History and Legend of the Original Sifers VALOMILK Candy Cups
Our family started making candy in 1903 in Iola, Kansas, which is about one hundred miles southwest of Kansas City. In those early years my great grandfather (Samuel Mitchell Sifers) made bulk penny hard candy and later hand rolled boxed chocolates and some of the first nickel (5 cent) candy bars in the Midwest (Old King Tut, Subway Sadie, Ozark Ridge, Rough Neck, Jersey Cow, Fumbles, Snow Cup and the KC Bar). About 1916 we moved to Kansas City.
We were making penny marshmallow in the ‘20s and ‘30s. Now in those days, real vanilla had a large alcohol content and candy makers were known to take a few snorts now and then. One day, a candy maker named Tommy got a little carried away with the vanilla while making marshmallow and ruined a batch. Instead of setting up after cooling, the marshmallow remained runny!
My grandfather, Harry Sifers, was always looking for new ideas for candy so they dipped scoops of the runny marshmallow into chocolate cups. It was messy but so delicious – a simple taste of heaven! We began making the new candy, calling it VALOMILK DIPS and selling them for 5 cents in 1931. So the Original Sifers VALOMILK Candy Cup was invented quite by accident.
The name VALOMILK DIP came from: V for real vanilla, ALO from marshmallow, MILK to describe it as creamy and DIP because it was hand dipped (hand made). The name for “The Original Flowing Center Candy Cup” was later shortened to VALOMILK. The original VALOMILK DIPS were two ounces in one large cup. Today VALOMILKS are still two ounces, but now we put this goodness in a package of two cups so you can share one cup with a friend, or have one cup now and the other one later, plus they are a little easier to eat this way.
Over the next decades VALOMILKS flourished throughout the Midwest thanks to Dave Denton (our star salesman who later became my mentor). Another generation of our family came into the business, my dad (Clarence Russell Sifers) and my uncle (Samuel Burr Sifers). While we had many other candy bars then, VALOMILK was always the most popular. During World War II when ingredients were rationed, we had someone flying around the country in an open cockpit plane searching for ingredients. We made candy with what we could find. Because of the scarcity of chocolate (a lot went over seas with our troops) we had to stop making our boxed chocolates. What chocolate we could get went into making VALOMILKS.
After the war, we resumed making boxed chocolates. As a child I was fascinated with watching our candy makers dip “hand rolled” chocolates, especially when they put the squiggles on top of each piece. Each squiggle indicated what was inside and by the time I was in the first grade I had memorized the squiggles. But VALOMILKS had become so popular that we stopped making box chocolates by the end of the fifties and concentrated on just making VALOMILKS.
In 1970 the Sifers VALOMILK Candy Company was sold in a merger to a company in Los Angeles, California. The idea was to build a national company from three regional ones. In 1971 I joined the new company and became the fourth generation to make VALOMILKS. We were looking forward to expanding our market so more people could enjoy our VALOMILKS but things did not work out well with the new owner. In 1981 the KC factory was shut down and I left the business. After half a century, VALOMILKS ended!
In 1985 I acquired my great grandfather’s original copper kettles and other equipment and we put the factory back together in Merriam. With the help of my wife (Julianne) and our four children (Tim, Wendy, Dave and Sarah) plus many friends from church, VALOMILKS returned to the stores in Kansas City in 1987. Today, our son Dave is the fifth generation to make VALOMILKS. We still make our VALOMILKS the way candy used to be made – by hand, one batch at a time. We use the original family recipe along with much of the original equipment. The process is slow and difficult but the results are truly old fashioned, hand made quality you can taste.
The first bite says it all: “When it runs down your chin, you know it’s a VALOMILK.”