By Lorrie Baumann
If you’ve ever wondered who’d be cast to play you if Hollywood ever decided to make a movie about your life, you certainly aren’t alone. Brent Davis doesn’t have to wonder: Hollywood already made “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” and in the version of that movie that Davis prefers, Gene Wilder played the wildly whimsical and endlessly inventive master of the chocolate factory.
Davis is the President of Davis Chocolate, a company primarily devoted to making private-label chocolate products for other companies. If you need a gluten-free, Paleo-certified chocolate chip for your specialty trail mix snack or you need a single-origin bar sweetened with coconut sugar and named after your company, he’s the man who can do that for you. “They tell us what they want, and we help them get what they need,” Davis says of his customers. “We specialize in making custom recipes.”
The products made in his factory include truffles, chips, chunks and bars – chips and chunks often for the baking industry and many of the truffles for customers who demand organic certification. “There’s not many organic truffle makers out there,” Davis observes.
Another of his specialties is products that include peanut butter – an ingredient for which he has such a particular fondness that he’s even created an inside-out peanut butter cup bar, with chocolate in the middle and the peanut butter on the outside. “We create lots of different products that are out there that are unique. I like to create different things,” he says. “Peanut butter is a weakness of mine, and it goes very well with chocolate.”
Wine also goes very well with chocolate, and Davis Chocolate is now also making Wave Chocolate Sticks for Wine Pairing. These are artisan chocolate cocktail sticks for pairing with wine and cocktails. They’re certified organic, kosher, and vegan. They’re made from single-origin chocolate from Ecuador, which Davis feels is a chocolate that pair exceptionally well with wine, and include only three ingredients: organic cacao, organic sugar and organic cocoa butter. “What we did was match up the sugar levels so that they match a wider variety of wines,” Davis says. One of the reasons he picked chocolate to eat while drinking wine, he says, is “because it’s fun to drink wine.”
Davis has been thinking about chocolate since he was about six years old, although in those days, he’d often take a pass on a chocolate bar in favor of a plate of macaroni and cheese. The problem with the chocolate bar was that if he bought the bar while he was out and about on his bicycle on a hot summer day, he knew that he’d have to eat all of it right away before it melted. He didn’t want to buy a chocolate bar and eat it all at once – he wanted to be able to save some of it for later. Today, when he has to pinpoint the moment that he started thinking about how to make a different kind of chocolate, that’s the memory that comes to mind, and it explains why he has even invented a liquid chocolate bar. “If I had a liquid candy bar, I would have bought this as a kid because then I could eat it anytime I wanted,” he says.
He’s still doing that kind of thinking, now often starting with the thoughts that his customers bring to him. They might ask for chocolate sweetened with coconut sugar because they’re looking for a low glycemic index – that’s a request that Davis is getting fairly frequently these days. “Most of our private label customers come to us with new ideas. We may not know, but, ‘Let’s see what we can do for you,’ … We need to be very diverse,” he says. “One of our specialties is using peanut butter or chocolate chips with coconut sugar…. Or Paleo – there’s a lot of different requests we have. Plus, it’s fun to create things and to stay busy too, of course.”
Davis Chocolate has recently completed branding of its artisanal, organic Royal Indulgence Truffles.
“The new, clear cylinders with gold caps are an elegant choice for packaging our truffles,” said Brent Davis, President of Davis Chocolate. “By using the Royal Indulgence name and our Davis family crest, we have completed what we feel is the perfect expression of our caramel, peanut butter, and ganache truffles. To feature the wonderful product we craft, we have left a small opening in the label so the truffles may be viewed through the clear cylinder.”
“In keeping with the consistency of what we believe, the inclusions of our truffles are organic as well as additive, preservative, and soy free to compliment the health benefits of our chocolates,” Davis said. “Feel Better…Live Better…Eat Better. It is what we stand for and it is how we craft.”
Since 2011, Davis Chocolate has offered private label organic chocolate to chocolatiers, specialty food distributors, hotel chefs and pastry artisans to elevate the experience of their clientele. Consumers may purchase products on both Amazon and the Davis Chocolate website. For further information, contact Brent Davis at email@example.com.
By Robin Mather
Once upon a time, the customer who had a taste for a little chocolate dropped into the nearest drug or grocery store and picked up a bar of milk chocolate.
Those days have vanished, however, as chocolate consumers have learned more and more about how their favorite treat is produced. Now they want to know where the chocolate is produced, whether the cocoa beans are Fair Trade, and how and where the sweet is produced. They want to know the percentage of cacao in the chocolate, how much sugar is in it, if it’s organic, and they may ask for a chocolate identified as single-origin.
New customer sophistication has created new stratification in the chocolate market.
Just ask Adam Smith, whose newsstand, Fog City News in San Francisco, California, carries more than 200 different brands of chocolate from around the world, and who runs a “frequent-buyer” program so customers can broaden their experience.
“I think it started with Scharffen Berger, back in 1996,” he says. “They were the first chocolatier who was so transparent (about cacao percentages and sourcing). Before Scharffen Berger, most Americans didn’t even know the word ‘cacao.’ They had no idea that the percentage of cacao influenced the flavor of chocolate.”
Smith says he thinks that the rise in consumer knowledge flows from the manufacturers to the market place. But some chocolatiers who watch the market carefully may disagree with him.
“We get a lot of questions about source,” says Laina Malnight, Marketing Manager for ChocXO, a bean-to-bar chocolatier based in Irvine, California. “Consumers want a story, and the more certifications, the better.”
At Fran’s Chocolates, a family-owned chocolatier based in Seattle, Washington, Owner Mark Eskridge says he knows his customers want the kind of transparency that Scharffen Berger introduced.
“People are reading the labels,” he says. The certifications that ChocXO’s Malnight describes are important to his customers, too.
“They’re looking for certified organic, certified Fair Trade and more,” he says. But those certifications can raise issues for manufacturers. “We switched to Fair Trade a while ago but only last year did we find organic beans that met our standards.”
Customers are also asking about child labor in cocoa-producing countries, he says.
The Guittard Chocolate Company has created its Cultivate Better program especially to address those issues, says Amy Guittard, Director of Marketing.
“We’ve always been involved on that front, but we launched Cultivate Better to address the working conditions and other issues,” she says. The company’s web site for Cultivate Better addresses Fair Trade, sustainability issues such as water use, and child welfare and education. The web site explains that its mission relies on “a heritage built on close relationships with farmers and suppliers” and promises “a commitment to protect the flavor of chocolate” as growers work with plant breeders and scientists to develop more pest-resistant cocoa trees.
Guittard and its customers benefit from that mission in very practical ways. “It ensures that our ingredients, and the way they are grown, are always improving,” she says. The company’s customers appreciate that transparency, she says.
A Resource Explosion
The Specialty Food Association listed chocolate as the sixth fastest growing segment of specialty food in its 2017 report. The chocolate segment showed 10 percent growth from 2014 to 2016. The segment posted sales of more than $22 billion in 2017, according to Statista, a data tracking company.
It’s a big market with big rewards for smart retailers.
Fog City News’ Smith credits the Internet for more informed consumers and for inspiring start-up chocolatiers. “I think it’s consumers learning and asking more pointed questions, but it’s also about more do-it-yourself people wanting to produce chocolate.”
Smith notes that “what we have here is the craft beer movement going on in chocolate. Now you have online forums and online suppliers, so there’s more interest in chocolate, and there are more resources for those who want to start up.”
He wonders if industry giants will pay attention. “It’s going to be interesting if the chocolate companies like Nestle and Hershey will make the same mistake that the big breweries made — they thought the craft beer movement was a fad.”
Whether the recent stratification has been pushed up from consumers to makers, or the industry has educated its consumers is, in the end, immaterial.
Retailers need to focus on something else, Smith says.
“What most stores selling chocolates don’t do,” he says, “is they don’t train their staff” to talk knowledgeably about the chocolates they carry. That means the retailers aren’t educating their customers.”
Given how much chocolate Fog City sells in a year — “upwards of $300 thousand, with no e-commerce sales,” he says — Smith makes training new employees a high priority. “When you’re hired by Fog City News, it’s like you’re going to Chocolate University,” he says.