Lovers of local artisan chocolate, be prepared for some bitter news: This week, Hershey announced plans to close the plant where Scharffen Berger chocolate is manufactured, as well as the factory where Joseph Schmidt chocolates are produced.

Although Hershey will continue production of the two brands, the chocolates will no longer be produced where they first became popular – in the Bay Area. The plants are not commenting, but a spokesperson from Hershey's headquarters said, "We will maintain the highest quality standard for all our artisan productions."Both brands, founded in San Francisco, were pioneers credited for increasing the popularity of high-end, premium chocolates. Scharffen Berger, founded in 1996, made a name for itself with its discerning selection of cacao beans, its diligent roasting techniques, and the the chocolate's complex, smooth flavors. Its Berkeley, CA-based plant offered factory tours to local visitors.

I'm sad to hear this news, and a bit skeptical of Hershey's promise. After the company acquired both brands in 2005, it reassured customers that it wouldn't alter the businesses, and would most likely expand them. Hershey's insists it will maintain both brands' integrity, but the chocolate czar recently made the choice to switch to cheaper ingredients.

Does this signal an end of an artisan chocolate era? Will you continue to buy these brands?