November 15, 2017 01:33 GMT by theguardian.com

Charity and the chocolate factory: New Zealanders raise $2m to save industry

Charity and the chocolate factory: New Zealanders raise $2m to save industry

Donors receive 20% off chocolate for life after teaming up with a small local chocolate producer to employ staff laid off from Cadbury factory

New Zealanders have donated $2m in just over 24 hours to keep the century-old tradition of chocolate-making alive in Dunedin.

Mondalez International announced in February it planned to close its 80-year-old Dunedin Cadbury factory in 2018, putting 350 employees out of work and shifting production to larger Australian plants.

Community group Save the Factory attempted to buy the Cadbury factory for NZ$20m, but their bid failed.

Now, Save the Factory has teamed up with boutique Dunedin chocolate producer Ocho to expand their business, allowing them to employ more people – including former Cadbury’s workers – and keep the tradition of chocolate making alive in New Zealand’s oldest city.

The crowdfunding page went live this week and in less than two days 3,500 people donated a combined $2m to the expansion project, with the website crashing multiple times because of the huge interest.

Anyone who donated $100 will receive one share in the new company, as well as 20% off chocolate produced there for their lifetime. The average donation was NZ$700.

The $2m will allow chocolate manufacturing to continue in Dunedin on an industrial scale, with New Zealand-made chocolate destined for export. Without Ocho’s expansion, chocolate-making in the city would have dwindled to a handful to enthusiasts making tiny quantities with minimal employees.

Liz Rowe, owner of Ocho, said she had expected the fundraising effort to take weeks, not days, and the groundswell of support showed how important chocolate and jobs were to the people of Dunedin.

“Saving some of those jobs was a huge impetus, one of the values of the new company is to create as many jobs as possible,” said Rowe.

“Dunedin is a regional centre and there is a strong feeling in this community that we don’t want to see all these businesses get bought up and shipped out and moved either further north or offshore, there is a strong feeling to keep manufacturing here, to keep jobs local.”

Ocho’s Liz Rowe said she expected the fundraising to take weeks not days
Ocho’s Liz Rowe said she expected the fundraising to take weeks not days Photograph: Hayden Parsons/Otago Polytechnic

Ocho will begin ramping up production immediately now it has secured expansion funding with plans to move to a bigger factory, import new equipment from Italy and explore options to export the distinctly New Zealand-flavoured chocolate, which features local ingredients including kawakawa and horopito (native pepper trees), and manuka honey and bee pollen.

Ocho will gradually shift from producing 90kg of chocolate a week to 400-500kg a week by mid to late next year.

Local Dunedin councillor and businessman Jim O’Malley, who spearheaded the Save the Factory campaign, said pledges came not only from Dunedin but all over New Zealand and the world.

Read more at theguardian.com