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Our History


American Licorice Company founder Martin Kretchmer started out in the chocolate business… unsuccessfully. So, in 1914, he purchased a licorice formula and started American Licorice with his son and son-in-law. At first making small batches out of their homes, they began to sell their black licorice candy from a cart in front of department stores in downtown Chicago. The business quickly expanded, and a few years later they purchased a building on the northside of Chicago and started manufacturing there.

Chicago Factory of American Licorice Co. Where the Finest Line of Licorice Confections is Produced
American Licorice Company Factory in San Francisco, California circa 1925


In 1925, American Licorice Company expanded westward to San Francisco, California. Martin Kretchmer asked his son, Clarence, to run the new facility out west. The original building had been a police station in the 1800s, with an attached barn for the police horses. Bite-sized black licorice pieces called Lic-ris-ets were the only item made in California at that time, and for decades after. During WWII, the California business struggled due to labor shortages. In fact, men willing to work for the day were sometimes recruited off the streets of San Francisco to come and make candy.


Quickly after the California facility opened, one of Hollywood’s biggest stars at the time called upon American Licorice Company for a favor. Charlie Chaplin requested American Licorice produce a black licorice shoe for his film The Gold Rush. Clarence Kretchmer made two shoes for Chaplin to eat during filming. As the legend goes, black licorice was not Chaplin’s favorite. He would eat the shoe but hated the taste of licorice. Hopefully not too many retakes were involved! Visit our blog for more about American Licorice Company and the Red Vines brand’s long history with Hollywood

Red Vines original packaging


In the 1950s, American Licorice decided to innovate beyond black licorice, creating a fruit-flavored candy piece originally known as Raspberry Vines. When informed that the original name could not be used for legal reasons, Clarence Kretchmer reportedly called out across the factory floor in frustration, “Well, fine – let’s call them Red Vines!” At the time, it was doubtful among the team that Red Vines candy would amount to much. We can only assume they would be both surprised and proud of Red Vines’ success today!


While the Red Vines candy business was bustling in California, the midwestern branch of American Licorice Company was looking for new ways to boost sales. An opportunity presented itself in a new sour candy product which could be made using the same equipment used for producing licorice candy. The Sour Punch candy brand was born. Though sales were slow at first, things began to take off with the introduction of the now-iconic two-ounce tray of Sour Punch straws. This item is still being made in the Midwest today, though operations moved out of the Chicagoland area to the current location in La Porte, Indiana.

Sour Punch original packaging
American Licorice Company building in Lancaster, Texas

New Innovations & New Additions

After five generations, American Licorice Company is still growing and developing, entering new categories with new products. In 2016, the company introduced the Aprati brand of hard candy, proudly made by our affiliates in Phnom Pehn, Cambodia. Joining the family in 2021, the Torie & Howard organic candy brand has introduced some new favorites to the American Licorice portfolio, including their original hard candy, as well as new innovations in chewy and gummy candy. As a result of the growth at American Licorice, a brand new distribution facility was opened in December 2022, establishing a third location for the company in Lancaster, Texas. With the new facility came some brand new team members, and an optimistic outlook for the future. We hope you’re as excited as we are to see what’s next!