Chocoholics taste success

ABOUT two years ago a couple of old friends, Martin Black and Patrick Coward, considered opening a chocolate factory on an old dairy farm outside of Margaret River in the south-west of WA.

The success of the Margaret River Chocolate Company defied sceptics in the wine growing region and last week the official opening of a second chocolate factory and tasting facility took place in the Swan Valley just outside of Perth.

“On the first weekend we were open in Margaret River we sold more than we thought we’d sell in a month, we just couldn’t meet the demand,” Margaret River Chocolate Company co-owner Martin Black said.

Through the purchase of a long-established chocolate manufacturing business in Perth, the partners were able to increase their production four fold and meet the high demand.

The new facility in the Swan Valley is managed by Mr Coward and employs 15 staff, with a core of six full-time employees including two professional chocolatiers.

“When we first opened the Margaret River factory we were not sure how successful it would be, we thought it would be popular but only as a small boutique business. We were totally blown away by its success, it was just outrageous,” Mr Black said.

In the first 12 months of operations of the Margaret River facility the turnover was up around $1 million.

“Margaret River was much better than we ever imagined, but we’ve had our glory run of the first 12 months, our honeymoon period, and now we are in a more regular routine,” Mr Black said.

The initial investment for the land and the building in the Swan Valley was about $500,000. The factory, showroom and tasting facility were designed by award winning WA architects Donaldson & Warn and provide views of the chocolates being crafted.

The building is a huge industrial shed with about one third of the space devoted to a showroom with displays of the varieties of chocolates and chocolate products for sale. Through two big viewing windows patrons can watch people making truffles and fudge, and long conveyor belts churning out chocolates.

The factory has the capacity to produce more than four tonnes of chocolate products each week.

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