Celebrating 25 years of chocolates
This year promises to be a big one for Waikato Valley Chocolates who will celebrate twenty-five years under current ownership.
General Manager, Jeff Andersen, says while plans are not yet firmly settled, the occasion will be one to acknowledge and celebrate.
Waikato Valley Chocolates, a joint venture between The Warehouse Group and a team of three individual shareholders, settled two years ago at its current location north of Hamilton at Horotiu’s Northgate Industrial precinct.
The reasons for the move to the purpose-built premises were to allow for expanded production capability and to have adequate on-site storage space.
“It was a massive leap forward for the company when it shifted to the current factory, designed and built to our specifications,” says Jeff.
Waikato Valley Chocolates has a regular team of 30 staff and works to a 24 hour/5 day week roster with three shifts per day.
Christmas and Easter are the peak sales times and product is prepared well in advance of these times, given chocolate has a very good shelf life.
Two production lines, one producing moulded chocolates such as Easter Eggs, the other an assortment of chocolate coated products like the perennial Chocolate Almonds, milk chocolate raisins and peanuts, operate all year round.
“With our chocolate coating process you can coat just about anything – chocolate pretzels, jelly beans, raspberry, liquorice and hokey pokey, to name a few.”
When Business Central spoke with Jeff he said that production on moulded chocolates had increased by 25%, given securing new contracts.
In previous years the company has exported to Australia and Jeff says one goal is to establish a niche market in at least one large Asian city.
While discussions regarding the 25th anniversary are still about gathering ideas with input from the Warehouse and the Directors, Jeff says the most important thing is to celebrate the event with the staff.
“We have a couple of staff who have been here for as long as the company has existed and we have a core of qualified and highly skilled operators.
We have a great team on board and their commitment to the company needs to be acknowledged”To encourage staff retention a training programme and a skills level system with regular assessment enables the team to advance.
Waikato Valley Chocolates recently acquired globally recognised Food Safety System Certification FSSC22000 – part of the international standards authority ISO.
This meant project leader and Quality Systems Manager, Donna Woodhouse, working to review and refine all the food safety and operational systems to ensure they met the stringent standards required.
“It was a busy time with additional auditing and documentation and we worked on this for over a year from when we initiated the process of accreditation. We maintain these operating standards all the time and at any stage we can be assessed without notification.”
With a long and proud history Waikato Valley Chocolates also embraces its community, sup-porting the Lions organisation, the annual Special Children’s Christmas party and also local school events.
“We also welcome organised visits by local polytech students and industry interest groups. The students love to see how our fabulous range of chocolate products are made.”
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