Ernest Hillier, an Australia-based chocolate maker, has gone into voluntary administration amid rising cost pressures.
Chocolate & Confectionery Company, which owns Melbourne-based Ernest Hillier, has appointed Alan Walker and Glenn Livingstone at WLP Restructuring Partners as the administrators. Directors at the chocolate business cited the increasing cost of raw materials and shipping, which had “significantly impacted margins”, in initiating the process.
“The administrators are seeking urgent expressions of interest from parties that could recapitalise or acquire the business and its assets,” WLP said in a statement.
Ernest Hillier initially set up the chocolate maker in England in 1914 before relocating to Australia. The company supplied the local and New Zealand market, with customers including the retail chains Woolworths, Coles and Aldi, WLP said.
It also supplied own-label for “some of the world’s largest confectionery providers”, produced at its facility in Coburg, Melbourne.
Walker said: “It’s unfortunate that such a storied chocolate manufacturer has encountered distress amid rising operating costs, but we are working with all stakeholders to do everything possible to save this iconic brand.”
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A meeting with creditors is due to be held on 30 June. Ernest Hillier also went into voluntary administration in 2015, although the outcome of that process and when the business became part of the Chocolate & Confectionery Company is unclear.
Walker added: “The Ernest Hillier and Newman’s brands have featured on the shelves of Australia’s supermarkets for many years. We expect these supply agreements, alongside its relationships with large multinational food and beverage providers, may appeal to potential suitors.”
While WLP engages in trying to find a buyer, manufacturing at Ernest Hillier has ceased and the administrator has had to “stand down employees”.
Walker said WLP is “working closely with all affected parties as we move with urgency to understand the business’s affairs and find a suitable buyer or investor”.