Debbas Gourmet always has something cooking.

The Fresno, California-based company has introduced a new line of wholesale chocolates meant to sweeten up any candy case. Debbas Gourmet also continues to support its fans through its monthly Cocoa Crate and Cocoa Crate Uncorked subscription boxes.

But most recently, the company has launched A’cappella Chocolate, a line of chocolate barks and caramels packaged in vibrant pouches designed to sing on retailer shelves.

Maxwell Debbas, managing partner, new product development specialist and chocolatier, recently spoke to Candy Industry about Debbas Gourmet’s wholesale opportunities, the inspiration behind the A’cappella line and its chocolate subscription services.

CI: How would you describe your wholesale operations? 

MD: Over the last many years our business has primarily been serving the private label world with a few of our own branded items created for the market. However, we do have a long history of wholesale offerings. In fact, the first 20 or so years of our business we supplied hundreds of smaller candy shops with their candy case and wholesale items. 

This year we decided to get back to those roots and augment our offerings by creating a beautiful line of wholesale chocolate items to complement any chocolate case or candy store. Some of the offerings include Blueberry Almond Caramel Bars, an incredible assortment of fresh-made truffles, Tartinis (ganache filled mini tarts), our Copper Kettle Caramel Nut Clusters and Chocolate Caramel Pretzel Rods. These items withstanding, there are so many other options available as well. Interested stores can apply to become a wholesale customer online.

CI: What was the inspiration behind the new A’cappella line?

MD: A’cappella Chocolate is inspired by our love of music. Besides our commitment to perfecting the masterful art of chocolate making, the Debbas family has a passion for the arts. It is not uncommon to see members of our family performing in the theater, acting on screen, composing music or singing! 

Alongside our family, many others in our business are involved in the arts as well. Our director of sales is a skilled singer, and our production manager is a singer and highly skilled guitarist. We have always described our building of flavors and textures in terms of music: “this blend dances around the palate like a sweet melody.” A’cappella is our chorus of premium ingredients and intricate tasting notes that come together in bold flavors and irresistible confections.

CI: How would you describe the packaging of the A’cappella line?

MD: The packaging is bright, colorful and whimsical with great candy callouts on the bags. They were designed to invoke childlike wonder. We want them to impart the feeling of being a kid in a candy store and create a visceral response. We use a jewel-toned color palette that really stands out on the shelf against competition and lends itself to both everyday and seasonal sets. As always, our brand Icon, the musical note, is present everywhere on the packaging.

CI: What do you hope to accomplish with it? Has it already launched? If not, have you gotten interest from retailers?

MD: We would love to be in all classes of trade. With the fun flavor profiles, packaging and more importantly, our price point (S.R.P.: $3.99-$5.99) we are confident it will be a hit. The brand is currently launching now with great interest from many retailers. Samples have been sent out to numerous distributors and retailers with great response. Down the line, we intend to offer brand extensions such as seasonal and gifting items. These will augment the A’cappella brand and make it a household name recognized nationally in consumer markets. 

CI: When did Debbas Gourmet launch Cocoa Crate? How would you describe that program?

MD: When we originally launched Cocoa Crate in 2013, it was a first-of-its-kind chocolate subscription box program. Instead of curating products from other companies, we decided to craft a chocolate experience direct from our chocolate shoppe. It was our way of reaching the end consumer directly and giving them a unique candy experience. 

Each month we create new chocolate concepts, along with some of our tried-and-true favorites and ship them directly to our customers. We recently relaunched Cocoa Crate with a few different pricing structures as well as a fundraising opportunity for organizations.

CI: How has the response been? Have you seen an uptick since the onset of COVID-19?

MD: Cocoa Crate has been great! Our subscribers have stuck with us for years, and it has allowed us to create a unique one-on-one relationship with customers. We have indeed seen an uptick since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. When it first hit, we launched a Stock Up Special to give customers an opportunity to easily grab a few pounds of chocolate to share with friends and family. It was a great opportunity to spread a little joy.

CI: Why launch Cocoa Crate Uncorked? How has the response been for that?

MD: As far as we know, we are the only company that makes a true liquid wine-filled chocolate, without the use of a sugar shell. My father, Guy Debbas, began making these for wineries over 30 years ago, and they have always been one of our most enjoyed items. We have been crafting these as custom items for upwards of 200 wineries across the nation.

However, so many of our customers wanted a way to purchase direct from our factory. What better way to enjoy liquid wine-filled chocolates than to have them shipped directly to your door? We are currently looking for a few wineries to partner with, and they will be featured in the monthly assortment.

CI: Does Debbas Gourmet have any other future plans?

MD: We are always looking ahead! As innovators, we are constantly working on new products. Currently we are focused on our new brand, A’cappella, and making sure everyone is aware of how unique but accessible it is. Our A’cappella Original Hot Chocolate BevBombs are a huge hit this year, and I imagine they will continue to grow. We are also working toward growing our direct wholesale line for candy shoppes across the nation.

CI: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

MD: Debbas Gourmet has been around for many years and many more to come. We pride ourselves on our ability to be innovative and creative while listening to the needs of our customers. Our door is always open to new opportunities with private label, and our creative team stands by to help develop your dream product. 

Secondly, we will continue to augment private label with our new brand, A’cappella. We feel we have truly a “sweet” future ahead. We welcome private label customers, retailers or wholesale customers to contact us, and we would love to see how we can help.