Australian confectionery group Darrell Lea is reportedly to be sold off by owner Quadrant Private Equity.

The Sydney-headquartered investor plans to put the chocolate and liquorice maker on the market in the second half of this year, sources told the Australian Financial Review (AFR).

It could be looking to fetch up to A$1bn ($669m) for the company, the sources said, based on a $70m earnings sum.

Just Food has asked Quadrant to provide more information on the rationale behind the reported sale.

Based in the Sydney suburb of Ingleburn, Darrell Lea produces a range of liquorice, chocolate bars and chocolate-covered confectionery. These include the brands Rocklea Road, Bullets and its BB’s chocolate balls range.

Its products are distributed to retailers in Australia, including Coles and Woolworths. It also sells to retailers in the the UK, US and Canada.

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Quadrant is understood to have acquired a majority share in the group in 2018 for around A$200m ($133.87m).

Local reports from ABC News at the time indicated that the company's owner, Tony Quinn, sold 80-90% of the business. He reportedly retained a minority "low-double digit" stake and stayed on as a "silent" investor.

That same year, the group announced the acquisition of local peer Heritage Fine Chocolates.

Darrell Lea is a part of Quadrant's No.6 investment fund, worth A$1150m. It sits alongside seven other businesses, such as ready-made meals group My Muscle Chef and health services provider Partnered Health.

Quadrant's potential sale of the confectionery group comes as the key cocoa ingredient begins to fall in price. Earlier this month, prices dropped to $8,000 a tonne from a record high of $12,261 in April, but some companies are still cautious about revealing 2025 pricing strategies too soon.

Speaking on its latest financial results at the start of May, US chocolate major Hershey's CEO Michele Buck said it was likely that cocoa prices would remain inflationary into 2025.

She added: “While our 2025 planning is underway, it is premature to discuss potential financial scenarios or impacts, and for competitive reasons we will not be discussing our hedging policies or pricing strategies”. 

Meanwhile, confectionery peer Mondelez International admitted that the operating environment in the chocolate sector had been "challenging and dynamic", but stressed that it was still confident about prospective growth of the business this year.