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After 81 years, Roca is getting a new nut

Fri., Sept. 10, 2004

SEATTLE — Almond Roca lovers, get ready for a new nut.

After 81 years of making the decadent chocolate, toffee and nut confection, Brown & Haley plans this holiday season to introduce a new twist on an old favorite: Cashew Roca.

It will be the first time the privately held Tacoma company has created an offshoot of its popular candy, which was formulated in 1923 and gained nationwide fame after it was shipped to troops in World War II.

Pierson Clair, the company’s chief executive, concedes that Cashew Roca is a bit risky, especially since the small company has built up such brand loyalty with its traditional pink tins of Almond Roca.

But instead of taking customers away from Almond Roca, he believes Cashew Roca will draw new nut lovers to the candy. Brown & Haley also sells a variety of other candies, including mints, gourmet chocolates and Mountain Bars, a chocolate and coconut mouthful.

Clair said the idea for Cashew Roca came during a staff meeting, when employees had the simple epiphany that “there are other nuts. There are other wonderful nuts.”

“You have this wonderful 92-year-old company in Tacoma, and just because of circumstances it’s been almond, almond, almond,” Clair said. “And all of a sudden, for a variety of reasons, (we thought), ‘Gosh, why not make it cashew?”’

The company tested other nuts, such as pistachio and macadamia. But ultimately it decided the buttery flavor of cashews best matched Roca’s own buttery backdrop.

Bernard Pacyniak, editor-in-chief of Candy Industry magazine in Deerfield, Ill., said many candy companies are facing demand for more varieties. He believes Cashew Roca will be well-received because cashews are seen as a “premium nut,” and consumers “have a greater appreciation for premium treats.”

It’ll come with a premium price, too. A 5-ounce bag of Cashew Roca will cost $2.99, the same price as a slightly larger, 5.4-ounce bag of Almond Roca. That’s because cashews are more expensive, the company said.


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