Can't make it in person...? Take a Virtual Factory Tour, select the panels below to progress through our factory.
The Cerreta’s strive to create a fun, lively atmosphere where everyone can see candy magic being made. Take a special guided tour of our family owned hometown candy factory. We’ll show you how a sea of caramel becomes wrapped tempting taste treats. Learn how cream centers are enrobed in luscious chocolate.
30-minute guided tours are offered Monday through Friday at 10am and 1pm. For groups of 30 or more, please call (623) 930-1000 and arrange for a private tour.
Can't make it in person...? Take a Virtual Factory Tour, select the panels below to progress through our factory
Self-guided video tours are available during normal factory hours, Monday through Saturday, 8am to 6pm. Television monitors through out the facility provide plenty of information while you watch chocolate flow right before your eyes. The tour video is available here in RealVideo format for your viewing pleasure.
Can’t make it to the factory? Keep following the panels below and see what you’ll be missing if you don’t visit! We’ll walk you through the factory, just as if you were there. If only you could smell the sweet aroma over the Internet!
One of the key reasons the Cerreta’s wanted to expand their factory and moved to Glendale was to create a fun atmosphere, where the public could tour their operation. Since moving to this new location, the Cerretas’ have hosted an average of two tours a day. The tours are extremely popular, especially with school children, who show their appreciation in very dramatic ways.
There is probably no one who loves the gooey treat known as caramel more than Jim Cerreta, Jr. One of the key ingredients of caramel is corn syrup, piped in from an outside storage tank and placed in copper kettles, to be baked one batch at a time like Jim’s grandfather did it. The caramel cooks at 225 degrees for about an hour. For the popular pecan, chocolate almond, or walnut version of the caramel, Jim pours in only the finest nut meats.
Just like the old days, the molten caramel is poured by hand onto tables to cool. In days gone by it would have taken a day to cool on a marble table. However, today’s modern tables have refrigerated lines running beneath that cool the table and in-turn cool the caramel in less then an hour.
The candy is worked into shape as it cools. This beautiful sea of caramel is then cut by hand into long ribbons, to be sold just as caramels or to be used as centers and enrobed in chocolate.
Those that are sold just as caramels are sent to the caramel-wrapping machine, which wraps them in cellophane at a rate of 125 per minute. This type of machine was original used for hard candy. Jim, Jr.’s grandfather was the first candy maker in the country to use this machine to wrap soft candy and also the first to wrap candy in cellophane, rather then waxed paper.
A natural line extension for the caramel business are Camelbacks. The Cerretas’ versions of the ever-popular caramel and pecan Turtles. Another natural was popcorn, covered with caramel and sprayed with our secret flavoring.
Cream Centers Kitchen
Just past the caramel operation, is the cream centers kitchen, where Joe Cerreta works his magic to create those luscious cream centers. The cream process starts in an open copper kettle, by mixing together all natural ingredients, including sugar, butter, and milk.
First the sugar mixture is steam cooked to a liquid form. When it reaches 230 degrees, it is transported through copper tubes to a huge vacuum copper kettle, where the temperature is cooled to 100 degrees in 45 seconds, forming syrup. After transferring the mixture to the cream beaters, it cools and flavoring ingredients are added. The beaters powerful arms turn the liquid into a consistency half way between a syrup and a crystal. It is at this stage the smooth creamy mixture will hold its shape, formed by a press. These centers are moved to mobile storage racks, where they are further cooled. Both the cream centers and the caramels are then sent to the chocolate kitchen to be coated in everyone’s all time favorite, chocolate!
Cerreta’s distinctive chocolate flavor begins with JC special milk, made especially for the Cerreta family by the famous Guittard Chocolate Company in San Francisco.
Since Cerreta’s main business is coating flavored centers with chocolate, the chocolate must be constantly tasted to be sure it has a robust flavor, yet mild enough not to over power the sweet centers. Once the chocolate has passed the high taste standards of the Cerreta family, Jerry Cerreta begins the chocolate coating process at the melting machine. There, the big bars are melted down, cooled, and sent through pipes to all the chocolate depositor operations in the plant. When chocolate is needed, a candy maker simply opens a valve, and chocolate flows like water. With two separate systems, both brown and white coatings can be shipped to different workstations at the same time. It will take Jerry Cerreta only ten minutes in the chocolate kitchen to coat a 120-pound batch of cream centers with chocolate.
The cream or caramel centers travel over a rolling drum flowing with chocolate, which coats the bottom of the candy. Next, the candy centers head for the big chocolate falls. Here a continuous flow of chocolate drapes slowly over the centers, covering them with a wonderful rich brown color. After passing through the chocolate falls, the centers pass over a vibrator, which gently shakes off the excess chocolate, so the amount of chocolate flavor does not overpower the inner flavor of the center. To further enhance the homemade look and texture of the candy, dancing chocolate strings decorate each piece before it is cooled.
At the rate of almost 1,000 pieces per minute, the enrobed candy centers enter the cold tunnel where they are kept at 58 degrees for nine minutes.
Besides coating candy with chocolate, the Cerretas also mold candy shells and fill them with chocolate. This is how the famous Cerreta French Mints are made. First, luscious melted green chocolate is deposited into trays, one tray every six seconds. The trays are flipped over and excess chocolate pours out leaving only a green chocolate shell. Next, the trays are turned upright and sent into a cooling chamber for one minute and half to harden. The green shells are injected with brown, mint flavored chocolate centers. In route to the final depositor, the French mints head for another cooling chamber to harden the centers. Next, more green chocolate is deposited, entrapping the entire center, to lock in the aromatic mint flavor. The molded candy is then transported on a flexible conveyor belt to the Cerreta chilling room.
Chilling Room / Wrapping Stations
Cerreta’s chilling room is unique. The flexible conveyor belt that carries the candy, spirals round and round as the candy cools. The conveyor belt is nearly a mile long.
The spiral cooler works just like your refrigerator at home, only it’s bigger. It maintains the candy at 48 degrees for 36 minutes, the time it takes to move it from the bottom to the top of the spiral. At the top, the molded candy moves onto the discharge conveyor, where it begins its descent to waiting Cerreta workers who release 320 pieces of candy a minute, by hand. Having been chilled in the spiral cooler allows the candy to easily release from the molds.
Hundreds of pieces of candy then slide onto the twin lane-wrapping station, which looks like a freeway at rush hour. This wrapping machine, known at Otto, can wrap up to 1,000 pieces of candy a minute.
Before leaving the plant, every carton of Cerreta candy has been carefully inspected by a Cerreta employee, to insure only the highest quality products goes into every carton of candy Cerreta makes. The Cerretas produce 3,000 to 6,000 pounds of candy per day, which is shipped all over the Western Region of the United States, mostly to grocery stores on the West Coast.
Cerreta takes pride in its homemade quality and the fact that it differs from big candy makers in that it never freezes its products. Its candy is always fresh to the customer.
The Cerreta family would like to thank you for taking the time for a virtual visit to their homemade candy kitchen!
Visit the factory and experience the magic, free of charge. 30-minute guided tours are offered Monday through Friday at 10am and 1pm. For groups of 30 or more, please call (623) 930-9000 and arrange for a private tour.
Self-guided video tours are available during normal factory hours, Monday through Saturday, 8am to 6pm.
Cerreta’s is located on the southeast corner of 54th and Glendale avenues in Historic Downtown Glendale, Arizona, 1/2 mile east of Murphy Park and just 15 minutes from downtown Phoenix.
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