The company currently manufactures peanut and tree nuts-free chocolates as well as gourmet products in novelty shapes, chocolate-covered pretzels and granola bars for mostly northeastern US retailers.
Mark Elvidge, president and CEO of the Vermont-based chocolate firm, said, “we’re in Grand Isle, Vermont, right now… and we were looking for a space that’s more efficiently designed and laid out all in one level [instead of the existing two-leveled building].”
The new site, located in Colchester, VT, was originally a furniture store, and it is 17,500 square feet – more than doubling the size of Vermont Nut Free Chocolate’s current factory, according to Elvidge.
The company is inspecting and redesigning the building to ensure a nut-free production environment, said Elvidge.
He added there will be a retail store built to the factory. “[Colchester] is a more densely populated area. We’ll probably have more retail store traffic… and hopefully a bigger pool of employees to pull when we need additional help,” said Elvidge.
“We’re going to add an enrobing line and double the speed of our existing enrobers, so we are going to grow [our production volume] quite significantly for some time to come,” he continued.
Targeting beyond nut-free consumers
Although Vermont Nut Free Chocolates primarily targets consumers having nut allergies, which represent only 1% of the overall US population, Elvidge said, “our products are known for their quality and other people can also enjoy them.
“Our market is beyond that niche group we primarily serve – four million people in the US having nut allergies… because a lot of schools, after-school programs, day cares and sport teams eat nut-free products as well,” he added.
Continue e-commerce business
Vermont Nut Free Chocolates started as a mail order business 20 years ago. But now, e-commerce accounts for 60% of its overall sales, and the company plans to grow that channel moving forward, Elvidge told ConfectioneryNews.
“We recently engaged a new sales marketing coordinator to work on our web business, the email campaigns and some of the digital and social media,” he said.
“What’s nice about e-commerce is when a retail partner agrees to list our products, we’re able to effectively drive traffic to their stores.”
However, Elvidge expects the biggest growth will come from wholesale and direct-to-store purchases in coming years.
“In 2018, we want a 25% growth,” he said.