By James Risdon
Antigonish-based Peace by Chocolate products - expected to be on Sobeys store shelves by now - are still not there.
“The reason for the delay is due to a technical issue in the factory,” said Tareq Hadhad, who owns the business with his family, in an interview Friday. “We should be ready to be in the Sobeys stores in mid-November.”
Just don’t ask what that product will be. It’s a secret.
“I will leave it as a surprise,” said Hadhad. “I can’t tell right now … It will be a mixture of everything.”
Think white, milk and dark chocolate with a special Syrian recipe.
The delay in getting Peace by Chocolate product to Sobeys store shelves hasn’t gone unnoticed by chocolate lovers. They’ve been walking into the grocer’s stores in Atlantic Canada and asking staff when the Peace by Chocolate products are going to arrive.
In early September, the Syrian-born, Canadian entrepreneur announced both Peace by Chocolate’s move into a factory 12 times the size of their previous location, a small shed, and a national distribution deal with grocery giant Sobeys.
“We’re really excited about it,” said Sobeys spokeswoman Shauna Selig in an interview in September. “There’s the appetite to take it nationally if they have the capacity and want to do it.
“We don't have an exclusivity agreement but have agreed to purchase all the product they can make,” she said. “To start, that will be the Sobeys in Atlantic Canada and then, as they increase production, we will be letting other regions know. Product may be in Foodland and Co-op stores throughout the Atlantic as well in the future.”
The tiny chocolate-making operation began moving into a Sobeys-owned building at 746 Cloverville Road in Antigonish in August and then went on a hiring blitz.
“Now, we have 15 people working for Peace by Chocolate and we are still hiring,” said Hadhad. “The goal is to have 20.”
With the need to ramp up production, Peace by Chocolate has brought in chocolate-making equipment from Europe and other places in the world. Getting it to operate properly on Canadian electrical current and to do safely has slowed things down.
The company is also taking extra time to properly train its staff on that equipment and to put in place quality standards for its new plant to ensure its products are made to the same exacting standards that so impressed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. After he gave Peace by Chocolate a glowing review and mentioned the start-up in a speech to the United Nations in September last year, the company became a viral sensation.
Orders started pouring in so fast the company had to shut down its website for a while.
“When I opened the online store at Christmas last year, in December, there were 1,500 boxes of chocolate ordered in three hours,” said Hadhad. “People were so excited that we had to shut it down. There was no place to make that chocolate.”
Despite the growing pains, Peace by Chocolate is still open – and still making chocolate - using its older production line.
“We are producing our regular chocolate that we were making in the old factory,” said Hadhad. “We have the old production line from the old factory.”
These days, the company even sells its own brand of Peace by Chocolate T-shirts. It’s developing something of a cult following among chocolate lovers.
“This country will never cease to surprise me,” said Hadhad. “As newcomers to this country, we will never stop contributing to our country.”