Finance

Iconic Australian chocolate maker collapses

Cara Waters /

Century-old Australian chocolatier Ernest Hillier has been placed into administration after its sale last year.

Bruno Secatore and Daniel Juratowitch of Cor Cordis were appointed as administrators this week.

The administrators are continuing to trade the business, which employs 60 staff, and will attempt to sell it again.

Ernest Hillier was Australia’s first chocolate manufacturer and had been in business for 101 years.

It operated under the Hillier’s and Newman’s brands and turned over between $15 million and $25 million annually.

While it did not operate any retail outlets, Hillier’s and Newman’s products were sold around Australia and the business had contracts with Coles and Woolworths.

Last year Ernest Hillier was sold for an undisclosed sum by its owners, the Piedimonte family to Re:Capital and local private investors.

At the time Ernest Hillier’s newly appointed chief executive, Mark Campbell, told SmartCompany Re:Capital planned to invest to grow the business.

“The business is a very good business and it has a tremendous history,” he said.

“We are very positive about manufacturing in Australia and we think if you run a good business you can be successful,” he says.

But now the administrators have moved in and are conducting financial assessments with the goal to selling Ernest Hillier.

“Hillier’s is an iconic Australian brand in its own right; but the company also holds contracts to produce products for some major supermarkets and some of Australia’s household names,” Secatore said in a statement.

He said the strength of the business is in its brand, its history and its existing contracts.

“We have already received significant interest in purchasing Hillier’s as a going concern, and we will work through those enquiries in due course,” Secatore said. 

Ernest Hillier’s collapse follows the demise of Darrell Lea in 2012 before being rescued by the Quinn family and the administration of Chocolate Fare in 2013.

A first meeting of Ernest Hillier’s creditors will be held in Melbourne on January 20.

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Cara Waters

Cara Waters is the former editor of SmartCompany. Previously, Cara was a senior reporter for the Financial Times' website and she also worked for The Sunday Times in London.

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