10 Questions With ... Larry Graham

Easter's coming up. What does your Easter look like?

The interesting thing about candy is it has seasons, and it's connected with some of our major holidays. So, Halloween, Easter, Christmas and Valentine would be our four biggest holidays. You know, Halloween probably being biggest. I think Easter is second. Each season sort of has its own traditional product. So Easter's going to be chocolate bunnies and jelly beans and chocolate eggs and that sort of thing. So we generally have a function here at the office, and we invite the media or people from the Hill or whoever. We're not doing it this time because we're undergoing some construction here, our conference room.

It's a big important holiday for us. It's significant for us and I think that's where candy still plays a kind of traditional role in what people eat and the times of the year and all that.

I love marshmallow. So I'll probably be eating some Peeps. Since I've been in this job, I've really developed much more of a taste for dark chocolate, which I didn't know that much about until I came into the industry. So I'll certainly be having some chocolate. I love all the gourmet jelly beans that are out there now. Jelly Belly and other major companies are making these.

The maybe, perhaps, unfortunate thing is I'm kind of known in my neighborhood about my job, so people want to come over to my house and get some free candy. Or come here to the office. We have chocolate. We have a lot of chocolate in my house. There's a lot of innovative things.

I like all of the artisan chocolates now that are coming out. Particularly the dark chocolates. They're pretty good. I think all of our members now are kind of fitting their products into the season, so they're making their candy bars in the shape of bunnies, and that sort of thing, so we're probably seeing more of that. I think what keeps all the small guys alive in our industry is they all find their niche. We say that every year there's over 2,000 new candy products. Now, new could be a different package, an extension of a brand, some sort of new flavor, so it could be a similar product, and not all of those succeed.

We have this big trade show in Chicago in May, and we have over 500 exhibitors there. So what the retailers are always looking for, and customers, consumers, too, they're looking for a new product, and innovative products. And plus with so many manufacturers in it, there's a lot of competition to come up with something new.

If your job is so fun, do you ever feel as if you're actually working?

One of the things we do, of course, is, we lobby. And I think every place we go, a congressional office or even an agency, people are kind of intrigued and happy to see us. It feels nice and I think it adds to the job to be representing a product that people love and makes people happy.

The other thing I feel like we're protecting is, there's so many small businesses in our industry. So we feel like we're protecting an important part of American life, and we're protecting small business, and I think what we're saying, a taste of happiness, a part of our tagline — it's a fun job.

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