the ingredients, and therefore, it was more sanitary.

He started going to the different dealers to sell and promote the candy. Finally, his plans succeeded, and Baby Ruth became the big thing. There was so much success that Otto Schnering opened up different factories too. If we count today’s dollars, approximately 70 million dollars was generated in 1921. 

“All you want for a nickel”

Every brand needs the correct marketing campaign to maintain stability in the market. Otto Schnering thought exactly the same and contacted the Brandt Advertising Agency, which took the advertising of the new candy into their hands. Before the cooperation, he was traveling city-by-city to promote his product. The agency helped to create the slogan “All you want for a nickel”. The advertisement appeared in newspapers and magazines, and Baby Ruth banners were even seen on airplanes. The aerial tricks performance and the parachuting Baby Ruth bars dropping from the plane were two of the most famous stunts. 

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The event happened several times. It was even named “Baby Ruth Flying Circus.” Wouldn’t it have been a wonderful advertisement back then? We can imagine how excited the kids would be after the performance. People still wish somebody would do this nowadays too. Let’s also not forget the famous Curtiss pony and wagon team performance, with beautiful horse shows and rodeos. 

It was indeed a smart idea to use Candy Bar King as a technique of brand extension. He took the famous names of candies and created another product associated with the famous name. For example, the “Baby Ruth” name was used to create products like nuggets, Ice cream, Gum, and others. Second, the most popular candy was Butterfingers. Butterfinger was introduced in 1926. The name was actually chosen by the contest. Candy was so successful that it practically made the factories fire and all cylinders work during the very tough time of the Great Depression

Butterfinger Cups
BUTTERFINGER CUPS

After his death, his wife, Dorothy started managing Curtiss Breeding Services. Unfortunately, it went bankrupt in 1981. The Curtis candy factory was sold to StandardBrands in 1964. It was merged with Nabisco, Inc. Finally, in 1990, Curtis’s Brands was bought by Nestle. This way, the two most famous candies, Baby Ruth and Butterfinger, continued to be made. Even today, they are still actively sold in supermarkets. However, they do not have the fame and popularity that they had back in the day.

“All of Us” 

Otto Schnering’s family had a huge role in his success. For them, unity and family bonding were the most important things. Once, he even said that his goal was to make a candy company with a soul, “having the benefits of its employees at heart.” Just like he was taught, he wanted to create a company where the employees would feel like they were at home and part of the big family. He was very concerned about the wellbeing of his employees and spent his own money and time on improving their living conditions and helping them with their educational and professional improvement. 

Who does not want a “boss” like this? So, thousands of people worked for him for decades because of this philosophy. Otto Schnering died in 1953 of a heart attack at the age of 61. When the employees of the candy company gathered in 2004, countless people cried while remembering him. His life motto was “All of Us”.

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