Candy business brings traditional Syrian taste to southwestern Ontario
Gummy candy is popular in Syria
It's a gummy candy most commonly known as 'shutti mutti' with a soft, squishy texture and a sweet and sour taste familiar to many Syrians.
Descendants of a family that helped popularize the treat in Syria have settled in London, Ont., and are expanding the family business to Southwestern Ontario.
In 1948, the Basha family launched Basha Handy Candy in Hama, Syria. They were forced to shut down the factory following a deadly massacre in 1982, but later reopened in Sahab, Jordan, where it still operates.
Nader Mousa Basha, who came as a refugee to London four years ago, opened a Canadian branch this year.
"[The candy] is unique and different from what we have in stores or market right now. So, I thought it was a good opportunity for me to show the community what I can do and also make my own business and grow in this new country for me," he said.
"I feel proud and happy to keep [the business] alive this long."
He and his two brothers make and manufacture the treat at a Quebec Street warehouse in London. It's distributed in grocery stores across the city and in Hamilton, Kitchener-Waterloo and Windsor.
Basha said the candy takes a lot of work to make, especially in a smaller industrial kitchen.
It takes about a full-day's work to cook, mix and layer the candy, and another 24 hours for it to cool before being cut and packaged.
"It's different because it's very soft and it melts in your mouth. It's chewy and … squishy … We try and make it not too sour and not too sweet, "he said.
It's offered in five flavours: blueberry, lemon, orange, strawberry and pineapple.
Basha plans to expand the business by offering a selection of treats including toffee, cotton candy and Turkish delight. He's currently working on his online presence and looking for other distributors.
He said he's even considering making vegan gummies without the gelatin ingredient to accommodate "a large vegan community here in Canada."
Candy, 'something positive to focus on'
Basha said he's watched his country's years of struggle and turmoil.
"Syrian refugees, Syrian crisis, Syrian revolution and problems," he said.
But, believe it or not, it's the simple taste of shutti mutti that's helped him cope, even for a bit.
"[Candy] is something positive to focus on like when you eat candy and enjoy it, you forget all the problems at least for a moment," he said.
Basha said he hopes the family's business becomes a well-known Canadian brand.
"That way, I can pay back something to Canada for what it did for Syrians and Syrian refugees," he said.