A day in the life of...A chocolate factory owner: "It's not all Willy Wonka-style rivers of chocolate"

“When you tell people you run your own chocolate factory, I think they expect the Willy Wonka-style rivers of cocoa, but it is not quite like that.”

Thursday, 18th July 2019, 4:50 pm
Updated Thursday, 18th July 2019, 5:50 pm
Calum Haggerty, 37, took over the running of Coco chocolatier in 2013
Calum Haggerty, 37, took over the running of Coco chocolatier in 2013

Wonka-style rivers of chocolate, tropical locations and seaweed flavoured bars, does Coco chocolatier owner Calum Haggerty have the best job in the world?

“They probably think we have the best job in the world, but I do think there is maybe a common misconception among the general public about what a chocolatier actually does.

“They make products out of chocolate, they are not creating everything from scratch, in a small batch, that is really hard to do.

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The company are known for their innovative flavours including Earl Grey tea and Gin and Tonic.

“My job has evolved quite considerably over the last six years since I started running the business. I was a firefighter before I did this. I had no experience whatsoever in chocolate or business. It was a bit of a baptism of fire. I was based at Crewe Toll and Tollcross.

“I doubt that there is anyone esle who has made that kind of transition.

“When I started, there were about three or four of us and we did everything, from accounting, packing, cleaning, to actually making the chocolate. Like most people, I love chocolate, everybody loves chocolate, but that was a real learning curve, because you are not only learning these skills, but learning about flavours, about packaging, about what attracts people to our products, we exist in this space where we can create something a little bit different and it helps us stand out.

“Thankfully, as we’ve grown we’ve managed to get people in dedicated roles, but I still miss the feeling of working with chocolate every day.

All of Coco's chocolate is 'Origin Made' from Colombia.

"Seaweed and chocolate don't go that well together"

“We are known for some quite unique flavours. When we’re developing product, like a bar, we develop the packaging long before we actually develop the flavour, then it is about matching them up.

“We’ll work round a concept. Most people think this is probably the really fun part, working out what tastes great, what goes together well. We made gin and tonic flavoured hot chocolate as part of our Best of British range for the Queen’s diamond jubilee in 2012, as well as things like apple crumble, earl grey tea, they were really for one offs.

“But since then, gin has gone stratospheric and it became our most popular bar. The Earl Grey bar is one of our best selling bars in China and the USA because it is seen as this quintessentially British flavour.

Packaging concepts are drawn up at the 'factory' in Telferton.

“However, there have been lots that have not worked. Some were quite disappointing. We were working with this seaweed company and we decided to give it a go, and this is probably not that surprising, but seaweed and chocolate do not go very well. It is too salty.

“We worked on that for a long time. We were desperate to make it work because it was so unusual, but if it doesn’t happen, then it doesn’t happen, we can’t force it.

"Chocolate is where coffee or wine was ten years ago"

“Chocolate is one of those industries that is more understood now than it has ever been. You are now able to track every element of your chocolate from bean to bar. If you look at coffee or wine, chocolate is on that journey, but it is maybe ten years behind.

“When we go over to Colombia, Bogota is where our partners our based, but we go up to a little place on the Carribean coast. Traditionally, if you look at where chocolate is grown, it is 20 degrees north or south of the equator in developing countries.

“What happens is the big multinationals based in Switzerland and Belgium go into the country of origin, they take out all the raw commodity and then they create all the wealth back in a developed economy.

“Where we are different is that we work with partners at origin, Colombia is one of the few countries that actually manufactures Couverture chocolate, chocolate with a much higher volume of cocoa butter. It means they are selling a higher value product to people like ourselves and the money goes back into that developing economy, rather than ending up thousands of miles away. It’s a concept that we call ‘origin made’.

“The reaction from a lot of people when you have the conversation that goes ‘So what do you do?’ ‘I run my own chocolate factory,’ they probably do think we have the best job in the world, but they are actually interested in the process, they are actually interested in what we do and it might not be the sort of Wonka-type paradise that they imagine, but they are genuinely interested.”