The Chocolate Life

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Hello there,

I have been on this site for some time now, though not active. I have a small chocolate business in southern Oregon which is basically just local distribution and very small scale. I have saved money and want to expand. I don't really have much knowledge about "the industry" and how this all works, but I have some questions, if anyone can help. Basically I am wondering if it is possible, if there are manufacturers or some avenue out there, to send my recipes to and supply my own ingredients from my sources to a large scale manufacturer to have them make my chocolate for me, according to my specifications? Is this something that one can do? I really have no idea so please excuse my naivety on the whole issue. I can't really afford all the equipment myself for a small scale factory without going way in the red, so I am hoping I can pursue something like this. Appreciate any feedback or info.

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I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but if you can't afford the equipment for a small factory of your own, I'm guessing you can't afford to have a chocolate manufacturer make your custom chocolate for you.  In most of the cases I've seen, you need to be talking in magnitudes of several hundred thousand lbs of chocolate per year before anyone will even talk to you.

100,000 lbs will be the minimum for any of the big mfrs.  you may be able to get some of the smaller guys to toll for you, but it's not really their main gig..

If your recipes are simple, and can work with flow wrap as packaking, then you might get someone interested at minimun runs at 50,000 bars.  Hand wrapping is possible at 5,000 bars, but the costs are too high to sell with distributor mark-ups.  Perhaps if you sell direct, and build up volume until you are big enough for machine wrapping, that might work.  Thank you, and good luck. John R

Wow, that's a lot of chocolate. If I were to pursue contacting some of these companies that might offer this service, does anyone have any advice on how to go about doing so? I am open to any advice or suggestions. I would also be happy to work with small scale manufacturers if anyone is aware of some that may offer this service. Again, all feedback is really appreciated.

It is a good idea to start by having someone produce for you who has the equipment already. If you need let say at the least $15,000 for used equipment (100 pound kettle, pump, fridge, tables etc.) "yes its possible to set up a small operation for little costs" (not including rent and insurance etc) then you need to buy ingredients and make it AND take the time to sell it so by using the money to have someone produce it for you who can do it faster with better buying power for bulk ingredients then its actually sometimes cheaper then to do it your self (at first)

I have always told people "if your not making the product your not making money" but if you let someone do the work for you, then "your still making money" the question is: if it takes you 6 hours per day to produce orders you have will you make more money spending that same 6 hours going to get orders?

That depends on how hard you want to work.

if you can pour 200 pounds in a 6 hour day and you sell wholesale for $6.00 (retail $12.00) and it costs you $4.00 per pound (cocoa and overhead etc) you would net $2.00 per pound ($400 per day)

If you had someone produce for you for let say $5.00 per pound and you sold for $6.00 you would make $1.00 per pound (half of what you would make if you did it yourself) ($200 per day) BUT you would have 6 hours of free time to sell correct? by freeing up 5 days x 6 hours would be 30 hours per week you could sell.

AND if you start getting more and more sales, we can make more and more product. If you did it yourself you would then be faced with having to buy more and more equipment and more overhead.

also remember if you have a kitchen location and rent overhead most of what you make will go towards that. By having someone make it you can have a home office (take a tax deduction) and go out and sell sell sell.

You could end up making more by having someone making it for you until you hit consistent sales that would warrant you to buy your own equipment. One successful sales phone call in that 6 hour day could net you more then you would make in that same day doing it yourself. "time is money" plus you eliminate the need for problems in production, a location for a kitchen and product insurance.

you can use the funds you saved (by not buying equipment, rent etc) to pay for the products you need allowing for you to sell more. You can also have a trial and error test and along the way you may need to alter your product to suit the markets you are getting into and change in a small factory can be more and more costs.

The term "get your feet wet first" is still the way to go. I can help you if you email CLAY the website owner and send him your requests and I am sure you will find that its easier having a company produce for you faster and cheaper then DIY. and remember after you sell sell sell, you go home, relax, focus on marketing and while your sleeping your orders are being filled.

We are able to make small orders to large orders, stock and custom molds, our minimums are $200 orders so its a great entry into a great fun market.

All molds can be made to have your unique name and logo on each finished chocolate we make for you along with labeling and packaged ready for retail, all you do it sell, order and deliver!!!!!

Contact CLAY as soon as your ready to start.

Jonathan -

What you're looking for is called a co-packer. There are co-packers that can handle small production runs (and the definition of small - or minimum - runs varies widely) and there are co-packers that want huge minimums - 50,000 pieces or more, and that's if you limit yourself to the chocolates that they use and they're going to want to run the entire lot in one go, not spread production out over weeks or months.

The more specialized your product is, the harder it is going to be to find someone to make it for you. For example, do you need certifications? Do you need a special chocolate (this is often a deal-breaker)?

Without knowing more about what you want to produce and the quantities you're talking about it's hard to know where to go. Are these chocolate bars with flavorings or inclusions? Are you adding powders that need to be ground into the chocolate? What sort of packaging do you require? All of these factors - and more - go into finding a co-packer that's right for you.

Now, Brad is right if you were talking about going to a chocolate manufacturer (e.g., Debelis) and wanted them to make a custom chocolate for you. Minimum orders there usually run to 20 tons, though some companies will do minimums of 5 tons. However if you are talking about starting with an existing chocolate and then adding stuff to it, the minimums are going to be lower; however they may not be low enough to meet your budget.

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