Organic Chocolate Manufacturer Sees PACK EXPO as Resource for Processing & Packaging Innovation
Fearless Chocolate (Oakland, CA) has become the largest manufacturer of raw, organic chocolate in North America since it originated in the kitchen of company founder and president, Jordan Schuster, in 2006. It was only in 2010 that the company expanded production to reach consumers outside the state of California. Its raw, organic chocolate bars can now be found in national retailers like Dean & Deluca and Whole Foods, along with co-op groceries and small-scale stores in Southern California.
The chocolate bars are free of dairy, gluten and soy and made with 100 percent Kosher ingredients in a Kosher facility. Flavors include Dark as Midnight, Green Tea Peppermint, Exploding Coconuts, Sweet & Hot (with notes of hibiscus flower and ginger) and Super Seeds (featuring a mix of flax seed, hemp seed and chia seed).
We recently sat down with Schuster to discuss Fearless Chocolate’s goals for market growth, implications for manufacturing and what innovations he hopes to find at the upcoming PACK EXPO Las Vegas 2011 (September 26–28; Las Vegas Convention Center).
Q: Has Fearless Chocolate set any goals for growth and product innovation in the coming year and beyond?
A: We have ambitions to triple our business. Our products have been well received by consumers in the 12-month period they’ve been available outside of California, and there is still room to grow. By mid-next year, we hope to concentrate on building the international presence of our brand. As we continue to expand our strategic accounts and adventure into other regional markets, we believe this goal is attainable.
Additionally, we’d like to expand our product portfolio beyond chocolate bars this year – starting with items that seem very natural in the context of our current operation. We are working to develop a line of consumer-ready chocolate products for baking as well as cocoa products for consumer retail in tea and coffee houses. These product lines would fit in with traditional price points for products made with our high-quality ingredients. Of course, they’ll also be outfitted in beautiful packaging to illustrate the unique character of our chocolate.
Further down the road, we’d like to extend the brand into the children’s food category with products that appeal to younger consumers but still speak to the company’s values and attention to natural, wholesome, unique and delicious chocolate. We believe that product line could be two years away.
Q: What changes do you expect to make to your processing/packaging line to meet those goals?
A: There’s always going to be room for improvement on the processing and packaging lines. As we continue to evolve our manufacturing line to meet production demands, we’ll seek new technologies to improve efficiency, accommodate larger capacities and minimize our carbon footprint.
Currently, we’re developing new secondary packaging that can be fed into an automated cartoning machine to help us improve line speeds.
Q: When you do plan for changes on the line — whether to handle greater capacity, reduce energy usage, etc. — do you consider both the processing and packaging operations to minimize any impact that new installations may have on productivity?
A: Absolutely. We’re constantly engineering our lines backwards in time to better understand how new installations would fit into the context of our existing operation and help us meet our future goals. Of course, some line renovations have to be done strategically, piece-by-piece over time, which makes it even more important to consider possible changes to both the front and the back of the line. You’re never buying a new piece of equipment to use just for today; you’re buying it to use for several years.