Chocolate producer restructures business to prepare for investment and increase sales

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Choc Chick Founder

CHOC CHICK is an established organic cacao brand with a range of healthy chocolate powder blends, cacao ingredients, snacks and recipes. It was one of the original UK businesses (est. 2009) to ethically import and sell its cacao directly from cooperatives in Ecuador and Peru.
CHOC CHICK has been ethically sourcing cacao since 2010 with a focus on sustainability, biodiversity and as an alternative to highly processed, unhealthy chocolate. It is proud of its ethical credentials. Ensuring a sustainable and ethical supply chain has been one of the main values of the business. The products represent the forward thinking mindset of the company – stylish, cool, ethical and delicious.
Galia Orme the founder at CHOC CHICK has worked hard to make sure her products are available through many distributors and retailers. With the basic set of products developed it became necessary to focus on how to develop new products to maintain a leading edge. Also, she needed to ensure that her existing products could scale up by looking at other sales channels.
A step back was needed to consider how the company could grow to address these challenges. The financial position of the company would need attention and new sales channels would need to be opened up.
Chris Sheppardson at EP Business in Hospitality, a leading communicator in the hospitality sector, suggested Galia speak to Vegan Arborist given the mutual focus on the plant based sector and Vegan Arborist’s interest in supporting sustainable ethical plant based companies.

The Challenge

Galia had just been through an upgrade in branding which very nicely captured the values of her company and increased the appeal to consumers. This included thoughtful changes to packaging and presenting more options e.g. flavours, pack sizes, etc to consumers.
However, more was needed. Galia needed to make sure she could put her best foot forward financially in order to drive further product and business development.
There had been a huge focus on developing product and getting it into certain channels. However, these were still limited and, in some cases, others had come into the market space with cheaper less ethical sourcing. Galia needed to find a way to open up more sales channels by directly getting her message of product quality and sustainability across to consumers.
In order to provide financial breathing room for expansion it was necessary to seriously look at all options available and how to possibly proceed with many potential confusing and competing options.
Additionally, Galia needed input from an independent source to help verify and develop her business strategy and corporate structure.
According to Galia “Being an entrepreneur is quite a solitary experience and a total rollercoaster ride. Having set up CHOC CHICK from my kitchen table in 2009, with no previous business or retail experience, I’ve had to learn from making many mistakes and overcoming many challenges. One of my biggest challenges has been accessing good advice and support to help grow my brand. “

The Solution
Vegan Arborist and CHOC CHICK quickly developed a close working relationship. With a view to the current and future position of the company it was necessary to engage in a number of areas to verify and strengthen the company’s position.

Communicate the company’s mission and values

  • It became clear very quickly that CHOC CHICK was very strong on Environment, Social and Governance (ESG) practices. The company operated and lived by these practices. With ESG so important to consumers and investors measuring and communicating what is being done is paramount. From a customer and potential investor perspective expectations were met and exceeded in many cases. It was important to ensure that messaging was understood and signalled appropriately to all parties.
  • Allocate required attention to current and planned set of products
    Current products were solid but work required to develop new products. New products were advised and time was allocated to develop a number of new blends and ingredient combinations to enhance the offering for future growth.
  • Review and enhance all sales channels and levels of success
    It became clear that while some sales channels did well, others were not as good, were subject to variation and return on investment was poor. Developing and enhancing DTC channels became an imperative. CHOC CHICK and Vegan Arborist worked closely together to list products on the plant based www.veganarborist.com to open up another direct to consumer channel to complement other channels out there. This was implemented quickly and efficiently by Vegan Arborist.
Vegan Arborist Shop
  • Amplify company’s own competitive advantage over existing competition
    The company had a clear advantage in product design, ethical and sustainable supply chains, sustainable packaging. Products were identified where new tastes could be exploited leading to new product development. Sustainability and quality put at the centre of branding.
  • Develop strong credible business goals for the subsequent 2-4 year period
    Feedback was given on current situation, past experience and a focus on new products and sales channels. This was all incorporated into a new set of goals and targets developed for the company.
  • Strengthen the company, the corporate ownership and structure
    The history and current position of the company was reviewed. Future projections were analysed and adjusted for new products and markets. This gave a clearer picture of the goals the company could reasonably expect to meet. Options were reviewed in terms of how the company could be financed and in what way. A basis for valuation was established and a road map determined to proceed based on achieving a number of interim goals.
  • Identify key people involved to develop the business to the next level
    Strategy, decision making and levels of support from external advisors were reviewed. Immediate decisions were made to introduce new business mentors leading to involvement of new set of hard skill sets to help manage the direction of the company.

As Gilbert Carey CTO outlines “We on-boarded CHOC CHICK products very quickly requiring only 15 minutes from a member of Galia’s team for a final verification step. Our on-boarding process is designed to be very efficient and requires very little effort from our producer partners.”

Galia describes the interaction: “My first meeting with John from Vegan Arborist was at a time when I was at a crossroads with the business and I immediately felt he understood my values and ethics and the challenges we were facing. Every meeting and phone call led to more progress and I gained a lot of confidence discussing the business strategy with John. I received so much of the advice I wished I had when I first started my business and more! Not only did we work together to develop a roadmap for business growth together, but I was also offered a practical solution to include my cacao products in their new vegan online sales platform. I’m delighted to have CHOC CHICK products listed on www.veganarborist.com, it’s a fantastic (or should I say CHOCtastic) B2C sales channel. Gilbert Carey was incredibly helpful and made the integration of my products onto the platform completely seamless and effortless. I’m excited to be a part of a platform that values ethics and sustainability and to collaborate with a team that genuinely cares about the success of my business.”
According to John Creaton CEO “CHOC CHICK were a perfect partner for Vegan Arborist. Our goal is to support sustainable plant-based producers in the most practical way we can. That doesn’t mean a producer needs all our services but we take a long term view to deliver what is most useful and timely focusing on long term growth of our producer partners”

Choc Chick Dessert

Conclusion
When discussions started with Galia she had a strong sense of how to develop her products together with the necessary energy to push ahead. The issue was how to empower and drive it. As it turned out, it wasn’t a one solution problem. It was necessary to take a step back to understand clearly the current position, the set of challenges and opportunities in order to find a way forward. In many cases, seeking funding on its own is not the right solution. Making sure the company is in as strong a state as possible by exploiting all operational avenues, consolidating its financial position and seeking funding from a position of strength ultimately better serves the company and its stakeholders.
Vegan Arborist worked closely with CHIC CHOCK to move it into a better corporate position by looking at all options but critically, because it supports producers holistically, it was able to actively get involved in other immediate practical ways by listing CHOC CHICK products on its B2C portal. We continue to work closely and will be be ready when the time is right to seek further investment funding.

Author: John Creaton is the CEO and co-Founder of Vegan Arborist the world’s first business and consumer platform exclusively dedicated to growing the market for more sustainable plant-based products. The platform provides guidance and funnelling of plant based products for consumers via its B2C portal at www.veganarborist.com and supports investors, producers and services via its B2B portal at business.veganarborist.com.

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