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San Francisco's Scharffen Berger plants to close

January 29, 2009 |  9:56 am

Sbchocolates2_2More bad news from the front lines of the recession. Beloved San Francisco chocolate maker Scharffen Berger will shut down its two Bay Area facilities, current owner Hershey Co. announced Tuesday. The San Francisco Chronicle reported yesterday that Scharffen Berger's selection of sweets "will no longer be locally made" and that "Hershey already makes the majority of its Scharffen Berger products at its newly upgraded plant in Robinson, Ill." Still, 150 people up north will be affected by the dual plant closings. 

And while most tourists buying last-minute gifts from SFO International Airport (one of the many places bittersweet Scharffen Berger products were available in the greater San Francisco area) for friends certainly won't know the difference now that the chocolate will now be made in Illinois, Bay Area fans of Scharffen Berger have a right to lament the loss of what was becoming a cherished San Francisco brand to rival the Ghirardelli Chocolate Co.

From the Chronicle:

Scharffen Berger was founded in 1996 by Robert Steinberg, a family-practice physician in San Francisco and Ukiah, along with a former patient, winemaker John Scharffenberger.

The pair experimented in Steinberg's kitchen, using everything from a mortar and pestle to a hair dryer to create their chocolate. Production started in a South San Francisco plant but was moved to the larger, 27,000-square-foot Berkeley factory in 2001.

"It was home grown. They really changed the way people regarded chocolate in this country," said Deborah Kwan, a public relations consultant for the company from the time it opened until 2003.

-- Charlie Amter

Photo: Brian Vander Brug / Los Angeles Times