Despite making two tonnes of its white chocolate coated raspberry licorice each month, it’s still not enough with The Junee Licorice and Chocolate Factory always selling out.
“When we first started making it, we would do it every two months and produce 400kg and now we are producing two tonnes every month,” explained its general manager Rhiannon Druce.
“We actually have to stop production of our black licorice to do the raspberry licorice as its running out constantly. For one week in each month we always have none of the product to sell.”
Ms Druce thinks it’s so popular because the licorice is made from real raspberries that are freeze dried and crushed down — rather than dervied from an articicial lolly flavour.
“It’s a really nice sweet treat. A lot of people are drawn to the product that have a sweet tooth,” she said. “We have customers that are buying 4kg at the a time of this one product — it’s crazy.”
A 180g box of the licorce goes for $10.50.
Located in the NSW Riverina region, the factory makes out 900kg of licorice a day and pumps out a tonne of chocolate to coat everything from nuts to fruit. It’s the only organic licorice factory in the southern hemisphere too.
It’s a family-owned business that also makes 1000 chocolate bars a day.
For Ms Druce, 27, the factory has been a part of her life for as long as she can remember – as her father bought the abandoned flour mill halfway between Sydney and Melbourne that in 1998 – and admits their freeze dried strawberries coated in dark chocolate are her weakness.
Hundreds of products are made from chocolate-coated almonds, macadamias, sultanas and bananas, chocolate blocks stuffed with marshmallows, pretzels and ginger, DIY kits to make your own Easter egg or freckle, as well as smash cakes.
“We make giant pizza wheels that are way bigger than your head and weigh about half a kilo and we do freckle making with a hands on Willy Wonka experience on the factory tour where people can create a little bit of chocolate goodness,” Ms Druce told news.com.au.
Before COVID-19, they had 250,000 visitors a year to the factory but with the pandemic hitting right before Easter last year, they were “shaking in their boots” that all the chocolate would go to waste, Ms Druce said.
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But a boom in online shopping had the chocolate flying off the shelves.
“Our online sales have skyrocketed throughout COVID,” she explained. “We had focused on distributors and visitation through the door and COVID brought a new angle.
“We always did online orders, but we found people sat online and shopped during lockdown and that really changed our business in that we were selling to the individual and not just selling to distributors by the pallet load.”
Last Easter they had more than 2000 orders compared to just 500 in other years.
However, another casualty of COVID-19 has been their inability to attract seasonal staff to help them during busy periods – and they are currently looking to fill positions. A huge perk of the job is unlimited chocolate available while on shift.
“We always say to staff you can eat as much as you want and normally you have people go full Augustus Gloop in first week they start and then they ease off, but some staff have a kryptonite product that when it’s getting produced some of it goes missing,” said Ms Druce.
“We have caramel chocolate-coated limited edition products and one staff member ate 10kg in one day.”
Ms Druce said watching the chocolate fall down to coat products was mesmerising and she couldn’t wait for a time when tours can resume.
“There is an automatic belt coater so you can see the chocolate dripping down onto products and rotate through with chocolate drizzling over 300kg worth of product,” she said.
“With the handmade products, you see someone pouring chocolate out and there are big vats churning with a tonne of chocolate, while you can also see licorice see coming out of the pipes and going into the guillotine.”
The Junee Licorice and Chocolate Factory actually holds two world records – the world’s longest piece of licorice at 612m and the world’s longest piece of rocky road measuring 62.2m.