If you have a child or grew up in New England, you’ve probably eaten Marshmallow Fluff. The four-ingredient sugary spread — a key component in the famous Fluffernutter sandwich — is a hit with kids and a nostalgic treat for many adults. There’s even an annual Fluff festival in Somerville’s Union Square.
But it’s a business like any other to Jon Durkee, treasurer and vice president of Durkee-Mower Inc., the Lynn company that whips up seven million pounds of Fluff each year. Margins are low. Shipments have to be sent and invoices paid. The company’s aging factory is no Wonka-esque wonderland; the injury risk from conveyor belts and powerful Fluff pumps means no tours for kids, even with a Golden Ticket.
“A lot of people get very, very excited about the whole thing,” Durkee said, shortly after a Globe photographer spotted a pair of apparent Fluff tourists taking pictures of the building. Although the fascination remains a bit of a mystery to him, Durkee said his company recently approved a request by a clothing company to sell T-shirts featuring the Fluff brand at local retailers.
Around this time of year, about 18 employees (no Oompa Loompas here) work 10-hour days churning up 140-quart batches of Fluff in big, loud Hobart mixers. The finished Fluff is poured through a tube into a filling room, extruded into jars, and packed into boxes by clunking, hissing machines. Some jars are shipped and others stored for the baking season. Later this summer, Durkee said, production will scale up for the school year and the holidays.
Durkee wonders how the worst outbreak of bird flu in US history will affect his margins. Reconstituted egg whites are a key ingredient in Fluff, and the slaughter of flocks of chickens has sent prices skyrocketing, doubling in the past three weeks alone. That’s a big risk for a business that uses 200 to 300 pounds of flaked egg whites a day.
For the most part, though, business remains steady. He is unsure whether the company will remain with his family for another generation, but he isn’t selling, despite offers. “It’s very consistent,” he said.