Dr. John’s® Candies is the business creation of Dr. John and Deb Bruinsma. Dr. John is a dentist and his wife, Deb, is a dental hygienist. In the early years of their practice, they were confronted with a number of older patients experiencing dry mouth. Many relied on sugar-filled hard candies to promote salivary flow, which led to an increase in cavities.

This set Dr. John and Deb on a search for sugar-free candies that patients could substitute for the sugary candies. Initially, they worked with a manufacturer of sugar-free candies to get their products into the dental sales pipeline. In time, demand for sugar-free candies from both dentists and their patients grew.

In those earlier years, however, little was available as a sugar alternative that tasted good and didn’t cause GI distress. It was clear that to get patients to give up their sugary treats, they needed a good-tasting substitute.

After many twists and turns, Dr. John’s Candies began manufacturing their own candies, and Deb moved out of dental hygiene into the candy business full time. Now known as a cavity-fighting company, Dr. John’s Candies made the strategic move to replace the artificial sweeteners in their candy with Xylitol. Xylitol does not promote cavities, and it enhances the fruit flavors in the hard candies and lollipops

Ever improving their product line, Dr. John’s Candies has made a number of significant changes in 2015. Vice President Deb Bruinsma was happy to share these with us.

What sets Dr. John’s Candies apart from other sugar-free candies?
We now offer sugar-free products you won’t find anywhere else -- candies that taste as delicious as those with sugar and are free of chemicals. It’s taken us years of research to get to this point.

In early 2015, you introduced some major changes in your candies. Can you explain them?
The #1 change is in colors and flavors. We have switched from artificial to natural colors and flavors in all our products.

You use two natural sweeteners in your candies.  What are they?
We combine polyglucitol with xylitol. Polyglucitol is a corn-based sweetener that serves as a bulking agent and sugar-free carrier for flavors and colors. Typically, it’s combined with artificial booster sweeteners, but Dr. John’s uses natural xylitol as a booster. Our polyglucitol comes from non-GMO sources in the U.S. and Europe. Our xylitol is made from U.S. birch wood.

Dentists recommend the use of xylitol products to help protect against tooth decay. How many of your candies should we eat for good dental protection?
The generally agreed-upon daily amount of xylitol intake for tooth protection is 2 grams 3 times a day. Our candies are sized to make it easy for the consumer to know how many to take each day. For instance, lollipops and caramels each have 1 gram of xylitol, while two pieces of hard candy contain 1 gram of xylitol.

Homestead Market® customers tend to prefer products made in the USA. Where are Dr. John’s Candies made?
We strive for U.S. ingredients in all our products, although some of the ingredients in the polyglucitol may come from Europe. All are Chinese free.

One of your recent changes is new and unusual product packaging. Why the change?
Xylitol is a great sugar substitute, but it absorbs water from the air, causing the candies to become sticky. We tweaked the process to make the candies less hygroscopic, but the stick in the lollipops allows some air to come in no matter how tightly we seal them. In working with a wrapper and packaging company, we came up with a foil-lined bag as the best deterrent against moisture. So, now our hard candies and lollipops come in re-sealable foil-lined bags.

What can the customer do to help ensure that their candies do not become sticky?
We offer the following tips.
• Keep the candies in their original packaging.
• Burp and seal the bag when closing it.
• Keep the bag in a cool dry place (not in the refrigerator).

If the customer follows these guidelines, their candies should remain factory fresh for up to a year. If the candies become sticky, they are still fine for eating. They’ve simply absorbed water from the air.

Your candies have different brand names.
Previously, all our candies and xylitol crystals had the brand name Simply Xylitol. Now the hard candies, lollipops, and caramels are named Inspired Sweets™. Our gums and mints have the name Sweet Advantage™, and Simply Decadent™ is the brand name for our chocolates. Only our xylitol crystals retain the Simply Xylitol™ brand name.

What else is unique to Dr. John’s Candies?
Our Inspired Sweets™ and Sweet Advantage™ products are made in a nut-free facility, while our chocolates are made in a separate facility. In addition to being sugar free, our candies are free of gluten and artificial colors, flavors, and sweeteners; most are kosher.

Note to readers: Dr. John’s Candies will soon be introducing hard candies and lollipops that contain capsaicin, the active component of chili peppers, which have potential health benefits. Look for more on that in a future blog.