Virva Chocolate was established just over a year ago near Boston, Massachusetts, by Bob Leavitt, who has been perfecting recipes for the past 30 years.
Leavitt ran a small mail order chocolate business with his wife in the 1980s before moving into the fashion industry where he worked for various firms, including as president for clothing brand Sigrid Olsen.
From chocolate to fashion and back again
"I decided to become back into chocolate almost 15 years ago doing stuff for high-end chefs in the Boston area and in the last year and half ago we launched this retail brand," he told ConfectioneryNews at the Sweets & Snacks Expo in Chicago.
"We felt there was a hole in market for premium chocolate based on the concept of fashion, an aesthetically pleasing presentation that was more artistic.
"The craft chocolate movement is focusing a lot more on sourcing of ingredients and manufacturing...we are much more orientated towards the consumer experience,” he said.
Savoury and spicy flavors
The company exhibited for the first time at the Sweets & Snacks Expo in Chicago from May 23-25, this week.
Vivra Chocolate worked with chef Jessica Haight to develop its flavor range, which includes Chilli Crunch, Siena Fig and Curry Cashew.
Leavitt said the company spotted a trend for heat and savoury flavors in chocolate and is working with inclusions such as pinenuts, sweet basil, thyme and Thai Birds Eye chilis.
"Our experience with chefs opened us up to more diverse flavor profiles than a lot of others might have," claimed Leavitt.
Its milk and dark chocolate range comes in 3 oz (85 g) tablets that retail for between $5.99 and $4.99 a bar.
Production and distribution
The company uses a premium couverture blend for its flavored chocolate range.
Vivra Chocolate also sells handcrafted 70% cocoa bean to bar tablets using cocoa from Haiti, Dominican Republic and Bolivia.
It operates a 15,000 sq ft production facility in Walpole, Massachusetts.
The company is active in the craft chocolate segment, alongside players such as Chuao Chocolatier, Vosges and Taza Chcoolate.
Vivra Chocolate is targeting listings in grocery and speciality food stores. The company already has regional distribution in Whole Foods.
"Geographic coverage is pretty heavy right now in the North East. We are expanding into regions in the West," said Jordan Phillips, director of sales, at Vivra Chocolate.
Leavitt said: "It's the Chicago market that we are really chasing right now."
The company is also in talks to move into exports markets.