Raw Halo - chocolate that's 'better made' and 'better for you'
PUBLISHED: 00:00 14 February 2020
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Catherine Roth meets two young local entrepreneurs who have taken the confectionery world by storm with premium chocolate that's 'better made' and 'better for you'.
Two entrepreneurs from Derbyshire are making feel-good chocolates with a difference. Raw Halo, run by Meg Haggar and her partner Jonathan Chapman, produces vegan, organic and GM-free chocolates.
A self-confessed chocolate addict, Meg cut out refined sugar from her diet in 2012. However, she found a lot of the chocolates sold in shops contained cane sugar as well as palm oil and various artificial ingredients so instead she began to make her own chocolate treats for herself, her friends and family. It was largely a result of their encouragement that Meg set up Raw Halo in 2014. She says, 'At Raw Halo we believe in everyday luxuries that benefit mind, body and spirit. That's why we've created a luxury chocolate bar that's healthier, more natural and of better quality, making "better-made" and "better for you" the new benchmark for premium chocolate.'
Sweetened with coconut sugar, Raw Halo's chocolates come in three different sizes of eight Dark and three Mylk varieties (so named because they don't include dairy products). Meg says, 'Coconut sugar has a lower GI than many other sugars, which gives a slower release. It's also easier to digest than agave and maple syrup and has more of a caramel flavour.' Dark chocolates include Dark 76%, Dark 85%, Pink Himalayan Salt, Salted Caramel, Raspberry, Orange, and Mint whilst Mylk varieties include Vanilla, Salted Caramel, and Pink Himalayan Salt. Meg says, 'There has been a big growth over the last few years of plant-based and vegan chocolate and it's showing no sign of slowing down. Being part of this movement is very exciting. Our chocolate is minimally processed so is as good as it can be and we don't roast our cacao beans as high temperatures cause a loss of nutrients.' She continues, 'Vegan chocolate used to be really grainy and didn't have a nice flavour. Now we're competing alongside non-vegan brands and have won four Great Taste awards so we're doing something right!' Stockists include Holland and Barrett, Ocado and Waitrose, delis, health food stores and cafés, as well as luxury retailers Daylesford and Harrods.
Meg and Jonathan first met in Chesterfield where they both grew up before moving to London to pursue respective careers in corporate HR and E-Commerce. However, a year after setting up Raw Halo, Meg swapped HR for chocolate to run her business full time, a decision she describes as a leap of faith having never worked in the food industry before, and was joined by Jonathan soon after.
Their factory was a tiny kitchen in their London flat where they made all the chocolates, and family in Chesterfield helped to wrap them. With the support of London retailers, including ethical supermarket Planet Organic, Meg was making 100 bars every day. Before long business outgrew Meg and Jonathan's kitchen and they looked to moving somewhere where they could set up a microfactory. Jonathan says, 'It was exciting to live in London for a few years but Derbyshire has always been home, it's where our families live. So when we were looking for premises it made sense to move back to Derbyshire.' Moving their chocolate production to Matlock increased manufacture to 500 bars per day.
Business continued to grow so Meg and Jonathan decided to outsource their production following a successful online Crowdfunding campaign. However, this wasn't an easy task as Jonathan explains: 'Our requirements were very specialist. We make our chocolate from raw ingredients but finding someone who could do this for us was a real challenge.'
They found their answer in the Netherlands. Meg says, 'Our production partner is a social enterprise that is focussed on getting people back into work in a very supportive environment where people are encouraged to fulfil their potential. We go out there every four to six months. They're a really nice team and thankfully they speak very good English!' The enterprise installed Raw Halo's original machines that had been used to make the chocolate in Meg and Jonathan's microfactory and, when production increased, the enterprise not only invested in larger machines but to the same design.
Over the next 12 months Meg and Jonathan expect to produce a staggering 1.2 million bars.
Although the chocolates are now made in the Netherlands and the individual bars no longer hand-wrapped - a new packaging machine allows one bar to be wrapped every two seconds rather than around a minute of hand-wrapping - the chocolates are made to the same original recipes.
All the cacao in Raw Halo's chocolates is ethically sourced from small farms in Peru whilst the coconut sugar comes from Indonesia. Meg says, 'The high quality of the cacao means it comes at a premium so is more expensive but we wanted to reflect the best quality of ingredients.' With a commitment to sustainability Raw Halo pledges to plant one tree for every 50 chocolate bars sold, equating to an estimated 20,000 trees in the Andes and Indonesia over the next year alone.
Ask Meg and Jonathan what a typical day involves and they will say there isn't one, although each one promises to be just as busy as the last. From developing new flavours and products, working with their production partner, dealing with existing customers and liaising with potential new buyers, to social media, managing the website and online shop, and ensuring orders are sent out, Jonathan likens their work to keeping many plates spinning in the air. And business is set to get even busier over the next three years as Raw Halo has just launched its latest Crowdfunding campaign, which Meg and Jonathan hope will see their products become ever more widely available in UK retail outlets as well as exporting throughout Europe.
For more details visit rawhalo.com