13 Nov 2017

Chocolate PledgeMe clocks up $1m in hours

2:35 pm on 13 November 2017

A fundraising drive to buy out a Dunedin-based chocolate company has almost reached $1 million in pledges only hours after opening to the public.

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Photo: 123RF

The PledgeMe campaign for the public to buy-out chocolatier OCHO launched at 7am today.

By 2pm more than 1400 people had pledged $1.037m - well on track to meet the $1.8m required over the next month for the buy-out to proceed.

The campaign was borne out of the closure of the city's Cadbury factory and an attempt from the community to buy it.

That bid was withdrawn as organisers of the initiative couldn't meet the owner's requirements by the deadline.

In August, Jim O'Malley, the man behind the 'Own the Factory' initiative unveiled a new concept focusing on premium chocolate-making, by joining forces with existing Dunedin artisan chocolate brand - the Otago Chocolate Company OCHO.

The idea is to develop a model for community business ownership which would contribute to regional development.

"We want to attract as many $100 investors as possible, so we're limiting the total any one person can own to 11 percent so that no single investor can dominate," Dr O'Malley said.

"The constitution of the company will also prevent it from moving its production outside of Dunedin.

"Instead of one or a few large cornerstone shareholders, OCHO will be owned by a broad base of small investors across the country.

"Each share is worth $100 dollars and all shareholders will have voting rights - and importantly each shareholder will be able to buy award-winning OCHO chocolate at a special shareholder price."

The US-based owner of Cadbury, Mondelez International, announced in February that the Dunedin factory, which employs 360 people, would be closed next year.

In June, Mr O'Malley - also a Dunedin city councillor - and a group of volunteers created Dunedin Manufacturing Holdings (DMH), hoping to take over production when the Cadbury factory closed next year.

The Cadbury factory in Dunedin.

The Cadbury factory in Dunedin. Photo: RNZ / Lydia Anderson

However, he later withdrew the bid, saying it would be too hard to meet Mondelez's requirements by the deadline.

It is hoped the revamped partnership with OCHO will raise $2 million to expand production, but the project could proceed as long as $1.8 million in pledges are received.

If that target is not met, the public buy-out would not go ahead, Dr O'Malley said.

It is hoped production would begin at the company's factory by the middle of next year.

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