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Workers in the Purdy's Chocolate factory in Vancouver, B.C. add a handmade letter 'c' on top of cherry chocolates.

Lindsay Mackenzie/Lindsay Mackenzie

Purdys staff meetings are better than your staff meetings. That's just a fact.

When they convene, workers at the Vancouver-based firm jot down tasting notes in chocolate diaries as they contemplate decadent morsels prepared in a company kitchen that operates like a high-tech R&D lab.

In one sitting, they might sample strange combinations of Ghanaian single-origin cocoa, black Lampong pepper, pink Himalayan salt, sweet yellow curry, Colombian cocoa nibs and other exotic ingredients. Gustatory experimentation is a cornerstone of the 107-year-old company.

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The president, Peter Higgins, comes from a food-science background, and each employee is an accredited chocolate connoisseur with three months of training and testing under their belt. They need the schooling to keep up with their Willy Wonka-like head chocolatier, Gary Mitchell, whose unusual concoctions (Red Velvet Cake Truffle, Pear Caramel and Salted Hazelnut Flake, to name three) continually rack up international awards.

Once solely a Western Canadian concern, Purdys began pushing east a decade ago, recently opening a 19th retail outlet in Ontario, for a total of 67 stores nationwide.

"We're not a traditional company selling things," says Higgins. "We're selling the most-craved food in the world. And we take it seriously."

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