I’m eating chocolates and it’s bittersweet. I had been craving “box o’ chocolates” (as opposed to the swank organic, fair-trade, single-origin stuff I usually eat) and grabbed a box of Pot of Gold the other day. They’re getting hard to find.
The Pot of Gold brand was developed in the 1920s by a confectionery company in Halifax, Nova Scotia called Moir’s. Moir’s had started in 1815 as a bakery, but by 1873 was exclusively making candy and chocolates. Moir’s was actually the first company to come up with a mixed assortment box, and the Pot of Gold was an instant hit, becoming and remaining the best-selling boxed chocolate in Canada for decades. In most of the Maritimes, it wasn’t Christmas without at least one box under the tree, although you might also find rival Ganong as well.
Moir’s was sold to Nabisco brands in 1967 and in 1975, moved across the harbour from their location on Argyle Street in Halifax, to a modernized plant in Dartmouth. Hershey acquired the Nabisco confectionery division in 1987 and expanded the Pot of Gold line to a variety of different assortments.
In recent years, poor old Pot of Gold hasn’t been doing so well and the plant in Dartmouth is slated to close by December of this year. Besides putting hundreds of workers out of a job, it destroys the last vestiges of a company that got its start almost 200 years ago and that has been a part of Halifax culture for just about everyone in that city.
I can remember the old factory on Argyle street only vaguely. My mother worked nearby and the couple of times I visited her at work as a child, I remember the smell of chocolate permeating every part of the downtown. I also remember when the factory was being torn down (I would have been 7), to make way for the Halifax Metro Centre, and thinking how sad it was that the wonderful smell of chocolate would be gone.
So interwoven are these chocolates with my childhood memories that I based a novel around the old Moir’s factory and the Pot of Gold chocolates. It hasn’t been published yet, but now, more than ever, I am determined to do so, to help keep a piece of Halifax history alive.
I’ve seen different statements as to the fate of Pot of Gold. Hershey originally announced their intention to sell off the Pot of Gold brand because “it does not fit its corporate strategy.” (In other words, it wasn’t selling well.) There’s a lot more variety out there now, so people have more choices. Hershey’s also messed around with the collection too much, making Pot of Gold dark, milk chocolate, caramel collections, and removing a number of old favourites from the original. It’s not Pot of Gold without my roman nougat!
The latest indication seems to be that the collection will remain but the jobs will move to Mexico, where pesky things like unions don’t get in the way of profits. Moir’s never had a great reputation for the treatment of their workers back in the early days, but unionization improved that. Nova Scotians bought the chocolates regardless because they were locally made (and back in the early days, were probably all that was available), and because it became a long-standing tradition.
This will be the last Christmas where a Nova Scotian-made box of Pot of Gold will pass under the Christmas trees of Canadians. Even if they are still available, coming from Mexican factories, it just won’t be the same.
Time to stock up before the rainbow fades.