One of the country's largest candy companies is based right here in Chicago. The iconic Tootsie Roll Industries is located on the city’s Southwest Side.
It's a question that's been asked as long as they've been making Tootsie Pops: How many licks does it take to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop?
Not even Ellen Gordon knows for sure. Ellen and husband Melvin have run Tootsie Roll Industries since the 1960s. An iconic firm, its products have been loved by millions for more than a century.
Sammy Davis Jr. used to throw Tootsie Rolls to his fans when he sang The Candy Man. Frank Sinatra always wanted a bowl of Tootsie Rolls in his dressing rooms and hotel suites. Tootsie Rolls have always been a staple for our service men and women. In fact in Korea, Tootsie Rolls were parachuted to our cold and hungry troops during the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir.
"So they took the Tootsie Rolls and put them inside their clothes and warmed them under their arms. They warmed them up enough so they could eat them, and it saved their lives," Tootsie Roll President Ellen Gordon said.
A few hundred yards from Ellen's office, it's candy land, and that is where the magic happens. It begins with a wide sheet of thick and creamy chocolate batter. It turns into a 14-pound loaf that's whisked away via conveyer belt to a room where hair-nets are required.
Eventually, the big loaf comes out like a big thick rope. It gets squeezed down more and more until, eventually, it looks like a snake. They funnel it into a machine called the wrapper. Inside of it, they chop it up into little pieces.
They chop 1,500 pieces a minute, and on the other end, you see the finished product.
The fully wrapped Tootsie Rolls, the formula of which hasn't changed in over 100 years, come flying out at a dizzying pace.
Would you believe 66 million Tootsie Rolls are produced each and every day in Chicago?
If you’re in France, and you buy a Tootsie Roll and eat it, it was made right in town.
"Right here, and we could even tell you the day and the shift,” Plant Manager Steve Green said. “The only place in the world that makes them."
The factory doesn’t just make Tootsie Rolls and pops, the company's other products like Charleston Chew, Andes Mints, Dots and Junior Mints are plentiful.