As was finalized earlier this month, Nassau Candy Chocolate Manufacturing (NCCM), the parent company of Chocolate Inn and Taylor & Grant, has acquired Counselor Top 40 supplier Lanco, which will continue to operate from its facility in Long Island, NY.
What’s particularly compelling about the acquisition is that while Chocolate Inn and Taylor & Grant are premier edible companies in the promo marketplace, Lanco represents a brand new avenue for growth for the company in the much larger drinkware, bag, tech, hand sanitizer and lip balm categories. NCCM managing director Lance Stier maintains this business plan is one that will put Lanco back on track as an industry leader.
“We’re incredibly well-positioned for expansion into hard good categories such as tech, lip balm and drinkware -- which are “center of the fairway” in the promo business,” said Stier in an exclusive interview with Counselor. “With access to fast growing tech categories, and a continued leadership position in the food category, we can now add Lanco’s ability for incremental printing and packaging capabilities like dye sublimation, tin embossing and shaped mints, lip balm manufacturing, powder and liquid filling such as powder and sanitizer, pen printing and more. That, coupled with a great, long-standing industry brand name where we can further grow our team with additional management talent, I see a lot of great cross-selling potential.” Stier ticks off examples such as a multi-sensory experience of bubble gum candy, a bubble gum-infused candle and bubble-gum scented hand-cream bundled in attractive, retail-style packaging, all provided from Lanco and the NCCM family of companies.
Regarding company logistics, Stier notes that Chocolate Inn/Taylor & Grant and Lanco will maintain two separate facilities, but combine ASI numbers. “We will also bring together our salesforce and marketing teams,” Stier says. “Our vision is to improve stock levels at Lanco, continue to cement its cost leadership positions in key categories like lip balm and microfibers, expand its existing product categories with new and innovative products, and cross-market Lanco and Chocolate Inn items through new kits which combine edible products and hard goods -- think hiking kits, tradeshow kits, room drops and more – all of which will be featured in our Best Seller Catalog being released in January 2018.”
Stier says he and his management team are interested in a more diversified platform with the goal of bolstering year-round business and hard goods can do that. “When we bought Taylor & Grant, it was a nice, niche market in Canada that was a great partnership,” he points out. “When we looked into buying a hard goods company, we passed on a few others until we met with Scott Slade, the president of Lanco, and realized that company was the perfect fit for us, due mainly to their printing capabilities like digital, flexographic and dye sublimation, its streamlined operations and Lanco’s location geographically, all of which gives us a broader slate of services to offer, with the option for increased capacity to offer faster and better service to our distributor customers. And Scott has done has done a phenomenal job running the company, and will continue to run our hard goods business.”
Industry veteran David Miller, president of Chocolate Inn/Taylor & Grant, notes another timely benefit of the acquisition: “Being USA-made is extremely important to us, as we’re firmly committed to timely shipping, having inventory and supporting local jobs.” Miller’s instincts are on point, as a recent Counselor end-buyer study revealed that 80% of respondents in the hospitality market, for example, prefer to buy USA-made products.
With estimated 2016 North American promotional product revenue of $55.7 million, Lanco ranked 30th on Counselor’s 2017 list of the largest suppliers in the promo industry. From his perspective, Stier maintains that Lanco has “so much potential,” not the least of which is due to Miller taking an active management role. “Because he’s so humble and low-key, David is one of the best-kept secrets in the industry, but I’ll tell you that he’s one of the best leaders I’ve ever worked with and the relationships he has in the industry are unbelievable.” Those relationships were on full display when Chocolate Inn bore the brunt of Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and had to rebuild its facility and a demoralized workforce. “But we’re tough and we came back better than ever,” Miller says. “It’s true what they say: Adversity makes you stronger.”
For this new iteration of their ever-growing company, Stier predicts that in 3-5 years Lanco will see the same robustness on the hard goods side as Chocolate Inn/Taylor & Grant do on the edibles side of the business. “We’re not just importing product from China and imprinting here, which can be a real race to the bottom,” he says. “We’re manufacturing in New York, developing unique products and solutions that set our distributor customers apart, providing great value to their clients, and if we’re successful, we’ll have created a company and a brand that’s synergistic, exciting and tells a great story.”
When asked if more acquisitions are in the company’s future, Stier notes that the company has made six acquisitions in the past seven years in the promotional markets, and because NCCM is well-positioned, “we have been opportunistic and will continue to be.”
Lance Stier, Managing Director of Nassau Candy Chocolate Manufacturing.