A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Like kids in a candy store, the Galerie team is eager to make egg hunting a year-round activity

By Mark Hansel
NKyTribune managing editor

The Galerie name has been synonymous with innovation in the candy industry for decades.


Founder Richard Ross has been profiled in a host of national publications and was inducted into the Candy Hall of Fame in 2015.

Now he and the Galerie team are ready to make egg hunting more than just an Easter event.

Hundreds of people drive by the Galerie Candy and Gifts headquarters located on Langley Drive, just off of KY 237 in Hebron.

Most probably don’t even notice the nondescript warehouse building along a corridor replete with similar structures. Those who do notice probably associate the facility with the Galerie Au Chocolat brand made famous by Ross.

They are only partly right.

Phil Schneider, executive vice president sales and marketing for Galerie, explains how Ross has transformed the brand into something that people may see every day, but may not recognize.

“(Ross) was known for the Galerie au Chocolat location downtown in the Westin Hotel,” Schneider said. “Predominantly, he was a couture chocolate company with multiple retail stores in major metropolitan areas. He wanted to be known as the Tiffany of chocolate.”

Phil Schneider, Galerie executive vice president – sales, marketing, with products from some of the company’s licensing partners (photos by Mark Hansel).

Through his creativity and way of presenting chocolate and doing retail chocolate, it became something that was sold in high-end retailers, such as Nordstrom and Saks Fifth Avenue, as an extension of their brand.

As the world changed, however, retail changed. Cincinnati’s downtown was having challenges downtown and people weren’t flocking to the store anymore, so Ross had to shift gears.

He had been successful in developing a clientele in the entertainment-licensing industry and decided to focus on that end of the business.

“Ross realized he had a knack for the business, so he created his own brand, called Galerie,” Schneider said. “Now on shelves around America, there are things associated with licenses, and Ross’s own brand, which are pitched to mass retailers around the country and that became the Galerie business model.

For about 15 years, he’s partnered with Lucas, known for the Star Wars mega-franchise, and has designed gifting candy novelty items to support the Star Wars license. Very early in his trajectory, Ross was recognized as one of most creative guys in the gifting, novelty-candy space, because of the entertainment licenses.

As that momentum grew, Galerie started being recognized by other leading brands, including Disney, Marvel and Nickelodeon, that came to look to Galerie as a design company.

You may not always see the Galerie name, but the fruit of its entertainment-license partnerships is everywhere (click to enlarge).

“We’re not a household name, but we are a household company,” Schneider said. “We show up everywhere on shelves and what we do behind this business is recognized because it is seen in (major retailers) everywhere. (Ross’s) business in the entertainment license-support industry has had a profound impact.”

Galerie might buy chocolate from one company and comingle it with a piece of plastic, or put it in a mug with a plush or some other item. The mugs might be made in China, the chocolate might be made in Mexico, but much of it is brought in and sorted in Hebron. Put simply, Northern Kentucky, is the design, marketing, merchandising, sales, packaging and distribution hub for Galerie.

Galerie’s latest plan is to step up its game in the candy-filled Easter egg market, where it already has a formidable presence. The company has invested millions worldwide, including the purchase of a piece of new equipment for the facility in Hebron, to increase the cool factor for plastic eggs.

“This piece of equipment, at a cost of more than $1 million, can digitally preprint on the curved surface of the eggs,” Schneider said. “The way that this can be personalized is a game changer, because printing on curved surfaces is almost impossible. There is technology that allows stamping, but nothing compares to this.”

Wayne Patterson, who lives in Cincinnati and works at the Hebron facility, spent five months in Asia learning how to run the machine.

Eggs, they’re not just for Easter anymore. Click to enlarge (provided image).

“It was a big-time culture shock, but I loved it, “Patterson said. “I worked side-by-side with engineers there to see how it works and brought what I learned back here.”

Galerie delivers about 75 million plastic eggs each year and the machine can crank out about 9,000 eggs an hour from an on-hand inventory of 2 million. Patterson said it could probably do more, but that is what can be efficiently delivered through the production line.

Plastic eggs have always been associated with Easter, but Schneider said it doesn’t have to be that way.

“The whole idea is to change the perspective from an Easter egg hunt to an egg hunt and what can that become,” Schneider said. “It can be a fundraising event, it can be a gift, it can be a table centerpiece.”

A significant portion of Galerie’s business, not surprisingly, is geared around the major candy holidays such as Christmas, Easter and Valentines Day. The expansion of the plastic egg market is part of a broader strategy to increases the appeal and shelf-life of some products.

This “Finders Keepers” display has a wide selection of instantly-recognizable images (click to enlarge).

Since egg hunting is traditionally an outdoor activity, limiting it to one weekend around a holiday has not allowed the product to reach its full market potential. The calendar from spring to fall, and year round in warm-weather markets, is potentially egg-hunting season.

“A customer can take a picture of a logo and send it to Galerie, it can be downloaded to a computer, run on the new equipment and recreated on the curved surface for a customized egg hunt,” Schneider said. “The same can be done with slogans, messages, names of employees or family members. Instead of just finding an egg, hunters could be tasked to look for their name, a company logo, or any other message a customer wants to put on it.”

A sports team, for example, could send a list of every child that has signed up for an event and their names could be put on an egg. The first child to find his or her name, or a likeness of a team MVP, could win season tickets, or other prizes.

“We are only limited by our imagination and we want to own this category, Schneider said.”

For more information on Galerie Easter eggs and other products and licenses, click here.

Contact Mark Hansel at mark.hansel@nkytrib.com

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