Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect that the receiver in charge of Cococo Chocolatiers in October was the entity making shipping decisions.
Chocolate lovers who regularly shopped at one of the two Chocolaterie Bernard Callebaut stores in Edmonton will no longer be familiar with what they’ll find in the boxes on the shelves.
Co-owner Mike Freeland said in the fall, the Calgary-based supplier company Cococo Chocolatiers stopped shipping Callebaut products to them.
The Edmonton stores — one located downtown at the west end of Jasper Avenue and the other on 51 Avenue near Southgate Centre — are losing money at the busiest time of year in the chocolate world.
“It definitely creates a lot of challenges, and definitely threatens our existence,” Freeland said.
Freeland said the company hasn’t given him any reason as to why they stopped shipping.
“Right around the beginning of October there was no communication, it had just stopped. We couldn’t order and they wouldn’t communicate and that was it.”
Cococo Chocolatiers went into the receivership earlier this year and is now operating under a new name, Cocoa Community Confections Inc. President Brian Beck said the receiver at the time was making decisions on what to ship, and it shipped everything that was possible to send out.
“I don’t know if there was final communications about that or not,” Beck said.
There are a few storefront locations in Calgary and B.C. for Cocoa Community Confections supplies, and the chocolates are also sold online.
This isn’t the first receivership the Alberta company has undergone. In 2010, Belgium-born chocolatier Bernard Callebaut lost his namesake company due to a land deal that soured with the economic downturn a decade ago, and that is when Cococo Chocolatiers took over.
Beck said the pandemic had a huge impact on stores, along with supply chain issues.
“The Cococo Chocolatiers receivership shows that across the decade, it wasn’t able to succeed financially while supplying about 50 per cent of its volume through to reseller customers, who were operating stores in a few locations,” Beck said.
“It has been a struggle to have product. We are not experiencing outright shortfalls or failures but there’s a lot of pick up, we’ve had a lot of troubles with packaging, we have to scramble around for food ingredients.”
Beck cited the supply chain and shipping logistics headache that began at the beginning of the pandemic, when consumer demand shifted away from services and toward manufactured products. That surge in demand has yet to let up and is clogging supply chains everywhere.
“Those things you are reading about everywhere in the world — those are the biggest challenges for us right now.”
Beck said the focus is getting through Christmas.
“Coming out of a receivership at the beginning of November, all of the focus is to try and make sure that the stores that exist, have the best amount of product and the best product they can have. Same with the web business — we haven’t really turned out attention to ‘where does it go from here?'”
After 36 years, Freeland is looking to rebrand, changing the store names to Chocolandia sometime in 2022.
To restock the shelves he has turned to a familiar face — Master Chocolat, the new company launched by Bernard Callebaut after he lost control over the original brand bearing his name.
“Not that long ago they called me and said our supplier stop supplying us and we have no chocolates for the Christmas season, which of course is very scary, considering that Christmas is your main source of revenue,” Callebaut said.
“It’s a great opportunity to promote our new company.”
“This, for us in the chocolate business, is a disaster,” Freeland said.
“All these things going on, and you can look at this problem and go, ‘Oh my God, I am lost,’ or you can look at it and say, you got to look at the plus side and the opportunities.”
To help get people back in the door and to try the new chocolates, the store is also offering a promotion.
Freeland said it’s also an opportunity to sell multiple brands of chocolates, and he would like to work with local chocolatiers.