By Lorrie Baumann
Fueled by an $8 million round of capital in 2017 and this year’s launch of a new product line at Natural Products Expo West, Bobo’s is poised to break into the national mainstream with its range of oat bars, bites and, now, toaster pastries that offer solid nutrition as well as taste and texture that appeal to the entire family. Last year’s capital infusion paid for an expansion of the Boulder, Colorado, company’s capacity, resulting in top-line revenue growth of almost 70 percent in 2017 and an increase in the number of salaried employees to 29, says CEO T.J. McIntyre, who joined the company in 2016.
Bobo’s was started in Boulder in 2003 by Beryl Stafford, a mom who named the company after her daughter Bobo. She started by making a batch of oat bars – soft oatmeal cookies in bar form – in her home kitchen over a weekend. They turned out well, and she started selling them to local cafes and then to Whole Foods. A few years later, she was baking her oat bars in a commercial bakery and selling them in supermarkets, and potential investors came calling.
Today, the company is still baking all of its products in its Boulder bakery and has completed a re-branding and the strategic work to establish a new foundation, and it’s ready for launch into the national mainstream market. The product range includes 15 flavors of oat bars, individually packaged 3-ounce bars that work as both breakfast and afternoon snacks. “It’s so simple that any of our consumers could make it at home, yet we do an incredible job of producing a bar that tastes homemade,” McIntyre said. “We’re the only bar in the category that has a home-baked aroma when you open it.”
Bobo’s consumers enjoy the bars for their flavor first and for functionality second, and the bars bring a sense of freshness to the center of the store, which many consumers regard as a plethora of processed products, McIntyre added. “We are far and away the least-processed bar in the market.”
Bobo’s research indicates that about 50 percent of them are consumed for breakfast, with the rest of them consumed as snacks at scattered times throughout the day. “When our bars are purchased and brought into the house, it’s the whole family that eats them,” McIntyre said.
The Bars line has been extended with new STUFF’D bars. The four STUFF’D bars are currently offered in Peanut Butter Filled, Peanut Butter Filled Chocolate Chip, Coconut Almond Butter Filled and Chocolate Almond Butter Filled varieties. The 2.5-ounce bars are packaged for individual sale. They offer 5 to 7 grams of protein, depending on the variety, and carry the Non GMO Project Verified seal on the front of the package.
Bobo’s Bites are oat mini-muffins offered in seven flavors: Original, Coconut, Maple Pecan, Lemon Poppyseed, Apple Pie, PB&J and Gingerbread. Packaged with five Bites per package, each Bite is one serving that offers 160 calories and 2 to 3 grams of protein.
The new Bobo’s TOAST’R is a Bobo’s oat bar turned into a toaster pastry with the addition of ancient grains and a filling of either fruit or nut butter for what McIntyre says is the least-processed toaster pastry on the market today. Packaged for sale as singles and currently offered in four varieties — two with fruit and two with nut butter fillings — the 2.5-ounce pastry is just a little smaller than the 3-ounce Bobo’s Bar and retails for $2.49. “We’ve made an incredibly high-quality toaster pastry,” McIntyre said. “A cup of coffee or another beverage with one of these, and you’re probably good until lunch.”
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.