Storck International GmbH

It's getting ready to rain as I approach the gated entry to Storck's facility and luckily the security guard/visitor center has an overhang to lean my bike up against while going inside. I can't remember what kind of business Storck is in but it's obviously something to do with food as the sweet smell of caramel punctuates the air. I'm on the outskirts of Halle, a snug little community of 18,000 people, located halfway between the big cities of Hannover and Dusseldorf.

The younger of the two guards speaks some English so I explain who I am and what I do to. I end up waiting 40 minutes while calls are made. The guard/visitor center reeks of cigarettes, as the older of the two guards can't seem to function without a continuously lit cigarette in his hand. Several pictures on a wall contain aerial photos of this site and it's huge. From the guard building one can't see much because most of the facility is hidden amongst groves of trees. When do I finally figure out Storck is a maker of candy? When the young guard points to a big, several gallon-size bowl of candy on the counter and asks if I want some.

Big trucks are continually going in and out of this place. Most of the drivers have to come inside the guard/visitor center and fill out paperwork before the guards will flick the switch to open the gate. I was standing outside (due to the idiot guard continuously smoking away) and eyed what happened inside whilst the two guards stepped outside to help someone. A driver, left inside by himself, started reaching into the candy bowl and grabbing fist-full after fist-full of goodies and stuffing them in his pants and jacket pockets. Pretty funny to see.

Many of the company's candies are best sellers in Germany but some are marketed and well known even in the USA including their best-known candy; Werther's Original, the hard caramel candy. Merci, the individually wrapped chocolate in bar form is one of the biggest sellers in Europe. Personally, I like Toffifee, with its unique combination of caramel, hazelnuts, nougat cream and chocolate.

Nice guy Donald Brayley, who works in export packaging department, appears and gives me a hearty handshake and warm welcome. It seems no one knows anything about my introductory letter sent a month earlier to Chairman Klaus Oberwelland. Brayley got the call to take care of "the American on a bicycle" because as he explains, "I speak English".

From the guard gate we take a stroll around the beautiful grounds. With all the extensive vegetation, well manicured lawns and heavy woods you'd think you were in a vast park instead of a large manufacturing facility. Brayley points to one factory building and boasts it contains the most modern candy making facility in the world. I know how competitive and secretive these candy makers are about their factories so of course I'm not surprised when Brayley doesn't invite me in for a look/see.

We end up in the company cafeteria, a good looking building in itself, where we sit down to go through the questions. My first question deals with when the head office building was built and his answer throws me for a loop. The head office is not here in Halle but in Berlin. Ugh!! The head honchos moved to Berlin back in 1989. I frustrating tell Brayley I came through Berlin not too long ago. How many employees work on this 235-hectare site? Over 2,000 out of a total of 3,600 employees.

Of course Brayley doesn't let me leave without weighing my bike down with a big bag full of Storck goodies to sample.