“Chocolate is not the type of food people buy online – only 3% of chocolate is purchased through e-commerce,” said Frost. “But we felt like we are creating a new model here, and when consumers realize the benefits of flavanols in chocolate and decide to eat it on a regular basis, e-commerce is the way to go.”
But what would motivate people to consume chocolate on a regular basis? It has to go back to how the company started when Frost’s wife came home one day with a Columbia University-conducted study that showed a striking improvement in humans’ memory recall after consuming chocolate.
The study results are no longer new to the chocolate industry. Various studies also noted the benefits of cocoa flavanols in the past, including blood vessel function improvement and diastolic blood pressure reduction among kidney disease patients, according to ConfectioneryNews.
However, “the big catch is a person has to eat nine chocolate bars a day to get the suggested amount of cocoa flavanol antioxidants… so I was looking to create a range [of chocolate] that has 500mg to 1,000mg [of flavanols] per bar,” said Frost.
Partnership with Barry Callebaut
Frost started a partnership with Barry Callebaut after he found out the cocoa provider had been researching in the high-flavanol chocolate area for nearly a decade. The company’s health claim, 200mg of cocoa flavanols either from cocoa beverages or from dark chocolate contribute to normal blood flow, was approved by EU Commission, this site previously reported.
“But nothing has been done [on the commercial scale] because there are challenges in creating chocolate with high level of flavanols,” Frost said. “You need to start with cocoa beans that are super high in antioxidants and process them in a very natural and minimal way.
“Cocoa flavanol is very susceptible to heat and chemical damage, so you have to ferment and roast the beans in a low temperature,” he added.
FlavaNaturals later hired a chocolatier to help create flavor profiles, said Frost.
Now six Flavabar varieties: blueberry and green tea, ginger and cinnamon, dark chocolate, Espresso ground coffee, pure cocoa nibs, and roasted almond and Himalayan pink salt are produced at a plant outside of Montreal, Canada.
“Barry Callebaut still makes the chocolate, and we test it on our own to make sure there is enough flavanols in each bar. We also have a co-manufacturing space in the same area that melts down the chocolate, and does the flavoring and packaging,” said Frost.
‘We’re not going to be the only player…’
FlavaNaturals has heavily relied on social media and e-commerce for growth since Frost self-funded the company at the beginning.
“There were no enormous expenditures at that time. Then we carried out a strategic investment about a year-and-a-half ago to bring us to the point of a soft launch,” he said. “We focus on our social media presence including Facebook, Instagram and more recently Twitter, where we gathered 5,000 active followers in a short period of time.”
E-commerce currently accounts for nearly 80% of FlavaNaturals’ overall sales primarily through its own website, and it grows 25% in sales month-over-month, Frost mentioned. That number is set to increase with a potential deal with Amazon later this year.
“Amazon doesn’t ship perishables through its Prime channel during summer, but I imagine that’s going to change with Amazon Fresh gaining popularity,” he said.
Frost believes more consumers will realize the benefits of flavanols through word of mouth, hence “we’re not going to be the only player in the market,” he said.
But “there’s going to be room for us,” added Frost. “We will eventually branch out and expand our product lines.”
“Moving forward in the chocolate space, we can improve the cacao level in chocolate beyond the current 62% and develop an organic line. We are also looking at beverages, nutrition bars and bites,” he said.