Buffalo’s Best Sponge Candy: Watson’s Chocolates

TONAWANDA, N.Y. (WIVB) – Western New Yorkers love sponge candy, and we received thousands of nominations and votes in this week’s poll to select the winner of the Buffalo’s Best Sponge Candy title.

Watson’s Chocolates came out on top, thanks to its unique combination of caramelized spun sugar enrobed in creamy, fair-trade cocoa chocolate.

Watson’s Chocolates President Whitney Watson Beecher says its hard to describe sponge candy to someone who’s never had it, but it’s easy to see what sets Watson’s sponge candy apart. “Definitely the quality of the chocolate,” she said. “The thickness of the coating, and the fact that we only use the very heart of the sponge where it’s the most tender.”

The sponge is carefully created in traditional copper kettles in the candy kitchen, then placed in molds to harden overnight before being cut into bite-sized cubes that go through the chocolate waterfall and drying process.

“Everything works so well together, when it’s done right,” said candy maker Gerry Krayenvenger.

Watson’s has been making its sponge candy the same way since brothers Louis and John Watson started making chocolates in the backroom of their Kenmore soda counter and luncheonette in 1946.

More than 70 years later, the business is still owned and operated by the Watson family, but it has grown to include eight retail locations.

Demand for the company’s sponge candy has also grown a lot, too, and the crew at the factory in Tonawanda has to make a lot of sponge candy to keep up.

“The last time we figured, it was around 70,000 to 75,000 pounds a year,” Krayenvenger said.

Every piece of sponge candy is made with love, because the people who make it love sponge candy themselves.

One employee, Yolanda Merced, even got a tattoo of sponge candy on her arm!

Krayenvenger shows his love for the sweet treats by showing up day after day for decades. He started working at Watson’s as a teenager in the 1970s, and says he still enjoys sharing the Western New York favorites with fans across the country. “That’s the best part,” he said, “after its all done and you see how people react to it.”

After years of making sponge candy, Krayenvenger tells News 4 he doesn’t smell the chocolate anymore (Our News 4 crew who was there to announce the Buffalo’s Best Sponge Candy results Friday morning can tell you, the wonderful smell of chocolate on the lines is part of the joy of the experience there). But, Krayenvenger says he still eats a lot of sponge candy, and he can basically make it in his sleep now. “It’s early in the morning and you just start it up and go. You’re on automatic,” he laughed.

The crew makes it look easy, but the candy-making process requires a perfect balance of art and science. “You’ve got thermometers, you’ve got the numbers, but it’s still, you’ve got to go with what your eyes see and what your hands feel,” Krayenvenger said.

“And what your heart feels,” he added.

To learn more about Watson’s Chocolates, go to the company’s website: https://watsonschocolates.com/

The company says at this point in the season, it can’t guarantee delivery of online orders by Christmas day, but the crew will do their best.

News 4’s Katie Alexander spent Friday morning getting a behind-the-scenes look at how Watson’s makes its sponge candy. Watch the videos below to see our full coverage.

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