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Chocolate factory expansion provides springboard for export growth

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Chocolate factory expansion provides springboard for export growth article image

A premium Australian chocolate maker has opened a new factory allowing it to almost triple production as it seeks to enter new international markets.

Haigh’s Chocolates has been making chocolate in Adelaide since 1915 and has 17 Australian stores in Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney and Canberra.

The new $15 million plant gives Haigh’s the ability to increase production from 700 tonnes of chocolate a year to 1400 tonnes on a single shift and up to 2000 with the addition of a second shift.

Swiss company Buhler, a global market leader in the supply of flour production plants, pasta and chocolate production lines, supplied much of the specialised equipment.

It is not the first time the Haigh family has utilised Swiss chocolate expertise. Former managing director John Haigh spent six months working for Lindt in Switzerland in the 1950s to refine his skills as a chocolatier.

Chief Executive Alister Haigh said the new plant in the inner-west Adelaide suburb of Mile End was the largest cocoa bean processing facility in Australia and one of the most advanced factories of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere.

“All the big manufacturers bring in semi-processed cocoa beans whereas we import all the cocoa beans,” he said at the official opening last week.

“We’re told by Buhler it’s probably one of the most complex chocolate lines ever produced because we wanted the ability to put six different types of bean into the one batch and they weren’t aware of any other company in the world that wanted to do that.”

Biggest single investment

The factory allows Haigh’s to control the process from start to finish – from raw cocoa bean to a finished product ready to be sent out from its distribution centre across the road. Cocoa beans are cleaned, roasted, shelled, ground and heated into liquid before being blended with milk and sugar. The new factory has the capacity to produce up to eight different types of chocolate at the same time.

Haigh’s Chocolates employs more than 600 people and has an annual turnover of more than $50 million. The $15 million investment in the new plant is the biggest single investment in the company’s 102-year history.Chocolate factory expansion_AlisterHaigh_Chief Executive

The first commercial chocolate was produced at the new factory in mid-February in the lead up to Easter – the busiest week of the year for Haigh’s.

Alister Haigh said the additional production capacity would allow for continued growth in Australia and potentially overseas.

“We have seen increased demand across the Eastern seaboard as well as online meaning continued growth for the Haigh’s business,” he said.

“We are also looking at expanding to overseas markets due to interest abroad.” 

Andrew Spence is a senior writer for The Lead, South Australia

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