It is hard to believe that this little company which is now a rounding error in the Berkshire Hathaway financial statements was once a “major” acquisition Berkshire and has provided a good deal of the cash flow that led to more early acquisitions.
The plant workers of See's Candies start arriving each day at 4 a.m. In Los Angeles and San Francisco they stand at their stations and drizzle fondant onto maple pecan bonbons or count the nuts in each almond royal. They spread rum nougat into flat pans or break up chunks of cashew brittle by hand. All the while, they wear the signature white lab coats with their first names embroidered on the front in black stitching -- similar to the ones in the famous 1952 I Love Lucyepisode, for which Lucille Ball trained at See's. By 9 a.m., many of the workers break for lunch.
Meanwhile, in the Kiewit Building on Farnam Street in Omaha, Warren Buffett is largely unaware of what is beginning at See's. His Berkshire Hathaway group (BRKA) acquired the little candy company in 1972 -- exactly 40 years ago -- for $25 million. The boxed-chocolate industry is small, with total sales estimated at just under $2 billion a year in the U.S., and does not often grow year to year, although it is up 4% in 2012.