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LEXINGTON, N.C. — While it has become the taste of Christmas, the sweet treats turned out by the Piedmont Candy Company keeps people smiling year-round.

To be ready for Christmas, they have to start in July.

They are basically the last of their kind in the United States. All of their competition has either moved off-shore, or they don’t have the same standards, which means GMO-free, gluten free and allergen free.

Their signature Red Bird Candy hasn’t really changed in more than a century. It’s made with cane sugar, instead of corn syrup — so it’s not the hard crunch you get with a candy cane. It’s softer and crumbles a lot easier.

And still, they do most of it by hand. Whether it’s adding just the right amount of peppermint flavoring or making the red stripe that runs through each piece.