Chocolarder – A Transform Journey

16th April, 2018

Transform client Mike Longman, chocolatier and owner of award-winning bean-to-bar business Chocolarder, has reached his crowdfunding target for his project to build Cornwall’s first chocolate factory.

Building Cornwall's first chocolate factory

With the support of Oxford Innovation’s Access to Finance program, Mike at Chocolarder has set up a Crowdfunder campaign, which allows those in the community to pledge money that will go towards building Cornwall’s first chocolate factory in Porthleven. The space is designed to feature a window between a café and the production line, showing customers exactly how everything is made with full transparency.

“[Chocolate is] a multi-billion-dollar industry, but no one knows what chocolate actually is. The story I hear again and again is that people have our stuff as ‘the posh chocolate’ that they have as a treat, and then when they buy a cheap bar from the supermarket they say, ‘it tastes like plastic’!”
– Mike Longman, Chocolarder

In a world that’s growing more concerned about the food that’s consumed and where it’s sourced, everything about the Chocolarder’s process is made available to customers – from where the beans are sourced, to every detail about how it’s made. The factory will become a space where people can learn from watching the process, or even making their own at a workshop. The aim is to create a fully immersive experience.

“It is exciting to work with Mike to support his development of the new factory, from initial feasibility onwards, this factory and visitor experience will realise Mike’s long held dream.  We have worked on a strategy for expansion of the business, marketing and new product development as well as discussing many other business “growing pains” and challenges that have cropped up along the way!”
Karen Biggs, Transform business coach

“We’re going from a business that’s turning over around £100k a year, and then move into this new factory where we can have space to do what we want and expand, which would make us into a £500k business. It would also have other revenues like a café selling coffees made from beans from local roasteries, cakes from local bakers, and everything Cornwall has to offer. Since the idea of building a chocolate factory idea has come on, the more I can dream and think about the next step. If this factory concept works, where the primary roles are making chocolate and educating people about it – what it is and where it comes from – the difference between mass production and what we do. If we do that, we can open another one.”
– Mike Longman, Chocolarder

One of the core aims of building a chocolate factory, are purely to try new things which result in innovating new products, be a sustainable business, and to educate people about what real chocolate is. He doesn’t want to be a mass producer of chocolate, and he wants to make the bean to bar process as clear and accessible to everyone as possible.

Chocolarder Chocolate

Product development

Mike sources cocoa beans from Peru, Madagascar, Dominican Republic and Nicaragua. Each bean creates a different flavour, allowing for a mouth-watering range of bars to suit every taste. The concept is not dissimilar to how coffee has become an artisan trend, and how people are able to pick different tasting notes from different beans and blends.

Creating an exciting product with no limits on what can or ‘should’ go into its makeup is something the company excels at. Innovation comes from creative freedom – and this has undoubtedly helped the business grow. One particularly popular option offered by Chocolarder features Gorse Flower, which grows around the Cornwall coastline and has a coconut-like taste. The Gorse Flower chocolate is a best seller and has won awards such as Taste of the West.

“There’s so much we can do in chocolate. Everyone knows it, recognises it, and most people love it. But no one knows anything about it. So, we do just have this open world of messing around to our heart’s content. It’s a new movement but a weird one. There’s such a variety of gin now, if you ask someone if they like it they say which brands but also which kind of gin they like, and that’s what I want chocolate to get to. Where people talk about what they like in terms of makers and flavours. It’ll get there, there’s enough exciting and vibrant people in the industry now whereas there wasn’t before. There were people who liked the science but were too boring to make the most of it.”
– Mike Longman, Chocolarder

As Mike leads the way for the artisan chocolate revolution, he’s keen to collaborate with the few other chocolate makers in the country. The plan is to send them all the same beans and see what they do with them, then put all the products in one box, which will showcase how one type of cocoa bean sourced from one part of the world can taste different depending on who’s making the bars. It’s all down to taste and creativity.

“We want to curate a box with the other UK chocolate makers, where we buy in beans, and then bag them up and distribute them to the other makers saying ‘no rules, just make some 50g bars’, everyone will make a bar from the same beans. These will then go in a box. It’s not going through the mass production process, it’s all about the people.
– Mike Longman, Chocolarder

Chocolarder Wild Gorse Flower

A sustainable brand

The packaging for Chocolarder products and shipments – which includes a paper wrap, cardboard sleeve and paper label – are completely plastic free, which is a unique selling point for the business. The business has also been working with a company on a new material to create an alternative for plastic to ensure produce in paper-based packaging is protected from moisture when being shipped abroad.

“We’ve managed to over the last year get rid of every single bit of plastic. One of the things that we’ve now come up against, is the reason everyone uses plastic: it’s a great air and moisture barrier. We’re now having to do things in different ways to overcome what plastic naturally does as a material. The fact we’ve started as a sustainable brand, not to cost the earth just to make a bit of money, people really buy into that, just as a refreshing philosophy.”
– Mike Longman, Chocolarder

Dark chocolate has been known to stimulate the production of endorphins and increase levels of serotonin, an anti-depressant that can boost your mood. But it’s not just the people who eat Mike’s award-winning chocolate who end up with a smile on their face. Mike ensures that there’s life beyond the chocolate bars he makes, and that the money he spends on the beans goes to the families that grow them.

“I get my Madagascan beans from a Women’s Farm on the southern side, and it’s a farm that was set up so women can be employed in cocoa production. It creates a cyclical affect: women are earning money so they can pay for their children to go to school. If their kids are in school, they can go out and earn the money, whilst the kids are better off for having an education. Just from employing women there’s this added value to the next generation in this area of the world where the politics is so corrupt. Just having a women’s farm there is having a huge impact.”
– Mike Longman, Chocolarder

Bean To Bar Chocolarder

Business growth and support from Oxford Innovation

As well as expanding its premises in a new chocolate factory, allowing them to grow through new revenues such as a café, workshops, and a shop, Chocolarder is becoming well known across the globe as it exports a lot of their products overseas.

“There are now specialist chocolate shops and subscriptions, where they’re importing from all over the world. The shops and orchestrators of these boxes are all over the world, so we get featured in America, New Zealand, Australia, South Korea. We have enough interest in America to start talking to distributors over there, so we can load and ship a palette of our chocolate off to America.”
– Mike Longman, Chocolarder

“Planned growth of the existing business has resulted in recruitment of an additional member of staff so far, with several more to come this year; as well as a clearer strategy and direction for Mike to achieve his goals for the business going forward”.
– Karen Biggs, Transform business coach

After allowing the business to grow naturally for a few years, Mike got involved with Oxford Innovation for business mentoring via the Transform programme. Having input from OI offers Mike a view of how business is often traditionally done, but he is then able to take it a step further and add his own twist to make it not just more interesting for him, but for the people he needs to impress.

Karen Biggs

“It is a pleasure working with Mike, his knowledge, passion, enthusiasm and drive has resulted in true crafted chocolate products ethically and sustainably sourced and produced.  Supporting Mike’s innovation and passion, and helping focus it into a successful, scalable business which is rapidly growing and developing, is really rewarding.”
– Karen Biggs, Transform business coach

“Karen is a soundboard and that’s awesome. She’s someone that has been through business, which may not be in the way I want to do things, but it’s been successful. It’s using angles to try that I haven’t thought of. It may not be what suits us, but knowing that it can work can recalibrate our aim and make us think we need to do these things, but in our way. We’ve started doing the big sales conventions in London, for example, but then from that we’ve seen how that works, and we can now do it ‘the Chocolarder way’.

We’ve also had support from Access to Finance – they’re helping with our forecasting and they’ve been brilliant. With Oxford Innovation, it’s been about having that person that can say ‘this will really work’, and I can take that and think ‘how can I make it more fun for us, and fit with the business?’, what has become this really strong brand identity, and how can we apply this to a big corporate room full of buyers? That feed in from OI has been great.”
– Mike Longman, Chocolarder

The food and drink industry is evolving: coffee has gone from an everyday instant, to an artisan experience. Much like gin and craft beer, people are exploring the smaller artisan independent brands that have gone back to the craft of making their produce traditionally and creatively. Mike is now leading the way for chocolate to be the new artisan food trend. “It’s the path that chocolate’s on.”

“This is what we’ll do at the next convention: bring a mini chocolate factory along, and just make chocolate. We’ll be in this big hall with hundreds of other makers, who will be standing in front of their boards and talking, we’ll be doing that whilst showing people our process. It’s still in that environment, where all the big buyers are going to be so we can still talk to them, but we don’t have to conform to how it’s always been done. They can be interested in us, but as us. They’ll be able to walk past, smell chocolate, and see the whole bean to bar process. For us that’s a way better sales pitch. People will talk about a chocolate factory in the middle of a business convention.”
– Mike Longman, Chocolarder

How to contribute to the crowd funder

You can pledge to help Chocolarder reach their extended Crowdfunder target to purchase more equipment for their bean to bar chocolate factory here, deadline is Sunday 22nd April at 8pm.

You can find Chocolarder bars in outlets across Cornwall and their website – or if you find yourself in London, check out their set up in the confectionary hall in Harrods!

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