Archive for November, 2007

So Close…

Wednesday, November 28th, 2007

No matter how much is done, these bars won’t be completely ready for sale on the internet until everything is completely ready. So, I wait with baited breath for my 5-ply candy pads, my website design, my website photographs, and my marshmallow packaging (more layerboards) and label design. Just like my efforts that took months to prepare (or has it been over a year already?), all of those works are being done to order, so I understand they also need time and take care to prepare. It’s so easy for a week to go by at a time, but with the holidays coming up, I am getting anxious about getting in on orders. My bars, and their packaging, are ready to sell in stores and I’m pursuing that, but at this point, many stores already have their holiday inventory ordered (my first choice retailer included, darn it). So, for December, my goal is to build word of mouth through individual sales and to pursue corporate gift orders for larger volume sales. And to keep calm. And to appreciate all the phenomenal people who are helping me out in so many different ways… including, as always, my friendly bankers who give me high-fives and shake my hand whenever I visit.

Anyway, for Thanksgiving, I indulged in some good old-fashioned dessert-makin’ (in addition to candy bar and marshmallow samples, of course). I made a trifle with Butternut Squash Mousse (based on this brilliant recipe; I used less gelatin and whipped cream b/c it was in a bowl and served with whipped cream), Fresh Ginger Cake (another brilliant recipe here; a combo of blackstrap molasses and Lyle’s golden syrup worked just fine for the mild molasses called for), and Bourbon Whipped Cream (I actually winged that one, just like in the olden days of plated desserts). How wrapped up in candy bars am I? I didn’t even take a single picture! But it was delicious, by popular sentiment. The butternut squash was roasted, pureed, frozen, and strained before being incorporated into the mousse. The sweet squash flavor was so smooth and lasting. I wonder if this would even work for canned pumpkin — to freeze, thaw, and strain it for a more intense flavor. The freezing step separates the water from the starch puree, so just like smaller fruits usually have a more intense flavor due to less water content, this butternut squash puree made for a particularly tasty dessert. And a pleasant distraction…

It’s Probably a Good Sign…

Tuesday, November 20th, 2007

when you go to open a business checking account, and the employees at your bank tell you that they think that your business is going to be huge… and that they want extra business cards to pass around… and that they’ll order candy bars for holiday gifts.
Sorry for the lack of posting recently — I’m dealing with administrative and packaging stuff that’s little fun to do, and even less fun to try to write about in a creative way.   And it’s taking a long time.  But I will write about it at some point… for those reasons… :)  And it’s so close to being done!

Introducing BonBonBar LLC

Tuesday, November 13th, 2007

But first… I wanted to thank everyone for your comments on the $5.00 question. They were all so thoughtful and helpful, and I’m sorry that it’s taken me so long to acknowledge them.So, as a consolation… I give you a name… and labels… and an update!

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Malt Bar Front Label

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Caramel Nut Bar Front Label

I thought that it would be fun to play with the candy bar label aesthetic, instead of using wall-to-wall gold and brown and getting in line behind so many other artisan chocolatiers. Although mine may not look as fancy in a traditional way, I’m hoping that the original look will help them stand out and be appreciated. The colors pop out a bit more when printed on glossy stickers — esp the gold shadow on the letters — but you can get the idea here. What do you think?

I like the idea of each bar having its own personality portrayed by a character, and that there are nostalgic and contemporary elements to the labels. The boy was created first by my fantastic graphic designer, and I knew that it was perfect for the Malt bar — expressing pure excitement for a yummy candy bar. We thought about creating a similar girl for the Caramel Nut bar, and my graphic designer also suggested putting the boy in a cute elephant costume to suggest an elephant going after a nutty snack, but I’m not quite that brave with my labels… yet. The Caramel Nut bar arguably has a more sophisticated flavor than the Malt bar, so I thought that it would be a good idea to make it a bit more grown up — which would also signify that the bars really are for adults with $5 to spare.

I somewhat wish that the bars could be packaged all in white so they would look especially simple and neat, but I don’t have the kind of resources to do that. I’m also trying to be as eco-friendly with packaging as possible. So, instead, the bar will be placed on a greaseproof layerboard for support, sealed within a narrow strip of cellophane (made of biodegradable cellulose), and labeled with stickers on the top and bottom (the bottom label has further description, ingredients, etc). At least the bars themselves will also be partially on display that way.

For shipments, the bars will probably be packaged within two-piece recycled kraft boxes, cushioned by recycled tissue paper and possibly a candy pad, if necessary. Either kraft paper or starch-based biodegradable packaging peanuts will cushion the candy box within a cardboard box. Marshmallows will also be in cellophane bags, and probably in a thinner, fliptop box for protection.

If anyone has any packaging suggestions, please let me know. It’s so complex… And frankly, I now consider finding a reasonable priced supplier for my layerboard — who’s also friendly towards small startups — as the perhaps the crowning achievement of my life.

So, when is this all going to come together? I’m hoping around Thanksgiving. I’m still waiting to get all my paperwork… And the website is still in the works, and photographs still have to be taken. The part-time lease has started for my commercial kitchen use, unfortunately, but at least I consider it valuable to go in and get used to the facilities while making samples…

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$5.00? For a Candy Bar?

Friday, November 2nd, 2007

I haven’t written about price yet, but I’ve thought about it a lot. Will people readily pay more than, oh, 75 cents for a candy bar?

I expect to hear this question a lot, so I thought I may as well get started talking about it now.

As far as I see it, just because I use the candy bar form doesn’t mean that I have to charge their traditional price. When I analyze my ingredients, labor, and costs, $5.00 each sounds like a bargain to me for both the Malt Bar (Creamy Malt Ganache and Crunchy Shortbread enrobed in Milk or Dark Chocolate; organic cream and malt syrup used) and the Salted Caramel Nut Bar (Organic CA almonds, organic CA walnuts, CA pecans, and organic cacao nibs in a buttered caramel finished with Maldon Sea Salt; molded in dark chocolate; organic cream used). The price isn’t firm yet, but it is in the ballpark that makes sense.

Here are some things to consider…

  • I’m using whole, organic and/or local ingredients whenever possible, which are generally more expensive than conventional confectionery ingredients.  I don’t use any artificial ingredients, and never high-fructose corn syrup, which is found in Karo corn syrup.
  • Everything is handmade. I’m even infusing my own extracts and liqueurs for purer flavors. That takes more time, labor, and inventory.
  • The bars weighs about 1.75 ounces each. At $5.00 a bar, that comes to about $46.00 per pound. Artisan chocolates usually cost more. For example, Recchiuti charges at least $80 per pound, and Christopher Norman charges $55 per pound.
  • My technique is in line with other artisan chocolatiers, but I almost envy them b/c they basically just enrobe ganache — they generally make it with conventional ingredients, let it set overnight, put a pre-coat of untempered chocolate on it, cut it, and enrobe it in tempered chocolate; or they do molds with piped ganache inside. For their flavored chocolate bars, they just have to mix inclusions into tempered chocolate.
    • For my Malt bar, I make my ganache w/ as many organic ingredients as possible, let it set overnight, cut it, make shortbread dough, shape it evenly to certain sizes, chill it for at least several hours, bake it for about an hour, cut it precisely, let it cool, enrobe it w/ tempered chocolate, place ganache on top of it, let it crust for several hours, and fully enrobe it in more tempered chocolate.
  • There is enough ganache in the Malt bar to equal at least two truffles, and it has the added bonus of a shortbread cookie.
  • The other gourmet candy bars on the market are comparable, or more.  Zingerman’s sells candy bars for $7 (or 4 for $29 in a velvet pouch). Garrison Confections sells one for $5. I’ve sampled both, btw, and as much as I may admire their companies, I barely made it through two bites of either.
  • Wait, velvet? Ok, there’s nothing wrong with velvet, per se, but I’m trying to use packaging that is as eco-friendly as possible.
  • I will be making donations for the environment, most likely 1% of sales through 1% For The Planet.
  • Compared to a cup of coffee at Starbucks, a cupcake at a cupcake shop, or a bowl of frozen yogurt, the price is reasonable for the amount of attention to detail involved in them.
  • I’m making them in LA, where expenses are high.

I do have mixed feelings about this price. I truly wish I could give away my bars to whoever wanted to enjoy them. I love how good chocolate can make people so happy, and I regret that the price may prevent some people from experiencing the candy bars.

But, chocolate is an indulgence, and relatively speaking, $5 is pretty reasonable for an indulgence. Also, I know I’m willing to pay more for goods that require a lot of thought and effort. I hope others will, too.