Hello and good day!
Over the last couple of years, I feel I've done a fairly good job giving our friends and customers a behind the scenes look at how chocolate comes into existence.
I've explained how we buy cacao directly off the tree, do post-harvest processing, and run cacao through the entire supply chain until it becomes an end product.
When we opened our first retail location in November 2021, I documented that. We only had 4 products when we opened that store, three different 1.1-pound blocks of chocolate, two milks and a dark, and cacao nibs. It was a big, empty, strange chocolate shop with a paltry selection.
But we figured it out as we went along with the help of our wonderful chocolatier Javier Valencia. Over a short period of time, he created dozens of new products that our local customers thoroughly enjoyed.
On the strength of that, we built a commercial kitchen and opened a second retail location in July of 2022, less than a year ago. The product ideas kept coming and we've since put a bunch of new products online.
Once the weather cools down in the fall, we'll continue with that effort.
I have been keeping a record of what we've been up to. Because some day in the future, maybe 3 or 4 years from now, we hope we're really going to have our act together. Maybe we'll have a manufacturing facility instead of a small kitchen.
I'm sure we'll have dozens of additional products, including two that I am going to talk about in a second. And people will think that we're really smart and professional and have it all figured out. When that happens, I'll have proof that we were actually kind of making it all up as we went along.
Don't get me wrong, we care deeply about the quality of our products. We strive to use high quality ingredients and make everything taste as good as it can. It's just that, we've never done any of this before.
It was the same thing when we got into buying cacao. Three years after we got started, our cacao became highly sought after. People thought that my brother Brian was some kind of savant.
Little did they know that Brian struggled to produce a good result for two whole years. It took a lot of learning and behind the scenes progress. A lot of making it up as he went along.
Yesterday was Javier's first day back from a much-deserved vacation. We've been excited for his arrival because we are supposed to launch soft serve ice cream in our primary retail location this weekend. Our wonderful team did a lot of experimenting while Javier was away and developed a couple of good recipes.
We have one machine on hand and another one on the way. Each machine has nozzles for two flavors. We plan to do traditional flavors on the first machine and experimental flavors on the second.
It will probably be vanilla and strawberry to start. And then we'll offer our products broken up into small pieces as toppings. It is going to be very good and delicious and fairly priced.
Anyhow, I went into the kitchen yesterday to see if Javier had a chance to make some soft serve, and indeed he had. But I noticed that there were a lot of long faces in there. I tried the two flavors the team had made, and they weren't good.
We all agreed on that. It was a swing and a miss, big time. A few of us stood around and brainstormed and Javier agreed he would try again in the afternoon.
God bless Javier. When I came back late afternoon, he had put together a whole new formulation. And now it is very close to being up to our standard.
Our soft serve has to be unique and delicious. We can't put something mediocre out there. People have to light up when they taste it. That is a requirement.
We are close now. A failure and a tweak got us close. A couple more tweaks and we'll be there. I am confident we will launch on time with a great product.
Of course, initial failure is to be expected. We've started with absolutely no idea what we are doing.
Another new product that should be coming online very soon is nut butters. We'll start with two almond butters and two peanut butters, a dark chocolate and a milk chocolate option for each.
It's the same thing here. We've never made nut butters before. The idea appeared to make good sense, but ideas are easy to dream up.
Executing is a whole different ball game. We've been through several recipe iterations, and we are now very close to being satisfied. With a product like nut butters, there is more to think about than just recipes.
We need to design packaging and purchase packaging materials. We need to get the nutrition facts prepared and legally approved. We have to make sure our vendor relationships are squared away so that we don't run out of ingredients or packaging.And then we need to set up manufacturing lines.
I'm repeating myself, but I'll just go ahead and say it anyways. We're figuring this stuff out as we go along. We've never manufactured chocolate nut butters before.
For the nut butters, I must give great credit to my wonderful wife. Actually, my wife Nery deserves credit for many things over the last few years. She designs and sources all of our packaging. She handles much of our human resources. She has an excellent palate for recipe development. The nut butters were her idea, and she is project managing the entire launch.
She does that in addition to being a mother of three rambunctious sons, homeschooling, and staying active in the religious congregation we belong to. In homage to her contributions, the nut butter line will be called Nery's Nut Butters by Fortunato Chocolate.
Just like the rest of us, Nery is learning on the job. She came over from Peru 20 years ago. Her first job was a bagger in a grocery store. I had to translate the job interview because she spoke no English. Over time she worked her way up to being a cashier, then the state's top bra saleswoman for Macy's, then a banker.
When we had our first child, she decided to become a stay-at-home mom. Now she is becoming an accomplished product designer, manufacturer, and businesswoman. She has learned how to do it by taking it one day at a time.
The days pile up and next thing you know, you are good at something. When Nery's Nut Butters become a hit product, I'll be glad that we have a record of its genesis.
By the way, they are delicious. I eat the dark chocolate almond butter prototype every day, and I am loving it.
Thanks Nery :).
As a parting comment, I want to reiterate my belief that any of us can do just about anything we want. The trick is to accept how bad you will be in the beginning and learn little by little over the years.
Thank you so much for your time today.
I hope that you have a truly blessed day!