Iconic Canadian chocolatier acquired by Canadian confectionery manufacturer

Excerpt of Article from The Toronto Star

Under new owners, the Laura Secord chain says it will introduce products such as anti-oxidant-rich chocolates with cranberries and blueberries and nut-free 100-gram bars in a bid to boost the business.

The 128-store retailer also has big plans to celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2013, the company said after formally announcing on Friday it has agreed to be bought by Nutriart Inc., a Quebec-based chocolate manufacturer. The iconic Canadian retailer, named for a heroine of the War of 1812, said being owned by a candy manufacturer will help it cut costs as it tries to boost sales.

“That’s really the way to go in this business,” Laura Secord’s chief retail officer Raj Sharma said in a telephone interview.

Nutriart, which was already a Laura Secord supplier, said the deal will create 25 jobs at its state-of-the-art plant in Quebec City as it doubles production. The company will now make all of the retailer’s “base chocolate” plus some finished goods, such as the 100-gram bar. Created last summer as a spinoff of Biscuits Leclerc Ltée., a family-owned cookie and candy business, Nutriart is owned by brothers Jean and Jacques Leclerc. Sharma declined to comment on published reports Nutriart got the Laura Secord stores for $19.5 million.

Gordon Brothers Group LLC, which bought Laura Secord from Chicago-based Archibald Candy Corp., signaled last summer it was ready to sell. Jean Leclerc takes over as president of Laura Secord from Bryan Crittenden, who left after a two-year stint as a turnaround expert.

In a bid to boost sales, the company is testing coffee in five stores and frozen yogurt in four locations as a way to attract customers. With most of its stores in malls in major cities in Ontario and Quebec, Laura Secord hopes to open more stores in smaller centres in those core regions, Sharma said. It also has a handful of stores in the Maritimes and Western Canada.

Laura Secord chocolates will continue to be sold through 2,500 other retailers, including drug, grocery and department stores, he said.

Atlas Advisors acted as financial advisor to Gordon Brothers Group in connection with this transaction.

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