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Chocolate makers soldier on

EASTER may well be a time of rest, relaxation and general chocolate-scoffing for the majority of West Australians, but as for Perth’s chocolatiers, nothing could be further from the truth.

While most of the eggs lining supermarket shelves are mass produced in the eastern states or from overseas long before Easter, there are three local chocolatiers who will be hard at work right up until Easter Satur-day making fresh chocolate delights to compete with national and international chocolate makers.

Brothers Robert and John Walker are partners in Perth’s oldest chocolate dynasty, John Walker Chocolatiers, setting up shop in 1984.

Robert Walker estimates that 15 to 20 tonnes of chocolate will go into making over 200 different products, to be sold through their six stores during the Easter period.

“I doubt there would be a chocolate maker in Australia that makes the huge range that we make,” Mr Walker said.

Competition in the chocolate market is fierce, with local operations like John Walker competing with eastern states companies and multinationals for a slice of the market.

The quality and freshness of locally made chocolates is the edge, Mr Walker says, that helps them to compete.

“Most of the mass-produced Easter product was made 12 months ago and it is stored all year round. We start manufacturing our product in March. You can just taste the difference,” Mr Walker said.

“It is a big business, but in WA it’s dominated by multi-national companies and imported products.

“We do have a lot of competition. We now have Darrell Lea coming into WA, which is a NSW company.

“Unfortunately there is a trend in WA for national companies to usurp the position of West Australian companies, and that is of concern.”

Subiaco’s Chokeby Road is Perth’s second oldest chocolate maker and produces so much chocolate that not even owner Richard Blance could quantify the physical amount of chocolate goodies coming out of his Burswood factory this Easter.

“We just make it and make it and make it and make it. We’re too busy to sit and measure it. Tonnes, easily,” Mr Blance said.

Mr Blance said he expected to sell about $200,000 worth of WA-made Chokeby Road chocolates this Easter.

“We’re very fortunate in the chocolate business because every retailer gets Christmas, which is fabulous, but we get Easter which is bigger than Christmas,” he said.

“Chocolate is a gift, and it’s given at Christmas, but there are lots of other gifts, at Easter you only give

chocolate.”



The Margaret River Chocolate Factory, is the new kid on the chocolate block. Partners Martin Black and Patrick Coward opened their first factory-store in Margaret River in May 1999 and their second in the Swan Valley just four months ago.

According to Mr Black, both of The Margaret River Chocolate Factory’s locations, Swan Valley and Margaret River, will be visited by several thousand chocolate lovers over the Easter weekend.

“Last year in Margaret River we were churning them (chocolates) off and people were standing, almost waiting for them to come off the machinery,” Mr Black said.

“It was really fun. People were saying: ‘I’ll have the next one that comes along’.”

And it seems there will be a fair bit of eating going on too, with 50,000 Easter eggs produced between the two outlets.

“We’re going through literally, hundreds and hundreds of kilos of chocolate,” Mr Black said.

“We’re making all sorts of things, from the traditional Easter bunny, through to more interesting styles of Easter eggs, plus, we’re making all of our normal product range as well, so it’s a very busy time for us.

“It’s an awful lot of chocolate, but when you’re in the chocolate business, that’s a good thing.”

Although Easter is undoubtably the busiest time of the year for Perth’s three chocolatiers, they’re not sitting quietly during the long winter months.

John Walker Chocolatiers has one store in Sydney and is in negotiations to open franchises through the eastern states.

“We’re hoping to reach an agreement with a party in NSW to take the master franchise for NSW and the ACT for John Walker Chocolatier,” Mr Walker said.

“So we’re hoping to open 22 to 25 stores over there in the next five years and get our franchise chain going.”

The owners of the Margaret River Chocolate Factory have had such success with their products that retail store David Jones has been asking for months to stock their chocolates.

“We’re negotiating with David Jones to take our product nationally at the moment, they’re fairly keen and have been for a while,” Mr Black said.

“Up until we opened our Swan Valley factory a few months ago we weren’t in a position to help them.

“They’d been asking to buy the product for ages, but we said we simply couldn’t manufacture enough from Margaret River, but now that we’re open in the Swan Valley, we’ve started having another chat to them about it.”

Chokeby Road is more than just a chocolate shop. In addition to making chocolates for its own stores it also supplies numerous other outlets as well as restaurants, airlines and hotels.

And, according to Mr Blance, the demand for chocolate in Australia is well and truly alive.

“We have one of the biggest percentage per capita eaters of chocolate in the world,” Mr Blance said.

“The Easter market in Australia is worth $132 million a year. An average of 18 eggs per person in Australia. Don’t ask me how, somebody is eating an awful lot.”

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