Rocky Mountain expands to Saudi Arabia, S. Korea

Durango-based chocolate business to open at least nine more stores

Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory has announced plans to open stores in South Korea and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Under the licensing agreement in South Korea, the chocolatier’s partner will open five stores within 30 months and can convert the agreement to a master license agreement covering the entire country if it opens an additional 25 stores.

The company’s Saudi Arabia partner will open four stores within 30 months and an additional six stores if it agrees to a master agreement.

The announcement comes about a year after the company signed a licence agreement with a partner in Japan to open 100 stores over a 10-year period. To date, RMCF has five stores in Japan, along with stores in Canada and the United Arab Emirates.

Chief Operating Officer Bryan Merryman said in a January conference call with investors that the company had plans to open stores in Shanghai and Hong Kong, but a deal for those stores hasn’t come to fruition.

“We continue to evaluate licensing opportunities in a number of additional countries and expect the opening of international franchised stores to gain momentum in coming years,” said CEO Franklin Crail in a news release.

The chocolate company has faced criticism from investors in recent months for its failed yogurt enterprise Aspen Leaf.

RMCF acquired a 60 percent controlling equity interest in public frozen-yogurt company U-Swirl Inc. in January in an attempt to make Aspen Leaf profitable.

In the January conference call, investors reacted positively to the acquisition but questioned when the company would further expand overseas.

“International growth is a big part of our growth strategy going forward. We are committing resources to it,” Merryman said.