Alberta woman desperately trying to get rid of 133,000 Rum & Butter chocolate bars
‘I really hope that we are not making a date with the Calgary dump,’ says Crystal Regehr Westergard
A few years ago, you couldn't buy a Rum & Butter chocolate bar if you wanted to. Now, Crystal Regehr Westergard has 133,000 of them — "give or take a few."
The Camrose, Alta., entrepreneur resurrected the old-fashioned candy in 2021. But thanks to pandemic production delays, she now has to get rid of several pallets' worth before they expire in June.
She says she's ready to eat the costs, and let somebody else eat the candy. But she'd rather not spend more money just to let them go to waste.
"I really hope that we are not making a date with the Calgary dump," Regehr Westergard told As It Happens host Nil Köksal. "They even make you pay to dump things now."
How did it come to this?
Back in 2018, Regehr Westergard, a physiotherapist, made it her mission to resurrect her elderly mother's favourite chocolate bar, Cuban Lunch.
That venture was a huge success, and the company Canadian Candy Nostalgia was born.
"My husband was a really good sport about that. We went on CBC Dragon's Den and he just about fainted," Regehr Westergard said in an interview with The National. "So I thought, well, I should bring back his favourite childhood chocolate bar."
So in 2021, Canadian Candy Nostalgia launched Rum & Butter, a non-alcoholic, rum-flavoured Caramilk-like confection. Previously a Cadbury chocolate bar that was popular in the '80s, it had been out of production since 1996.
"If you think of that wonderful rum sauce that you might have thrown over plum pudding when you have Christmastime — and frankly you could throw on anything and be able to eat it — that's the rummy sauce, and it's in the middle of the chocolate bar," she told As It Happens.
At least two companies in Newfoundland and Labrador also sell their own versions of the bar — Busy Mom's Homemade Treats in South Dildo and Newfoundland Chocolate Company in St. John's.
Regehr Westergard says there were pandemic-related delays and understaffing at the overseas production company she contracted to make the bars. The shipments arrived at first, sporadically — then all at once.
The Rum & Butter sales are steady, she says, but they're not flying off the shelves at the same speed Cuban Lunches did in 2018. Certainly not fast enough to bounce back from the backlog.
"If you haven't had a chocolate bar in about 30 years and you see it — holy cow, you buy the whole box because you hadn't seen it for 30 years, right? And then when you realize, no, there's boxes there every time ... then people don't buy the whole box," she said.
"So suddenly the stores aren't ordering the same gargantuan sum."
The other problem, she says, is that they have a ticking clock.
Canada doesn't have any regulations requiring expiry dates on chocolate bars, she said, but grocery stores do. So even though they'll probably be fine to eat after June, the best before date on the packages means nobody will take them after that, says Regehr Westergard.
"When you put a date on a new bar … then that becomes gospel. On this date, no one's going to want it or going to want to eat it," she said.
Running out of ideas
So how difficult is it to give away 133,000 chocolate bars and change?
According to the Globe and Mail's Jana G. Pruden, who first reported this story: "You could give one Rum & Butter bar to every person in the city of Red Deer, [Alta.,] then one to every fan at Rogers Place for a sold-out Oilers' playoff game, then one to every passenger on 26 fully-booked Westjet flights, then one to every musician in the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, then one to every performer in a large-scale musical production of Cats, then one to every member of the Regina Esperanto Club — and you would still have eight left to eat yourself."
Since the story came out, Regehr Westergard says plenty of folks have reached out with suggestions for what to do with the bars. But mostly, she says, these are ideas "that we thought of months ago and just won't work."
Give them to schools? She's tried that, but there's simply too many. Have the Edmonton Oilers dole them out at games? No dice — the team has contracts with specific suppliers for their snacks. Donate them to hungry? Again, the supply is more than the demand at nearby shelters and individual food banks.
She says she is, however, in contact with an organization that runs a network of food banks, and she's hopeful they can take at least a couple pallets — roughly 22,000 bars.
"[It] seemed that this wasn't their first rodeo, luckily," she said before lowering her voice to a whisper and adding: "Because it is my first rodeo."
And if she can't give them away — well, who knows what will become of them?
"A couple of people have suggested places that will take them for animal feed. And I hope it doesn't come to that," Regehr Westergard said with a chuckle.
"I suspect that if you fed some pork on it, that would be the most decadent pork you ever had."
Interview produced by Kate Swoger. With files from The National.