The company’s founder Daniel Sklaar said the redesign of the brand’s dark chocolate bars will enhance the consumer’s tasting experience.
“The quicker a chocolate melts in your mouth, the faster its flavor molecules get released,” he noted.
The new Fine & Raw signature bars are 40% slimmer than their originals, yet each bar’s overall weight and price stay the same, according to Sklaar.
“Our redesign reflects not only our obsession with making the best craft chocolate in the world, but leading the industry in innovation from ingredients to presentation,” he said.
Along with its product redesign, Fine & Raw Chocolate also added two new flavors to its existing line of more than 20 bars, including cashew nut butter (its flavor enforced by vanilla) and 70% cacao blended with coconut sugar.
Additionally, to fit the new size of the chocolate (now 6X6 inches each bar versus the original 5x2 inches), Fine & Raw adopted a brand new cover hand-drawn by several designers and illustrators.
“The original graphics imagery and the brown craft paper are so visually expressive of the handmade nature and artisanship of our chocolate… but my impulse was to have more expression of who we are as a company, so I injected a bunch of colors to show our vibrancy,” said Sklaar.
However, he did admit the Fine & Raw’s rebranding process could put its popularity among consumers at risk.
“It’s kind of scary to do a rebrand because after a long process of working with designers, what’s the market going to say next?” said Sklaar.
The craft chocolate’s new look, however, seems to resonate with the market.
Before its tradeshow debut at the Summer Fancy Food Show in New York City later this month, the new Fine & Raw products have hit Whole Foods shelves through a direct distribution partnership and the two biggest department stores in Japan.
From sweet tooth to dark chocolate connoisseur
The evolution to become one of the landmark craft chocolatiers in the US comes as no surprise as Sklaar said his passion for fine cocoa beans has always been pushing him to go further with his business.
“I moved to New York in 2003 [from South Africa] with an adventurous spirit. I first got into finance, but with a soul-searching mission of creating something accessible and authentic, I ended up as a chef in the raw food industry and fell in love with chocolate,” he told ConfectioneryNews.
“I sold my first small batches of chocolate in Brooklyn around 2007, and since then, our business has been spreading like a wildflower,” said Sklaar.
Sklaar himself has also been growing alongside Fine & Raw for the past 11 years.
“I cycled through different flavors and experimented different ingredients. I had a more sweet tooth to begin with, but now I have far more appreciation for dark varieties… [Among all dark chocolate,] our quality is at the top because of our skills in the kitchen,” he said.
“We’re also bean-to-bar. By partnering with another chocolate supplier and a non-profit Uncommon Cacao, we together work with farmers and co-ops in Ecuador and Ghana to source cocoa beans, and make sure they participate in sustainable agriculture,” added Sklaar.
Fine & Raw has experienced “healthy and steady” growth since its inception with an average 10% year-over-year growth rate, according to Sklaar. This year, it aims to grow by 40% in sales.
As the company snowballs into a bigger enterprise, Sklaar noted he will be more involved in cocoa sustainability down the road.
Relocating to new factory and seeking investments
Fine & Raw’s fast growth doesn’t always come with a pat on the back. It sometimes means sacrifice.
The company had to shut down its chocolate demonstrating area in its current factory and replaced it with more manufacturing capabilities.
“As our manufacturing grows, we’ll need more space. That’s why we’re moving to a new warehouse just down the road [from our current one] in Bushwick, Brooklyn, which is an industrial and cultural neighborhood,” said Sklaar.
“I think that’s a healthy expansion, and it will involve switching over some of our hand-made process into one or two pieces of machinery,” he added. “We will also host events at the factory, inviting chefs to do pairings and dinners.”
Once Fine & Raw settles into the new facility, it will start seeking another round of funding, according to Sklaar.
“Our business has been funded by myself, friends and family so far. [But,] several people have approached me for equity injection. We want to find partnerships that make sense because it’s not so much about equity as it is knowledge and experience that can eventually contribute to Fine & Raw,” he said.