Wow – doesn’t time fly? Already well through January!
We are giving the website a little overhaul and I thought it would be a good time to pop in a wee blog post. And, yes, I might actually blog more this year!
2016 has certainly started in an interesting way. One of our competitors is actively trying to recruit our staff and ex-staff – guess they are feeling a little threatened by what we do. If they want to learn, they could just come to our classes! Just sayin…Or maybe they are trying to steal our recipes. Who knows, when a company has to resort to under the belt measures like that, it speaks volumes about the type of organisation they are. This company has certainly tried to steal our intellectual property before, but at the end of the day, I believe our customers know the difference between authentic quality and cheap attempts at imitation. A little flattering that they want our staff of course. You would think chocolate companies are all full of nice people, but there are certainly those who want the status quo to remain and will be quite dirty about how they go achieving that! That said, most of the others in our industry are lovely, and we greatly respect what they do! We are all about growing the market so we can all thrive, rather than resort to dirty measures to protect our market share. While it is a good reminder that we must protect our intellectual property, it certainly tells me that we are going in the right direction. We might only be 4 years old, but we have some fairly ambitious plans, especially this year. Enough of dwelling on the negative nancies…
The start we have had to 2016 has been extraordinary – and I will explain why shortly – but firstly…let me tell you some of the changes you will see with Kako Chocolate this year. We have launched a few new flavours, based on feedback from our customers – soon you will see Deep Dark Ganache, Tropical Coconut, Irish Coffee and a couple of other new ones still under development. We have already made a massive head start on Easter (the first 400 Easter Eggs are done!), Valentine’s is all made and flowing into stores around the country. It feels great to be organised after the chaos that was Christmas trading! We have a new brand launching (more soon), and some new product innovations that will potentially disrupt the industry in a way that has not happened before. What new products could we possibly have that will disrupt the industry? Feel free to put your guesses in the comments below – if you guess correctly, I will send you some chocolates!
Our first semester classes for 2016 are now published, and these will be available for booking in the next day or two. We have have a sparkly new calendar (which isn’t working on some smart devices yet) that makes it easier to see what classes are coming up. We have made some changes to the classes, and we have a new chocolatier who will be running most of these- a very passionate and skilled chocolatier – more details soon! The classes will have new recipes, and we even have a couple of brand new classes. I will still teach some of our advanced classes, you can’t escape me that easily! There may even be some specialty classes run by famous guests! All this and we are still in January. Phew!
So how have we manged to achieve so much in short time? It all comes down to one person – who is mentoring me and helping me structure the business in a way that will really allow us to accelerate our growth plans. And why is he helping? Simply because he is paying it forward, something I hope I am able to do later on. I can truly say I have found the person who inspires me, and I am learning more from this person than I could ever discover from my old method of trial and error! He really is our secret weapon…
That is all for now, but watch this space, who knows what you might see…
Well, given how little I have updated my blog recently, I think the original “Hello World” that you see on a new blog is appropriate! Well, I get it, even if you don’t!
So much has been happening. Where to start!
We have upgraded the kitchen a little…my office became part of the new kitchen so I am now sitting in the new office we built at the front of the building. So technically I have a new sparkly office. You wouldn’t think so looking at the chaos…but I can find everything – I promise! Paperwork may not be my strong point – I am creative, I like making things (like messes in the office apparently!) but I have finally bitten the bullet and hired a new administration manager. I feel a little sorry for her having to organise my ‘filing system’. Hehe.
The kitchen is now about 50% bigger, and what a difference it makes! No more tripping over each other, and we can make a LOT of chocolates now…not that you would think so looking at our empty packing room! It’s that time of year where everything we make is snaffled up so fast, it doesn’t have time to sit on the shelves. We had a great time developing a few new products this Christmas (SEE HERE for the products – more will be added over time), and my favourite has to be the After Dinner Mint Bottles – pictured as the feature for this blog post.
OK, so new kitchen, new office, and new admin. Woohoo! I also managed to take a full week off on holiday – off to Waiheke Island for some much needed rejuvenation – figure if the factory had an upgrade, I should too! And I am feeling much better for it – clear headed, focused and ready for the mad rush that has descended. I can’t believe it is almost Christmas – I am sure it was April yesterday.
In terms of flavours – looks like we are in for a good Strawberry season – had to pick something up today from Fed Ex at the Airport, and decided to stop by Perry’s Berries for some new season strawberries for our Strawberry Mousse Truffle Cup. Mmm. Asked them if I could try one before buying $120 worth (4 large trays of their premium grade) and .. well.. they refused – was very comical. They then said I could have one but had to pay $3.50. The punnets were $2.50 so a little crazy, guess they must get lots of people making the trek just to scam a strawberry off them. Anyway, we eventually convinced them to let us have a taste before committing to volume, and wow – wonderful flavour! I remember two years ago (where it rained a lot) the strawberries were very bland, whereas last year they were wonderful. Based on early season fruit, looks like this season could be even better, which is exciting, especially when you prefer to use natural home grown fruits in your chocolate recipes! As a funny side note, when I picked up the 4 large boxes, one was missing from a corner – they informed me that was the ‘free one’ I had earlier! Guess there is no such thing as a free lunch anymore…Michelle dipped a few today and we will sell them in Sylvia Park over the weekend (fresh strawberries dipped in chocolate? We went there? Yes, we did!)
OK, that is enough for today – lots on! I won’t say I will be better at updating the blog, because I am who I am and knowing me, it will be another month…but who knows, I might just surprise you all with another update soon…or a nice Strawberry recipe since I have so many to play with!
I hope you are well,
P.S – the feature image stretched weirdly, so here is another shot of the bottles!
I know, I know, I don’t update my blog often enough. And I always have so many cool things I want to write about, but never seem to find the time…If only I could just sit and write whenever the mood took me…but alas, there are many many things vying for my time. I have so many unread emails, and a rather overflowing tray on my desk…but help is on its way!
So what’s new in the world of chocolate?
Our little Kako brand has taken on a life of its own, and with the opening of our first ever retail store in Sylvia Park, we can barely keep up with production requirements. As a result, we are planning to take on more staff, implement systems that little businesses don’t need but slightly larger ones can’t do without, and expand our chocolate kitchen…yes, my office is to become part of the kitchen … I can always work on the floor I suppose…
On a personal note, my nephew turned three this month and I took time out to fly down to Wellington to spend time with him and catch up with family. He is such a wee cutie, with distinct personality traits – and his favourite food?? Chocolate! Cheeky wee lad too – yep, he is most certainly related to me!
We have a retail store now in Sylvia Park – this is going better than we anticipated, and it has been nice spending some time in there connecting with customers and being able to tell them about the chocolate we make. And of course, bribing them with free tasters. And having a store has spurred a new level of innovation with new products coming out every week. You must try our new Russian Fudge, it is proving a real hit. We are about to launch a campaign around the fair and ethical sourcing of cocoa, so watch this space.
Stepping back from Kako, and looking at world chocolate trends, we are seeing more and more companies embrace colour and shine, using the latest techniques that we are teaching in our chocolate school. Real Fruit seems to be coming more and more into vogue, and was identified as one of the top ten trends of 2015 for chocolate (http://www.confectionerynews.com/Markets/10-chocolate-trends-for-2015). We already know that real fruit tastes better than sweetened or artificial fruit flavours. And so, it would seem, do our customers!
Locally, the New Zealand artisan market is gaining traction, with a lot of new start ups – many who have come through our chocolate school for training. One of the most exciting things is discovering chocolates that our students have created that are a true reflection of who they are, and not just a copy of recipes taught in class. While we are in essence creating competition for our own brand, ultimately, we believe we are helping grow the market so we all benefit. Another really encouraging sign for the local market is the emergence of a strong and robust bean to bar industry – from Ola Chocolate (Samoan and very nice), Samoan Gold, Ocha Chocolate from Otago, Wellington Chocolate Factory, Hogarths, amongst others. My two favourites (and it’s hard to choose) would be Hogarths (see previous blog post – I am even eating some now as I type this) and Ola. But they are all good, and a vibrant artisan chocolate industry will always pave the way for a vibrant bean-to-bar market. It means consumers are embracing quality over quantity, and being more conscious about what they are eating, and instead of cheap mass produced chocolate, more and more are moving toward artisan chocolate, which is the fastest growing sector in the overall confectionery market right now. A good time to be in the artisan chocolate industry – I am excited for the future! And you haven’t seen all the little projects we are work
So a bit of a ramble – but it is almost midnight on a Monday night, so I am allowed a little leeway!
Let me know what new and exciting chocolate you have tried recently. Always nice to hear from you (even if my response rate is a little slower than I would like at present!)
I believe as the artisan chocolate market grows in NZ, a bean-to-bar industry will begin to flourish, and have been on record saying as much. Up until today, the NZ bean-to-bar market has seen a few small brands start up and the chocolate has been OK – some quite nice in fact. But not up to the standard you find elsewhere in the world. Often gritty, poorly emulsified, too niche (eg, not wanting to use real sugar), and more often than not, the roasting doesn’t fully express the flavour notes of the bean. And the beans are often Forestero…over 85% of the world’s chocolate supply comes from forestero, it is fast growing, double the yield of Criollo trees, but rather dull in flavour.
Well, today that has changed for me. Today, I tasted some New Zealand bean to bar chocolate that is up there with the best in the world, and leaps ahead of any other bean-to-bar chocolate in New Zealand. Not because the others are bad – this is just THAT good. And it is made in Nelson by a small start-up company called Hogarth Craft Chocolate. There are five in the range, all single origin and made from the best beans. They are perfectly roasted, so much so that the subtle nuances of flavour come through crisp and clear. Five similar strength dark chocolates, but each very different and unique in it’s own right. If you think all dark chocolate tastes the same – then you must try this, it will change the way you think about dark chocolate. This review is totally unsolicited, and the first time I have publicly endorsed a New Zealand bean-to-bar chocolate brand.
The five varieties are single origin from Madagascar, Peru, Venezuela, Equador, and Dominican Republic. My personal favourite was the Peru 66% Criollo. Only about 1% of the worlds chocolate supply comes from the Criollo tree, which produces aromatic, deep flavoured beans. The other 14% or so is from Criollo-Trinatario hybrids which also produce wonderful beans (the pure Trinatario tree was sadly wiped out by a virus).
The Peru 66% is absolutely divine – this is what REAL dark chocolate is supposed to taste like, not like the over processed supermarket 70% varieties. The caramel and honey notes are underscored by a light fruity aroma (think peaches and nectarine), and the taste lingers long after the chocolate has melted away. And it isn’t just the depth and clarity of the flavours – the chocolate is well refined. Refining is the process that makes the chocolate less gritty, and the better the refining of the chocolate (measured by microns) the smoother the finished product, and the better the flavour develops on the tongue.
I am tremendously excited by the discovery of Hogarth Craft chocolate. Importing Pralus and Amedei, my two favourite bean-to-bar brands, is rather expensive. And I don’t do it that often. But I am more than happy to have Hogarth Craft chocolate moving forward, and won’t feel like I am missing out in any way. Unfortunately, you can only buy it in markets in Nelson for now (I managed to talk Karl Hogarth, the chocolate maker, into sending me some via courier after depositing some funds into his account – money well spent!). But based on how good this chocolate is, it won’t be long before you see it popping up all over the world. This is a huge development for the NZ chocolate industry. We can be the best in the world, from our bean-to-bar, through to our artisan filled chocolates. NZ can be a world leader in chocolate (hey, Belgium and Switzerland don’t grow cocoa trees either you know), and today, we are one very big step closer to that reality.
I predict a very bright future for Hogarth Craft Chocolate. Check out their facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/hogarthcraftchocolate.
Wow, what a furor has erupted after Ed Sheeran said New Zealand needed to lift it’s chocolate game! It seems like he had some bad chocolate in his hotel:
“Those ones they leave on your pillow,” he grimaced. “Like eating newspaper.”
This just goes to show that many large corporates and hotels like to give chocolate, but don’t think about the quality. Now, I have no idea who supplied the chocolate that turned Ed Sheeran off New Zealand chocolate, or the hotel he stayed in.
But this serves as a reminder to those wanting to give chocolate as a corporate gift or hotel chocolate, that not all chocolate is created equal. And not all chocolate leaves a positive impression. I would guess the chocolate he received was purchased by the hotel who wanted ‘cheap.’ Yet if they spend a little more, and get something of high quality, imagine the lasting (positive) impression they will leave on their guests or recipients? After-all, in hospitality, it is attention to detail (even the small details) that separate the good from the average.
This is one of the reasons Kako Chocolate is growing so fast. People who have never tried it, end up raving about it. The hotels we do supply (none in Christchurch, it wasn’t us!) end up buying from us regularly and tell us they get amazing feedback from their guests.
So it goes to show – a little chocolate, done right, can have a much larger effect. So no more skimping and buying cheap chocolate (or expensive chocolate that tastes like cheap chocolate, and we all know there is plenty of that around too). Buy something decent. Buy something NZ made. And buy something that will get people raving.
In other words, buy Kako Chocolate! One of our Salted Caramels or Passionfruit hearts on the pillow will do the job – and the thing is, it isn’t that expensive!
One thing about the chocolate business…it can get very busy, and require a lot of very hard work, along with some very long hours. And that pretty much sums up the last few weeks here at Kako Chocolate. We have so much on the go right now, and so much more to do – the hard work continues! There is always a ‘fantasy’ that having a chocolate business would be a dream – and let me say right now – it is a dream! However, to realise the dream requires a significant investment of time and effort that many could underestimate.
In the last two weeks, we learned a lot about our team, our brand, and what we are capable of – and it surprised us all! We pushed through limits we didn’t think we could – getting a large project right in the middle of peak Easter production was a real curve ball…but I just can’t say no to orders I know we can deliver. We were so busy, we had to put out a call for help!
Perhaps the most satisfying thing I have learned about our brand, is that we have a genuine community of people behind us. When we asked for help, we received it in droves! This is both humbling and encouraging. And it proves that an ‘open community’ where ideas are shared, and people help each other, is not just ideology – it works! Perhaps that is a lesson for the wider artisan chocolate industry – collaboration is good for us all – instead of viewing each other as threats, imagine if we worked together to build an industry body, open up export doors for smaller producers, and rapidly grow the artisan market here in New Zealand – where we would all benefit.
Some say I am dreaming, and there are those who are openly hostile to such thoughts…but after seeing the community behind us pull together in our time of need – well, that is enough for me to know that anything is possible when we work together (queue Lego movie theme song!)
That’s all for today…but let me finish on a small note – we will soon be launching a ‘forum’ board on our website so you can easily ask for help, share ideas, talk about your successes and failures, and make some great connections. Because I am certain that our community is what makes us strong, and I want to encourage that as much as possible!
Just a quick thought(s) of the day…
I was inspired by great words yesterday from someone who was going through a very difficult time in his life, and thought I would share something non-chocolate related for a change.
The first quote was this: “There is nothing greater in life to love, and be loved”
In our crazy hectic lives these days, it is nice to stop and think about what is really important. It is so easy to lose sight of what is really valuable in our lives. How quickly we can drift apart from people. The same person said that success isn’t about money, cars, house(s), but instead, was measured by the quality of family and friends surrounding you. Wise words from someone going through a particularly tough time. He is an inspiration to me.
The other wisdom from this person was simple: Live without fear. It made me realise just how much fear holds people back from doing what they really want to do. And that we should go after our dreams without letting fear halt us in our tracks.
With some big changes (positive) coming to Kako Chocolate, this was a timely bit of reflection, and will help ensure the right decisions are made as the brand continues its very exciting process of change.
Peace ~ Stu
Our Condensed Chocolate 101-401 five day class ran this January with a full class of 10 eager chocolate fans…and what fun was had! Here is a little overview of what we did, the fun we had, and the products we created!
Day One…Introductions. People still a little shy at this stage (not all!) but by Day Five, some amazing friendships had formed. The entire morning session was spent talking through Tempering and Flavoring, the two pillars of artisan chocolate making. We then polished and prepped all the polycarbonate molds we would be using over the next 5 days. After lunch (yet another awesome lunch by Michelle – every lunch was just divine), it was mold work … colouring, skimming, casting.
Day Two: Ganache! We introduced our flavouring ‘framework’ to show when and how to add flavours – including my personal favourite method, infusion. We launched into making ganaches, including Hazelnut & Coffee twin layered slab, Raspberry Framboise,Vanilla Bean, Coconut Malibu Bars, Ginger & Spice, and Gooey Caramel from scratch. A lot of learning, a lot of note taking, as we explored the various flavouring methods through the recipes.
Day Three: The first day students got to take some chocolate home – finished all the molds we piped the day before, learned how to spray coloured cocoa butter, and then made Passionfruit Caramel, Mint & Strawberry (we winged that one, it was supposed to be Raspberry but we wanted to make puree from scratch and we had lots of strawberries…), and Prune & Port spiced with cinnamon. Exhausting day, starting to feel the feet after three days standing, but by now, everyone knows each other, and the atmosphere is jovial. Mmm hmm! (inside joke sorry).
Day Four: Pralines from scratch! We double caramelised our hazelnuts, due to running out of gas on the cooker we use for the copper bowl method. Turned out OK though…and we made a few more recipes – Honey Praline (using Almond praline we made from scratch), Butterscotch Caramel Lollipops, Chewy Caramel, Marzipan (oops…this is my bogey recipe – I always seem to do a step wrong…turned out OK though). We also had a session where students worked in pairs to create their very own recipes, to allow them to put the flavouring framework to use, and to learn how to create recipes from scratch. Had some really cool recipe ideas come through – Orange and Cloves was sounding good!
Day Five: Started off making Fruit Jellies, then Marshmallow (egg free). After that, it was tempering up the tanks, sealing off the molds and then lots and lots of dipping and applying transfer sheets. We did some orange velvet spraying, which turned out awesome. Many people didn’t bring a large enough container, because the amount of chocolate to take home was almost ridiculous! A little sad to have to say goodbye to our new friends though!
In summary, the class was a lot of fun, and the students were great. Here is a little picture of the class…and 4 of the 18 chocolates made in class, from left to right…Caramel Cupcakes, Passionfruit Caramels, Strawberry & Mint, Prune & Port, and hiding in the right hand corner is the Honey Almonds. Note – this was one of FOUR benches of chocolate for students to take home!! A big thank you to the students for a great five days. Mmm hmm!
Our main class schedule for Kako Chocolate School comes to an end this weekend with the final two classes. We have a specialty Christmas Classes in early December, but apart from that, school is out! Which means I get my weekends back – something I am looking forward to now that the weather has improved and it stays light long into the evening now.
This post is really just a reflection on the school year that has been. What a year! With over 500 students, it was our busiest year yet – but given we are only in our second year, that was hardly surprising!
What do I enjoy most about teaching chocolate school?
- Sharing my passion
- Meeting like minded individuals who are as passionate as I am about chocolate
- Meet a huge variety of wonderful people
- Allows me to become ‘dignified’ much earlier in life thanks to the abundance of new grey hairs this year! Students will understand what I mean.
We have met some absolutely wonderful people, some of whom are off to start their own chocolate business and adventure. Hearing about the journeys people have been on is rather humbling at times – and seeing such a wide variety of people coming together through a shared bond (a love of chocolate) is also incredible. I know some students have made some very good friends through-out their learning journeys.
We had our share of mishaps this year – power outage recently meant we run a ganache class in the dark, using a camp gas cooker. A few ‘technical’ issues and the odd recipe disaster, but all in all, things ran pretty smoothly.
We have met some memorable people this year – most for the right reasons! Michelle and I have made some excellent friends through this process, and even have some students pop in regularly to chat, and sometimes give us food they have made, which is always most welcome! Did I mention we love people dropping in food?
While not every student will go on with chocolate making, a good number will and do. Our mission has been to educate people into a better class of chocolate, and attempt to ‘ignite’ our industry by training the next generation of chocolatiers in New Zealand – those who have been through our school are much more likely to collaborate with us and help work together to make the artisan chocolate industry much bigger than it is now.
Thank you to all who have attended our chocolate school this year, and for those who have been to all our classes – don’t worry, I have some new classes I am working on now for our 2015 year that will allow you to continue your learning journey.
OK, it’s rant time. I am pretty easy going, and it takes a bit to get me riled up. But riled up I am. Almost furious. Why? Because of Foodiebox.
This is not a Foodiebox review in the sense that I am reviewing what you get for your hard earned dollars when you buy their product. This is a rant about their business model, which has absolutely infuriated me. So much so, I am ranting on my blog…I even had to underline and use bold font to show how infuriated I am.
I received an email from this company (Foodiebox). After the usual rambling about their ‘premium’ customer demographic, which they only ascertain from their 4,300 or so facebook fan demographics, they tell us how they can connect our brand to these avid foodies – which are in reality mainly people who followed their page in the hope of free giveaways! And how do they do this? To quote them word for word …
“Intro Box: We will be needing 250 units. Our rate card is 99c per unit distributed. We are happy to do a discounted price or have two product for the price of one. One of the products could be an upcoming box. You will also receive a feedback report 45 days after the box goes out, which includes posted feedback from our customers and obviously the promotions we post of our Facebook page”
So here is what they want.
- 500 boxes of chocolates for FREE
- Us to pay them a further $0.99 per product for the privilege of giving them free product.
I wasn’t sure I had read it right, so I asked them if I was reading it correctly. This is the reply:
“Correct the brand pays 99c per product distributed and supplies product for 500 boxes.”
And they then SELL this to their customers who pay a monthly subscription. For profit. Not charity.
In my opinion, this is pure GREED. Expecting manufacturers to give 500 free boxes AND pay a further 99c per unit fee, is one thing. Selling these free products for the purpose of making profit is, I think, reprehensible (my big word of the day). So we pay twice – once for the cost of the ‘free’ product, and then an additional ‘fee’ on top of this. Justifying this parasitic greed is the promise to connect us with avid foodies. Sounds lovely in theory, but realistically, there are much easier and cheaper ways to connect with genuine foodies. Most avid foodies want to support small artisan/boutique manufacturers. I doubt they would want to support a business that makes its money from FREE product AND a fee from these manufacturers, without paying them a cent in return. There are many ways to make a profit, but this does not seem ethical or fair to me. At the very least, it is one of the worst value propositions I have been presented in my entire business career.
Their ‘avid foodie’ base is also doubtful – they admit they ascertained their ‘demographic’ from their facebook page, from which they use free giveaway promotions to lure people into liking. Of course, they don’t pay for the giveways either…that comes from the manufacturer for FREE again – I wonder if they even give away that many? Doesn’t seem like it based on the giveaways already established on their page. Wonder what they do with the remainder…Here is what they asked word for word:
“We would need 8 units of 2 of your products so we can introduce your brand to our customers. We will take a photo of the product, create a post and link the post to your Facebook page. : ) “
This business reminds me of a leech – it survives by sucking the blood of other businesses. Because of this, Foodiebox is one business I will boycott. Business is hard enough already. I don’t have time or patience for this type of business. I hope other food manufacturers boycott them too.
What do you think about this? Let me know in the comments section.