Transparency has become one of the leading factors in consumer priority within the consumer-packaged food market over the last decade. “The “why” and “how” behind a product have become as important as the product itself, according to new research from the Nielsen Co. Nearly 4 in 10 U.S. consumers say they would switch from the food and beverage brands they currently buy to others that provide clearer, more accurate product information, Nielsen said.” (Food Business News)
The chocolate market-place has subtlety started to bloom thousands of small, artisanal companies that are focusing on specific sourcing practices to create a healthy and sustainable way of producing high quality chocolate. Unfortunately, the big five chocolate companies still reign strong because of customer loyalty and branding but we need to expose their lack of sustainability and support the smaller, high-quality entrepreneurs in the chocolate space. WKND Chocolate Company out of Denver, Colorado is a completely transparent bean to bar chocolate company that not only sources responsibly but empowers women in the entrepreneurial space.
WKND was founded by Lauren Heineck in 2017 while she was living in Spain. Lauren worked for a company called Feastly prior to starting her chocolate company. Feastly is an online platform for chefs to create menus and host private dinners. Through Feastly, Lauren met many great chefs and diners that were interested in innovative dining experiences and this encouraged her to follow her path to telling the stories of various socio-cultural entrepreneurs involved with her favorite food, chocolate.
Lauren states on her website, “We all have chocolate memories — they are ingrained within us and unique to our personal experiences and relationships; much the same as the cacao bean is unique in its own tale of where it comes from, how it got to us the chocolate makers, and what fable or allegory it will live on to tell with its final owner…in chocolate form.
Lovingly crafting future stories and moments of celebration via my favorite medium: cacao. I have infinite adoration and respect for this finite resource, and thus each taste, sniff, sip, and decadent square is riddled with sublime intention. John Muir said it best “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.”
In addition to making sustainable and delicious chocolate Lauren also has a podcast where she features companies (mostly women) that are moving the artisanal chocolate industry into the future by building relationships with sustainable practices at their core. Most of the entrepreneurs started their companies because they wanted to feel good about the chocolate treats they consume on a regular basis. One the podcasts on her website is, Episode 22: Cocoa Innovation with Kim Wilson of Good King Snacking Cocao features Kim Wilson, Co-founder of Good King Snacking:
“From Mrs. Field’s cookie-fame dreams to social corporate responsibility and on-the-ground commodity disruption, Kim Wilson has found her place in the innovative space of CPG food products utilizing cocoa beans with the new product Good King Snacking Cacao. Coming off of a 2017 Good Food Award for their ‘Harmony’ creation, Kim shares with us in this Well Tempered podcast episode her journey towards considering how to turn back the supply & value chain, and trail-blaze a new category. She is based in Seattle, Washington and travels often to meet and train her sourcing partners in Indonesia and Honduras.
Kim Wilson Co-founder of Good King Snacking Cacao, photo credit: Kim Wilson
Themes discussed in this episode:
– Moving from wine sales/marketing to cocoa
– Kim’s path to understanding where cocoa farming was at the time, and where the gaps were
– Good King launched on realization ‘we have to move the supply chain back’
– How snacking cacao differs from cocoa nibs
– Roasting cocoa beans after the shell has been removed
– Why it’s difficult for many origin regions to compete in chocolate making; lack of infrastructure, burden of weather patterns unfit for production, and missing market related to population or geography (competitive quadrant from her MBA)
– Struggles of this new category; FDA processing and licensing, customers thinking cocoa beans are coffee beans
– What else can be done with cacao, where will innovation go?
– Finding affinity with cheese, the “savory version of milk chocolate”
Good King’s pieces of innovation:
- Move supply chain back
- Make use for the smaller beans usually not requested by other chocolate makers
- Target certain clones
- Let women lead; skills/dexterity of their hands, interest in the work, taking them out of potentially harmful scenarios, planting the seed for other entrepreneurial ventures
- Agricultural processor vs. Food processor and pioneering the groundwork for entry into the US
- Save time, invest locally; keep more of the manufacturing elements in country without decreasing nutrients of the raw bean or using up energy sources for processing
Lauren gives a full spectrum background on the company and its founders so that consumers know exactly who they’re supporting and why their items cost what they do. WKND chocolate understands that innovation is not just product based. Cultural shifts are a major way that companies can shift the weight of an industry. If we’ve learned anything from 2017, it is that women should be empowered in every aspect of every industry as equals and they deserve every opportunity that is available to them. Our country, like chocolate, has been controlled by wealthy and powerful white men and Lauren is helping to bring balance to this part of the chocolate world.
Every grocery store checkout has multiple shelves stocked full of candy. More than half of those candies contain and/or are predominantly chocolate. When I learned in class that a Hershey’s Kiss is only 11% chocolate I was curious how much chocolate was in the other candy bars. In addition to the lack of chocolate in each candy bar there is no clear communication of where the chocolate is coming from or how it was sourced. The advertisements built around the big five is based on luring children into eating sweets. In “The True History of Chocolate” by Coe and Coe, there are graphics from the early 1900’s produced by Cadbury and it is a picture of a man drinking a cup of hot cocoa. The headline reads “Cadbury’s Cocoa – Makes Strong Men Stronger” With the intention of empowering women and creating an equal market via advertising, communication and quality practices Lauren has captured a solid platform to showcase all of the great work that her peers are creating.
Watrous, Monica. Food Business News. 8/29/17.