Monday, 31 December 2012

A good year for chocolate?


I am going to indulge a little in thinking about the year past and the new year coming – forgive me; as I have not written any Christmas cards this year, this might be my only opportunity to reflect over the last year. It has been a really interesting year – full of new ideas, new connections, new people, as well as reaffirming old ones – a good year in fact.

As I write this, I wondered if I had written an end of year post before on this blog, and looking back, yes I did – two years ago!  Reading it now, much of it very adequately describes much of this  year – the uncertain economy, having to work a little harder at selling and promoting, the sector growing all the time (I am told that there are now over 40 businesses in Scotland making chocolates!).  But what was interesting was to see my two aspirations for the following year – to ‘crack marketing’ and to try and create contacts with cocoa producers.  Two years down the line I have made progress with both – although I still have some way to go with both!

So to keep this short – the highlights for the year?  Of course, the main one has to be the two trips to Indonesia and the emerging possibility of being able to direct source cocoa beans from some amazing farmers there.  Thanks to everyone who has made that possible, including the Ellis Campbell Foundation who have funded some of the work. 

I have been lucky to be working with some amazing retailers - who not only recognise good products, but work with and support the producers to promote those, and you feel part of their family.  Crannachan and Crowdie in the Royal Mile in Edinburgh, run by the amazing Beth and Fiona, and Sophie at The Cocoa Tree in Pittenweem.  Sophie organised a brilliant event in St Andrews in March this year with Chloe Doutre Roussel and I was honoured to be asked to talk about my chocolates and my recent trip to Indonesia.  We then embarked on a mini chocolate road trip to Bridge of Allan with Sophie and Chloe to meet the amazing Kate and Fiona at IQ Chocolate.

And the other highlight is our beautiful new bar wrappers - just waiting for that direct sourced cocoa chocolate!

There have been real low spots to the year though.  I have made a couple of serious errors of judgement this year with scammers that have been expensive, but more seriously have knocked confidence and trust out of me.  Small businesses are so vulnerable to this for lots of reasons, but my most recent experience led to something much more positive.  I have been really grateful to, impressed and inspired by one business who were so angry at how they and fellow stallholders had been treated that she researched and lobbied and led us all through a process of complaint.  We did not get our money back, or the lost opportunity back, but we did get some pride and dignity back.

Flavour of the year: has to be smoked Hebridean Sea salt and Java chocolate.  Addictive.  And again - lovely to feel connected to the amazing growing artisanal food sector of Scotland.  Hebridean Sea Salt is a new company on Lewis, and Isle of Ewe Smokehouse smoke the salt for us.

Next year -  hopefully our own direct sourced cocoa chocolate and a new website!

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