New chocolate factory in Christchurch

THE GOOD BLOCK: Trade Aid’s new chocolate factory is coming into production this week.
THE GOOD BLOCK: Trade Aid’s new chocolate factory is coming into production this week.

Christchurch's first fair trade chocolate factory isn't far from the childhood dreams of Willy Wonka's establishment.

The smell of cocoa liquor hits you as soon as you walk through the door.

An enormous chrome barrel spins roasted almonds as workers spoon on coats of melted chocolate.

Across the room, more than a tonne of liquid chocolate turns in a mixing cocoa mass, butter and milk powder.

This week is the first in operation for Trade Aid's latest chocolate venture, but it's been a long time coming.

Trade Aid food development manager Ewan Cameron had been working for almost two years to bring the company's chocolate production to New Zealand.

He stumbled across a solution in suburban Sydney, where a local man was looking to sell a chocolate factory.

''He was in his 60s and had been doing it for about 35 years. I think he'd tried to pass it on to his son, but he wasn't interested, so there it was.''

Reluctant to break up his life's work and sell it off piece by piece, he sold Cameron the lot.

Trade Aid imported the factory in four 40-foot shipping containers and spent the next three months assembling it.

Getting it all to production standard has been a challenging task.

''I suppose it's the ultimate act of recycling,'' Cameron said.

Trade Aid sells fair trade-certified goods, guaranteeing a minimum price for developing-world producers along with a host of other ethical and environmental protections.

The company hopes that bringing production to Christchurch will sweeten the deal for the cocoa farmers they trade with, by cutting out an international middleman and allowing them to pay producers more.

Each ingredient for the chocolate is directly sourced from producers: cocoa from the Dominican Republic, sugar from Paraguay, almonds from Palestine and spices from Sri Lanka.

Until now, Trade Aid chocolate was previously made in factories in Belgium and Switzerland, but Cameron says he is not daunted by taking over from the top chocolate-making nations.

''They're using the same machinery as we are, the same ingredients. There's no great mystery. We can make chocolate as well as the Belgians can.''

By the end of the month chocolate from the Sydenham factory will be stocked in city shops.

The Press