TYRONE - Gardners Candies soon will be sold in China.
Gardners has signed an agreement with Chaobin Fan, owner of Shenzen Health Food Co., Shenzen, China, to do business with his company, said Gardners President Sam Phillips.
Fan, whose company operates 85 food stores under the "VVO" label and plans on carrying selected Gardners items in these stores, came to Tyrone Thursday to visit the local candy plant.
Mirror photo by Walt Frank
Chaobin Fan, (left) owner of Shenzen Health Food Co., Shenzen, China, interpreter Shasha Lu and Sam Phillips, president of Gardners Candies, check out some candy just off the production line Thursday at Gardners' Tyrone plant.
"I am here to investigate the American food markets and to investigate how the factory works and explore business cooperation," Fan said through an interpreter.
In addition to selling Gardners products in his stores, Fan also said he plans to explore opening Gardners stores in China.
Phillips is excited about the opportunity.
"This is our first venture in the Chinese market. This is a unique opportunity for us, and we hope it will result in a long-term relationship with Mr. Fan and his customers in China," Phillips said. "We don't know what to expect. We are going to see how Gardners is accepted in China. Chinese tastes are different; we think it will do very well."
Local economic development officials said this could mean good things for the company and community.
"It is a great opportunity for Gardners to get into China and look at other countries. It gives them the opportunity to sell into a different market and create jobs here as they expand," said Tina Taylor, international trade program manager for the Southern Alleghenies Planning and Development Commission. "If this goes well, it would require them to increase production, which would lead to job and sales growth."
"You like to see these arrangements with these companies, which will allow them to expand their operation. I think it is a real opportunity for them and allow them to grow their business. Hopefully it is a long-term arrangement," said Marty Marasco, president and CEO of Altoona-Blair County Development Corp.
Former state Agriculture Secretary Samuel Hayes Jr. welcomed Fan to Tyrone and stressed the importance of the business agreement between Fan and Gardners.
"These opportunities give both nations a chance to understand each other better and both of us. We have the opportunity to do good things for our people," Hayes said.
Hayes said the relationship should be guided by a couple of principles.
"The relationship should be based on fairness and mutual benefit. I can tell you the products produced in Pennsylvania are some of the very best on the planet, and you will find the people of Pennsylvania, like those at Gardners Candies, to be fair and subscribe to the principle of mutual benefit," Hayes said.
After the plant tour, Fan visited Gardners stores in Tyrone and Logan Town Centre and also toured the DelGrosso Foods plant in Tipton and Shirley's Cookies in Claysburg.