How A Caramel Created A $2 Billion Business

Mariko O. Gordon, CFA
2 min readSep 14, 2021


rmkane, CC BY-SA 4.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

The sweet bliss of a caramel melting on the tongue.

That was the moment of conception for the Morinaga & Co., the Hershey’s of Japan (~$2B in 2020 revenues). On a day when founder Taichiro Morinaga was struggling to make ends meet and feeling blue, someone gave him a caramel. California was racist and inhospitable to Asian immigrants in the late 1800s, making it all but impossible to find work. That gift of candy brightened his day and gave him hope.

He vowed to bring the same sweet relief to others someday.

You never know when you’ll have an epiphany that will change your life and give it meaning. As a business midwife, I study business birth stories for inspiration. What’s unusual is that Morinaga had a second conversion later on, when he became a Christian.

Years later, at 31, he finally broke into the candy business, landing a job as a janitor at Bruning.

He worked his way up for five years, during which Morinaga told himself over and over, “With tribulation comes perseverance, with perseverance comes mastery, and with mastery comes hope.”

When he left for Japan in 1899, Fabian Bruning gave him some advice: “Start with wholesale, where location doesn’t matter as it does in retail. Go where rents are low, and start on a tiny scale.”

He began selling marshmallows from a hand-drawn cart, which he called “angel food.” “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners,” read a sign atop the cart. From day one, he peddled sweets and redemption, pioneering novel business techniques in the process.

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Mariko O. Gordon, CFA

Built $2.5B money mgmt biz from scratch. Coaching badass women to build & love their businesses, manage their finances, and make sure the thrill is never gone.