Delicious, CHOCOLATE, & Kosher!
We feel the following quote perfectly states our feelings regarding what has become one of the most popular food types and flavors in the world— Chocolate:
"There are four basic food groups: milk chocolate, dark chocolate, white chocolate and chocolate truffles." (Author Unknown).
So, it would be natural for us to include, as part of our KosherEye “kosher” summer road trip through Pennsylvania and Maryland, a visit to a chocolate manufacturing plant. We were invited to tour the Gertrude Hawk Chocolates plant in Dunmore, PA. which is near Scranton, PA.From the moment we entered the front door, we were amazed with the facility; it consists of a 170,000 square foot modern production facility and a 150,000 square foot warehouse/distribution center.
After signing in at the reception desk, we were issued nametags and ushered into the Peanut Butter Conference Room."Oh yum" we thought, that name alone is a prelude to what lay ahead. We were given confidentiality forms to sign and then met Gregory Zarnoski, Product Development Manager, who would be leading us on the tour. Greg shared a brief history of Gertrude Hawk Chocolates:
Gertrude Jones learned the art of candy dipping at age 12, when she went to work in a local candy shop.At age 19, Gertrude met and married Elmer C. Hawk and they had two sons, Elmer R. and Richard. During the height of The Depression, in 1936, Gertrude wanted to earn extra money for her young family; so she turned to the skill she learned as a young girl and started dipping and selling chocolates from her kitchen. She continued to do business from her kitchen for the next 10 years. Unofficially, that was the beginning of what is now the Gertrude Hawk Chocolates Company.
Dave Hawk, currently Chairman of the Board and Director of Research and Development, is the grandson of Gertrude Hawk. His father, Elmer R. officially started the business in 1946 with his parents (Dave's grandparents), Gertrude and Elmer C. Hawk. Dave's son is also involved-which makes Gertrude Hawk a four generational family business.
Today, Gertrude Hawk Chocolates employs 600 people (many multi-generational staff members) and is a major employee in the Scranton area. It is a multi-faceted company that, in addition to producing chocolates for their retail division of over 65 stores in Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey, also produces chocolate inclusions (small bite sized chocolate pieces found in ice cream and baking products). They also have a Fund Raising Program and produce private label products.
We just couldn't wait to see what was behind the "door!" But before we gained entry into the world of chocolate we had to remove all of our jewelry (rings, watches, earrings, etc.), put on a disposable, full length buttoned down, lab coat with matching disposable head covering. We were not permitted to take in any notebooks, pens, handbags, etc. It was just our protective clothing and us! The doors opened and what a thrill. What did we see?
As confirmed chocoholics, we thought it would be a struggle to notice anything other than the fabulous chocolate candies moving on the conveyor belts. But frankly, the tour that Greg took us on was fascinating.
We toured three floors. We saw the Research and Development room; it was small and is used for creating and testing new products, shapes, ingredients etc. We were shown row upon row of "molds" that are used for production of "filled" chocolates and that was amazing. The detail and design involved is a science.
We were introduced to "The Three Stooges", "The Marx Brothers" and "Kramer". Who are these celebrities? They are the huge machines that produce the wonderful Gertrude Hawk products and are lovingly named after those zany comedians. But the humor comparison stops with the names as the company only uses the most modern and up-to-date machinery procured from global sources. The machines are computer controlled to regulate production. We were impressed with the strict sanitation, the employees were very friendly and the employee break areas looked spacious and inviting.
Our absolute favorite part of the tour was the chocolate assembly lines. Here, the finished product is inspected and hand boxed. Dressed in our issued uniforms, we envisioned ourselves as "Lucy" and "Ethel" of the I Love Lucy series fame. We were all set to stuff our mouths with extra production line chocolates. Actually, we didn't have to as Greg gave us samples of several of the products being produced that day. Without a doubt, our favorite was the milk chocolate covered peanut butter cups.
We also tasted the Milk Chocolate Almond Butter Crunch, Milk Chocolate and White Chocolate Dipped Pretzels and the Milk Chocolate Caramel Cashew – fabulous! For dark chocolate lovers there were the equally delicious Mixed Nut Clusters, Peanut Butter Cups, Pretzels and Caramel Pecan Patties.
The "family" at Gertrude Hawk was warm and friendly, obviously enjoyed their surroundings and gave us take-home samples! Yumm!
From a working mother's kitchen to a modern day facility, Gertrude Hawk Chocolates taste like they are still being made in Gertrude's kitchen – smooth, rich and flavorful. The line includes assorted gourmet dark and milk chocolates, chocolate covered pretzels, fresh fudge, and truffles.
Gertrude Hawk Chocolates are Star-D kosher certified. They are a definite KosherEye "gift others, gift yourself" selection.
For more product information, to order, Fund Raising information, or company history, please visit GertrudeHawk.com.