Country’s oldest chocolate manufacturer collapses

Ernest Hillier, a
century-plus old, Melbourne-based chocolate maker, has appointed administrators
this week.

The Herald Sun reports that
Ernest Hillier operates under the Hillier’s and Newman’s brands and continues to
trade, with Col Cordis appointed as administrators this week.

The confectioner has been
under the ownership of RE Capital since February last year, when they acquired
the company for $11 million.

Fairfax reports that the
101-year-old business – which employs 60 at six locations – faced difficulties
including a big jump in coca prices last September, and changing consumer preferences
shifting towards niche, premium and fair trade chocolate.

It is too early to know
what exactly led to the collapse, according to administrators.

“It certainly needs an
injection of funds,” Bruno Secatore of Col Cordis told Fairfax .

“There has been some
restructuring but it needs more.”

According to the AMWU, some of the blame lay with the major
supermarkets, which account for most of Hiller’s sales.

“The
buying power of the supermarkets and their ability to screw prices down from
producers has been an ongoing problem across the whole of the food and
confection industry for quite some time,” Tom Hale from the AMWU told the ABC.

Two inquiries had been made, according to Col Cordis, and
the AMWU agreed there was hope a buyer would come forward for the business, which is believed to be the country’s oldest chocolate maker.

Image: http://www.lollies2go.com.au