Nello Ferrara, Creator of Lemonheads And Red Hots Candies, Dies

By Chuck Sudo in Food on Feb 7, 2012 7:40PM


Nello Ferrara, who played a major part in developing the sweet tooths of generations of Americans as chairman of the Ferrara Pan Candy company, passed away last week in his home in suburban Chicago. He was 93.

Mr. Ferrara's father Salvatore founded Ferrara Pan with his brothers-in-law Salvatore Buffardi and Anello Pagano in 1908, selling the sugar-coated almonds, known as "confetti," that are served at Italian weddings as a sign of good luck. (The three families still own the company.)

But it was under Mr. Ferrara's stewardship that the company made the switch from confetti to hard candies such as Red Hots, Atomic Fireballs, Boston Baked Beans, Black Forest Gummies, Jawbusters and Lemonheads, arguably the most popular Ferrara Pan candy brand. Mr. Ferrara joked that he came up with the idea for Lemonheads in 1962 because his son was born with a lemon-shaped head.

Mr. Ferrara's son, Salvatore Ferrara II, said his father had to repeat first grade because he lacked a grasp of English, but went on to earn a law degree from DePaul University Law School. He worked on a U.S. Army war crimes tribunal in Japan during World War II and sang on rare occasions with Frank Sinatra. The brands Mr. Ferrara helped create expanded Ferrara Pan to employ 800 people, making over 1 million pounds of candy across the U.S., Mexico and Canada. Ferrara Pan is still headquartered in Forest Park, a Chicago suburb. The original candy Factory at 2210 W. Taylor in Chicago is now known as the Ferrara Bakery