by By Kris McGowan, Customer Insight, The Raw Chocolate Company
Dragons’ Den winner the Raw Chocolate Company on how it set off on a mission to offer chocolate that ticks all boxes
We started by making sweet treats for our children and their friends. We wanted to make something delicious, but also healthy. We started with nuts and seeds smooshed up with dates, raisins and figs. Then we began coating them with chocolate and everyone really liked them, so much so that we started selling them at the school gate, then at fairs.
But we weren’t happy. Chocolate can be so very good, but it can also be a product that can impact negatively on your belly and farmers, when it’s not made right. We wanted better chocolate, but it was hard to find: vegan chocolate tended to be very dark and austere, organic chocolate was very expensive, raw chocolate was hardly heard of, and what did exist was grainy and medicinal.
So, our founder Linus Gorpe set off on a mission: to create tasty, luxurious, delicious chocolate for his own pleasure that also had little impact on the environment and positive impact on the farmers and communities.
So it had to be Fairtrade; it had to be organic; it had to be vegan, and it had to be raw. All Linus had was passion and creativity, so he taught himself how to make chocolate, and learnt on the job how to run a business. But he did it anyway!
So the mission started in earnest. Machines were bought, books were read, conversations were had, chocolate started. Chocolate took over! First the kitchen was converted to a chocolate alchemist’s laboratory. Then that wasn’t big enough so the whole upper floor of the house was converted.
Then the orders started coming in, first from Infinity Foods in Brighton, so we needed labels, certifications and more machines, and a factory. And the Raw Chocolate Company was born.
That was in 2006. We are now on our third factory. It has been a massive learning experience for everyone, and exciting things are starting to happen.
In 2013 our Goji and Orange bar was awarded 2 Gold Stars in the Great Taste awards. This rated it as one of the best tasting chocolate bars in the UK. This was the first sign that we were starting to achieve what we had set out to do. This was an organic, vegan, Fairtrade, raw chocolate bar, made in a solar and wind powered factory. The best in the UK!
Orders increased to the extent that we were one week away from running out of Fairtrade cacao beans. We have very specific requirements for beans – ours come from Peru and are predominantly Criollo beans, the very best tasting. Criollo Cacao beans are also the rarest, with most of the chocolate in the world being made from Trinitario or the inferior, mass grown Forastero bean. They also need to be organic and raw - not heat treated or roasted. Luckily, the increase in demand for our chocolate had a knock on effect and there are now more farmers growing cacao to our requirements.
Since then we have won many more awards, and now have four of the highest Great Taste rated chocolate bars in the UK. Our Vanoffe Dark bar, made with Fairtrade Cacao from Peru and Fairtrade Vanilla from Uganda, won a Great Taste award this year.
We also had an amazing experience visiting the Dragons’ Den. It was very nerve-wracking, and the Dragons all loved the chocolate and they all wanted in. In fact, it got quite heated between them as they all increased their offers. Peter Jones described it as the best tasting chocolate that had ever come into the Den. In the end we chose to take up Deborah Meaden’s offer. She has a good eye for an ethical and environmentally conscious brand and it felt the best fit all round.
The next few chapters await! Who knows what is over the page….