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From refugees to Canadian entrepreneurs: Syrian family to spread chocolate ‘peace’ across North America

By Douglas Yu

- Last updated on GMT

Tareq Hadhad (far left) met with Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.  Pic: Peace By Chocolate
Tareq Hadhad (far left) met with Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Pic: Peace By Chocolate
The Hadhad’s family lost everything when their chocolate factory in Damascus, Syria, was bombed by an air strike in 2012. The family left for Lebanon and eventually settled in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada, where they had to start all over again.

“It’s a town with only 5,000 people. Coming from Damascus where there are millions, it was a big culture shock when we first came,”​ Tareq Hadhad, the 27-year-old CEO and founder of Peace by Chocolate​, told ConfectioneryNews.

Despite the environment change, Hadhad said his family’s passion for creating chocolate has been with them since 1984 when his father Isam Hadhad started a humble chocolatier in downtown Damascus.

The business became very successful producing a wide range of products from premium chocolates for special occasions and chocolate-covered fruit to liquid chocolate.

It even built a manufacturing plant in 2002 that was considered the second largest in the Middle East, said Hadhad. “We had hundreds of employees and thousands of distributions. We exported our products to Germany, Beirut and other Middle Eastern countries.”

‘Everyone in the community is supportive...’

With having only work experience and skills in chocolate making, the Hadhad’s felt lost upon arriving in North America. But they soon found themselves financially stable enough to rebuild their business thanks to the newly-settled community.

“Everyone in the community is supportive – they believe we, as new immigrants, brought something unique and special,”​ said Hadhad. “The community, including plumbers, carpenters, and local business counselors, together helped build our first chocolate shop behind our house.”

Then it came to creating the brand for their chocolate.

Peace By Chocolate
Pic: Peace By Chocolate

“My father perceived chocolate as a product of happiness back in Damascus… In Canada, we think our business wouldn’t survive without peace, so ‘peace’ became perfectly aligned with our brand value,”​ said Hadhad.

In November 2016, Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invited the Hadhad’s family for a meeting in Sydney, Nova Scotia, and asked them to tell their story. From there, Peace By Chocolate’s business officially took off.

“We got so many congratulations calls from all over the world,”​ Hadhad told us. “Now we’re operating a factory that is 20 times bigger than the space we had in 2016. It’s also added with a store and a chocolate museum.”

Expanding product lines and footprint

Peace By Chocolate inherited its tradition of producing chocolate assortment boxes, and it recently developed its first milk chocolate and hazelnut bar called Wantaqo’ti (pronounced Wan-tahk-oo-di), an indigenous Canadian word for peace.

“We also added languages to our chocolates such as peace in Arabic… we have four in total so far, and we’re going to add 20 more to our chocolate bar collection,”​ said Hadhad.

In the next two weeks, the company plans on launching another “forgiving”​ product line, including “forgive and forget,” “kiss and make up,”​ and “the other cheek”​ chocolates – they, again, are meant to resonate with Peace By Chocolate’s ethics and values, he added.

All these products are currently available online via the company’s website and are shipped across North America. However, Hadhad hopes consumers outside of his home province can buy their chocolates in retail stores rather than just through e-commerce.

“We have a partnership with Sobeys, a Canadian grocery chain, and distribute our products to a list of small vendors [on the East Coast of Canada],” ​he said.

Hadhad added Peace By Chocolate will start looking for distribution partnerships with US grocery chains while attending the Taste of Canada 2018 in Chicago later this year.

“We’re not competing with anyone. With our unique market positioning and story, I see us to be one of the top five Canadian chocolate companies in five years,”​ he said.

Related topics Manufacturers Chocolate

1 comment

Fair Trade?

Posted by Greta Raney,

Are these fair trade products?

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