In the early 1900's Glen Davidson's Father grew citrus near Dundee, Florida. As a youngster, Glen enjoyed a confection made from delicious citrus juices and sugar cane from the Florida Everglades. Later, while working with fresh citrus juices from his own groves, Florida citrus candy was born. Many friends of Glen and his wife Lois enjoyed the candy’s unique flavor and texture. Word soon spread, and people from all over began asking for a taste of Florida citrus candy. Earlier in his career, Glen worked for Sunline Candy Company and helped invent the candy known as SweetTarts.
Davidson of Dundee, the famed candy and jelly factory located off Highway 27 in Dundee, was first founded by Glen Davidson in 1967 and remains a family business as son and President Tom Davidson oversees operations today.
Even though the varieties have increased over the years to include marmalades, jellies, conserves, citrus candies, chocolates, coconut patties, pralines, and other candies, Davidson of Dundee still makes products the “old-fashioned way” where candies and marmalades are slowly cooked in copper kettles, one small batch at a time. This process is the same one that's been used since the start of the factory, and the recipes date back to the early 1900's. Guests can watch products being made on a factory tour and taste free samples of the candies and marmalades.
Q & A with Tom Davidson
We asked Tom Davidson, president and son of founder Glen Davidson, several questions on his career and Davidson of Dundee.
How did you get started in this industry?
After graduating from the University of Florida with an Engineering degree, I was offered employment with a firm in Jacksonville. Since I had worked at the factory during my youth, my father asked me to work for him for six months to give it a try. I felt I owed that to him, so I gave him six months - which has now turned into 30+ years!
Why Highway 27?
The biggest attraction in Florida in 1967 was Cypress Gardens, and the factory was built nearby on Hwy 27 to allow visitors to stop at the candy and jelly factory on their way back home. Also, Glen was raised in Central Florida before becoming a naval aviator in World War II.
What challenges have you faced along the way if any, and how have you overcome them?
We use a lot of citrus juices from our groves and Everglades sugar. We have seen major price swings in these products over the years as they are volatile commodities. This makes it difficult to maintain low prices on our products, but we strive to give good value to our customers as we know the out-of-state visitors will come back to see us again and the locals will too. We have had to deal with three hurricanes in 2004, and the closure of our main entrance when Highway 27 was widened over a three-year period recently. The closing of Cypress Gardens was difficult for us, but we are excited to be so close to LEGOLAND Florida Resort now that they have taken over the Gardens.
What is your favorite aspect of your job?
The best part of my job is making the very best items that we can. It is quite satisfying to know that we use only Grade A or US #1 products as our main ingredients. I eat the jellies or marmalades on my toast each morning, and I enjoy the citrus candies, peanut brittle, coconut patties, and pralines each and every day! I never get tired of it. I also enjoy working with our staff. Our staff is very proud of their work and I know how blessed I am to work with people that take their products seriously.
Why should people experience Davidson of Dundee?
Davidson of Dundee was featured on the Food Network, Fox News, Wall Street Journal's Smart Money Magazine, Southern Living Magazine, NBC and ABC affiliates, and the Washington Post. We want our visitors to experience a real, old-fashioned candy and jelly factory. Our kitchens and pack rooms are all glass enclosed so visitors can see every process in the making of our products. We provide free samples of our items so visitors can taste our candies, jellies, and marmalades before making their selections. We also have a fresh fruit packing house where visitors can try our oranges, honeybells, and grapefruit before purchasing. We also ship our candies and jellies everywhere.
What is the ultimate goal of Davidson of Dundee?
Our goal is to make the finest candies, jellies, and marmalades anywhere. We know that we aren't some giant corporation that can make millions of low quality products each quarter. We are small, so we have to make the very best we can make so that people will remember us and say, "I've got to get some more of those Davidson of Dundee candies and jellies; they are the best I've ever eaten!"
What makes your business different from others?
We cook every batch in copper kettles, hand-stirred with wooden paddles. Our recipes are from the early 1900's, and we don't use high fructose corn syrup. We guarantee everything we sell, and our tours are quite informative and fun. We only use the finest sun-ripened fruit in our products and have been in business at the same location for over 47 years. Best of all, everything tastes delicious.
Davidson says he plans to continue the business for many years to come. One of Davidson business mottos comes from a quote his father repeated to him many times, “If you can’t make the very best you can, then you are just wasting your time.”
Stop into Davidson of Dundee located at 28421 U.S. Hwy. 27 in Dundee, Florida between 9:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m. daily from October through April and 9:00 a.m. - 5:30 p.m. Monday – Saturday during May through September.