The maker of the famous Goo Goo Candy Cluster began as Anchor Candy Company, founded in 1901 in Nashville by Howell H. Campbell Sr. The son of Millard and Anna Hooper Campbell, Howell Campbell was born in 1883 in Nashville. After attending the public schools, he worked as a shipping clerk for Hooper Grocery Company for two years. He was nineteen when he opened his candy company at Clark Street and First Avenue North. Campbell started with two copper kettles and about a dozen employees. In 1903 he reorganized Anchor and incorporated the business as Standard Candy Company. In 1914 a fire forced the company to move to a three-story brick building on Second Avenue North, where Standard remained for the next sixty-five years.
The company produced a variety of sweets including suckers, marshmallows, Nujoy hard and bag candies, and Belle Camp fine chocolates. But it was the Goo Goo Candy Cluster that became the company’s star product. Campbell and his plant superintendent, Porter Moore, developed the mound of caramel, marshmallow, and roasted peanuts, hand-dipped in milk chocolate, in 1912. Best sources about the new candy’s name agree only on one thing: it was suggested to Campbell by a woman who rode the same streetcar to work with him each morning.
Initially, Goo Goos were sold unwrapped at candy counters. Later, they were wrapped in tinfoil by hand. Advertised as the “Nourishing Lunch for a Nickel,” Goo Goo became Standard’s most profitable product in the company’s limited market area.
After World War II, Howell Campbell Jr., son of Standard’s founder, became president and owner of Huggins Candy Company, known for its King Leo stick candy in peppermint, lemon, and clove flavors. Later, Campbell Jr. merged Huggins with Standard, which continued production of King Leo. Standard was now Nashville’s biggest candy company. Under Campbell Jr.’s direction, the company expanded Goo Goo’s name recognition by becoming a sponsor of the Grand Ole Opry, a popular national radio show broadcast from Nashville.
In 1974 Campbell Jr. sold Standard to Nashville businessmen Jim Fischer and James Miller. Five years later, the company moved to a bigger and more modern facility on Massman Drive. The same year, a drought increased peanut prices fivefold. The next year, high interest rates hit the company. At the time, Standard’s sales were in a decline that had started in 1974, and its mainstay, the thirty-five-cent Goo Goo, was difficult to find outside of Nashville. A peanutless version of Goo Goo had flopped in the early 1970s.
In 1981 Jimmy Spradley Jr. persuaded his father to come out of retirement and join him in buying Miller’s interest in 1982 and help run the business. Spradley Jr., at age twenty-six, was made president of the firm and charged with expanding Standard’s market and sales. He made personal calls on old customers and persuaded large retail chain stores to stock Standard’s candies and feature Goo Goos as a trendsetting specialty item. This aggressive marketing made Goo Goo a nationally known candy. In 1982 Standard introduced the Goo Goo Supreme, made with pecans instead of peanuts. The fifty-cent Supreme was Standard’s first major new product; in less than six months, it made up 20 percent of Goo Goo sales.
In 1985 Standard purchased the Stuckey’s Candy Company factory in Eastman, Georgia, from Pet, Inc., of St. Louis. At its height, Stuckey’s had 320 outlets throughout the Southeast, but it had dwindled to only 100 when it was sold to Standard. The acquisition added a popular pecan roll to Standard’s candy line and gave the company another production facility. Ten years later, the Spradley family and Standard employees acquired the company through an employee stock ownership plan. In addition to its Goo Goo, pecan roll, and King Leo stick candy, Standard makes sweets for other labels and exports its candies to Canada, Mexico, Europe, and Asia.