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Hershey closing the Scharffen Berger Berkeley factory

Goodbye to a pioneering location for American artisan chocolate....

or as the guys at SFist put it: -- Scharffen Berger Soon To Suck --

Apparently production will move to a Hershey plant in Illinois. Sad, and disappointing. Here is the text from the SFGate.com article (I can't get the hyperlink to work, sorry) --

(01-27) 18:28 PST -- The Hershey Co. said Tuesday it plans to close Scharffen Berger's West Berkeley manufacturing plant as well as the San Francisco factory that makes Joseph Schmidt chocolates and consolidate production at other facilities.

Hershey, which in 2005 bought both Scharffen Berger, which specializes in premium dark chocolates, and trufflemaker Joseph Schmidt, will continue to produce those brands, but the chocolates will no longer be locally made.

Database: Notices of planned layoffs in California>>

Hershey already makes the majority of its Scharffen Berger products in its newly upgraded plant in Robinson, Ill., said spokesman Kirk Saville from the chocolate giant's headquarters in Hershey, Pa. He said the plant closures will affect a total of about 150 employees from both facilities.

Saville said Hershey intends to maintain the quality of the brands, which make up the company's wholly owned subsidiary, Artisan Confections Co.

"We will continue to source the world's best cacao to create our rich and distinct chocolate," he said. "We will maintain the highest quality standard for all our artisan productions."

That provided little solace to Bay Area fans of the chocolate-makers. Both brands have created a strong legacy and helped increased the popularity of high-end, gourmet chocolates around the country.

Scharffen Berger was founded in 1996 by Robert Steinberg, a family-practice physician in San Francisco and Ukiah, along with a former patient, winemaker John Scharffenberger.

The pair experimented in Steinberg's kitchen, using everything from a mortar and pestle to a hair dryer to create their chocolate. Production started in a South San Francisco plant but was moved to the larger, 27,000-square-foot Berkeley factory in 2001.

"It was home grown. They really changed the way people regarded chocolate in this country," said Deborah Kwan, a public relations consultant for the company from the time it opened until 2003.

Steinberg died in September after a long battle with lymphoma. "I'm glad Robert is not alive to see this," Kwan said. "If the lymphoma hadn't taken him, this would have."

Hershey released fourth-quarter earnings Tuesday that were above analyst expectations and projected growth of up to 3 percent for 2009. The company said it earned $82.2 million, or 36 cents a share, in the quarter ending in December, compared with $54.3 million, or 24 cents a share, it earned for the same period last year.

At the same time it announced the solid results, the company said it will consolidate the plants that make the high-end artisan brands.

Hershey's Saville gave little information on the timing of the plant closures, other than to say they will occur this year. He said he expects Cafe Cacao, the restaurant at the Scharffen Berger factory, and the on-site retail store to continue to operate until further notice.

"We are committed to communicating details to our employees first," he said, adding that Hershey is offering laid-off employees "very competitive" severance packages. He declined to provide details.

E-mail Victoria Colliver at vcolliver@sfchronicle.com.

http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2009/01/28/BU2F15I9DV.DTL

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Comment by Clay Gordon on January 31, 2009 at 11:04am
I posted this story a couple of days ago and there are already quite a few replies. It makes no sense to have three or more different threads following the same story, so please follow this link to the first discussion on this topic - which already has many replies - to read what others have already said and to add your own thoughts.

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