I'm looking for advice on developing a chocolate line.
Here are some basic questions running through my mind:
1) Other than making products, selling them and learning by trial and error, how does one know what kinds of products sell well and which ones don't? (Pralines (filled chocolates) vs. truffles (European-style) vs. bars vs. solid products, etc.
2) Same question for ganaches, creams, fillings, etc. How do you know what people want? Do you just narrow it down by trail and error or are there basic recipes that are sure-sellers?
3) How do you price your products?
4) Is it best to start your product line small and build?
Thanks for any advice you can offer a newbie!
Instead of learning by trial and error, hire a consultant. No sense in re-inventing the wheel.
I think a good place to start is make some chocolates and take them down to your local market....
I agree with Christian that hiring a consultant, within your market, is an option. But finding that consultant can be hard. You're looking for someone that knows what sells in your desired marketplace. There are a couple of other options to consider, whether in addition to or instead of, a consultant.
Check with candy associations to see if they offer studies or how to guides that give you insight into your market.
See if there are local colleges that would like to do a business plan for you. They are local and may also have access to research that you wouldn't have access to.
I also agree with Need Beans. What I have done is test market my products in retail environments that target the same consumers I'm targetting. I have confirmed that there was a demand for my product but adjusted packaging (my first package looked like coffee packaging, according to many customers) & adjusted pricing. You must also make sure that your manufacturing methods mesh with what your retailer finds acceptable. Kitchen table manufacturing may or may not work with a retailer's manufacturing requirements. For Farmer's markets, homemade may be ok, brick & mortar chains, not so much.
Another reason to do your own testing is that your truffles/lollipops/whatever may be amazing. But what if truffles made by someone else tasted poorly & sales of that item failed. Does that mean that all truffles in your marketplace will fail? Of course not.
In terms of pricing, again do your research. What are comparable items selling for in your area. you must also consider what your expenses are. Go to your library or bookseller and get a book on starting your own business. You need to consider many expenses associated with your product when pricing.
Best of luck!
They will buy what tastes amazing. There is a lot of ordinary chocolate out there. And everyone and his brother is doing bars. I suspect it is mainly because it is cheap and easy to set up and produce. Truffles is another matter.
When you feed what you have to a buyer and the reaction is, "OMG!!" you got bingo. Anything less, they already have it on their shelves.
By itself, homemade or artisan is not a virtue. If it does not wow you, it will not wow them.
Sell the wow, and marketing comes easy.
I am in a similar position. I am also starting up, and looking for a place. It is difficult to find someone who understands your product.
I started out by talking to a marketing professional, who didn't really know artisan chocolate.
There is no shortcut to making chocolates, having people taste them, and give you feedback. A good way is to participate in various farmers' markets and sell your chocolates by the piece. Professionals do not necessarily reflect the tastes of your customers.
For example, I made a white chocolate, coconut truffle, enrobed in dark chocolate. Every one I spoke to, said it was a waste of my time - but it is a very popular chocolate here in Singapore. So, I make it. Another flavour like that, is orange. It is not new or wow - but people like it and buy it.
HI, In the beginning my process was to:
1-read lots of professional recipes and test them out by making them the way that you like them
2-take classes with professionals. Ecole Chocolat, Chocolate Academy, Ewald Notter, Pre-gel series
3-make them again with what you know and test them on friends that agree to be absolutely honest
4-donating platters and displays to charity parties are a good way to receive real feedback
I think that it is a career choice, so you have to go about it accordingly and be trained and knowledgeable .
You can offer your services to a local chocolatier on your day off and see what the business is really like. Seeing chocolates made in volume and real time is an invaluable experience.
Really good ideas. I know I didn't post the initial inquiry, but this is very helpful. Thanks.maks