Steel and aluminum tariffs threaten future of Massachusetts chocolate business

Bacci Chocolate Design (also known as CB Stuffer) specializes in selling the largest peanut butter cups in the candy industry. From humble beginnings in the Massachusetts seaside town of Swampscott to retailing nationally both online and in specialty stores, owners Erin Calvo-Bacci and Carlo Bacci have brought the business a long way since its inception in 2007.

Yet Bacci Chocolate Design could face unnecessary hardship from new steel and aluminum tariffs issued by the Trump Administration. We chatted with Erin Calvo-Bacci about how the new tariffs could affect her business and customers.

What sort of steel and aluminum products and equipment do you use regularly that are essential to your daily operation? 

Steel and aluminum are as much a part of our chocolate manufacturing business as the tons of chocolate we go through. There’s steel and aluminum in our steel tables, trays, rolling racks, bowls, molds and equipment, which includes chocolate tempering machines, industrial mixers and depositors.

Carlo Bacci making a CB Stuffer peanut butter cup.

Carlo Bacci making a CB Stuffer peanut butter cup.

Have you been in contact with your suppliers regarding these tariffs? What have you learned so far in terms of how you will be impacted?

Currently, we’re operating as if we’re holding our breath in a race. We’re racing to grow the business, but the additional costs are growing faster, which hinders us. We can only offset or pass along so much to our consumers.

In the long term, what do these tariffs mean for your small business?

In the long term, a 25 percent steel and 10 percent aluminum tariff means limited growth and could possibly put us out of business.

“A steel and aluminum tariff means limited growth and could possibly put us out of business.”

Erin Calvo-Bacci
Bacci Chocolate Design

Over time, we have had to make changes and eliminate products because of rising costs … . We can’t make those same decisions with the steel and aluminum necessary in our business, so when our costs go up, we hire less people. Necco, which is in the city next to us, is closing and trying to sell off its brands. Will we face the same consequence when we cannot keep up with the growing costs? Chocolate is a luxury item and our product is a specialty product, but will the demand be there if we have to charge more or will the trends change?

Were you optimistic about tax reform? Has the threat of tariffs changed that?

I was optimistic about tax reform, but in my industry our customers have to look at their bottom line and make choices. If I sell to a store, they may potentially see an increase in other parts of their inventory, making them reconsider what and how much they order from my business. It’s unsettling because we have three children, employees and vendors to consider as well as incidental increases.

We make a great product which is widely popular and makes people happy, but the threat of tariffs is a dark storm cloud looming over our business.

Take action: Send a letter to President Trump telling him to reconsider the tariffs.