On Wednesday, June 28, Theo Chocolate issued a shocking announcement for Seattle chocolate lovers: It will be closing its Fremont factory and merging with the Indiana-based company American Licorice. As part of this move, “approximately 60” Theo employees will be “separated” in the second half of 2023, the company said in a press release.
Employees affected by the layoffs will have their paid time off paid out and have access to mental health and job search resources, the press release said.
Theo cited rising costs as a primary reason for these changes. “Like other businesses, we are contending with rising costs across all aspects of our manufacturing and supply chain,” CEO Etienne Patout said in a statement. “We’ve had to make some tough but necessary decisions to ensure the company’s long-term viability.”
“As Theo navigated the post-pandemic economic environment, operational and production challenges, and overall increased costs, it became clear that Theo’s current operating model would no longer be sustainable,” a spokesperson added in a statement to Eater Seattle. “The goal of the restructure is to provide an overall more efficient and capable operational model to position Theo for growth into the future.”
Theo was founded in 2005 by Joe Whinney, a pioneer in the organic chocolate business who provided funding; Jeff Fairhall, who had previously founded the Essential Baking Company; and Debra Music. When the company moved into the old Fremont Trolley Barn (previously the brewery for Redhook Ale), it was one of the first chocolate makers to use fair trade, organic ingredients. In 2007, Fairhall died of cancer.
Today Theo’s bars and candies are nationally distributed, and it’s known for its creative additions to its chocolate, like cinnamon horchata and salted black licorice. In 2018, Patout, a former executive at Kellogg and a pharmaceutical company, took over as CEO.
Theo will continue to exist as a brand and sell its chocolate, and it will be keeping the Fremont space open as a flagship store and confection kitchen, but the closure of the factory means that factory tours will cease on August 30, according to the Seattle Times.