Australia’s longest surviving chocolate maker, Hillier’s, has gone into voluntary administration.

Hillier’s was founded by English expatriate Ernest Hillier in 1914. It was the first chocolate maker in the country. The business rode the economic booms and busts of the twentieth century, but was forced to relocate from Sydney to Melbourne to be able to keep trading.

Acting Victorian Premier James Merlino expressed sympathy for Hillier’s 60 employees. He said the state government was willing to listen to “any company in need.”

Administrators Cor Cordis took over control of the business on Sunday. They are carefully auditing the accounts and liaising with employees.

Bruno Secatore, managing partner of Cor Cordis, believed the business could continue to operate. However, it was most likely they would be selling only to large retailers like Coles, Woolies, and department chains.

“It is our intention to trade through this voluntary administration and to sell the Hillier’s business as a going concern,” said Mr Secatore on Thursday.

“We have already received significant interest in purchasing Hillier’s as a going concern, and we will work through those inquiries in due course.”

Skyrocketing costs of cocoa and competitive pressures from local and international producers have been blamed for Hillier’s demise. “Companies with strong brand names, such as Ernest Hillier and Darrell Lea, have found competing with international brands increasingly difficult,” said Tim Piper confectionary advocate for The Australian Industry Group.

The Ebola outbreak, affecting the largest cocoa producing region of the world, will dramatically reduce supply in the coming months. While experiments into raising the melting point of chocolate will drive up demand in more temperate countries. Larger producers are better equipped to absorb and benefit from these changes.

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