By Deborah Cassell
Executive Editor
Candy Industry,
Retail Confectioner

getting fresh: Your bar, your way

What were you doing at the ripe-old age of 23? I was an associate editor at a home furnishings publication, my first job out of grad school, learning how to dot my i’s and cross my t’s with journalistic style.
Friends Eric Heinbockel, Nick LaCava and Fabian Kaempfer -- who met while students at Columbia University -- were in the throws of starting their own business, a custom chocolate bar company called Chocomize. Two years later, the three entrepreneurs are still at it, offering visitors to the ability to build more than 15 billion custom candy bar combinations through the Web site’s easy-to-use, three-step Creation Station.
Step 1. Select one of three varieties of Belgian chocolate -- milk, dark or white -- as a base for your bar.
Step 2. Add up to five ingredients from a list of more than 90 options in six categories: nuts & seeds, fruits, herbs & spices, candy, decorations and other (such as potato chips and beef jerky … no, I’m not kidding).
Step 3. Place creation in your virtual shopping cart and check out. Bars are delivered right to the buyer’s doorstep in four days for just $4.95 shipping. (The price per bar starts at $3.85. The least expensive ingredients, such as salt, are 40 cents each; the most expensive ingredient -- 23-karat gold flakes, is $3.90.)
Alternately, visitors to can order one of its most popular flavor combinations or “Favorites,” including Smores Bar ($5.55), Tropical Island Bar ($6.70), Spicy Special Bar ($5.95) and That’s Nuts ($7.35).

From left to right: Eric Heinbockel, Nick LaCava and Fabian Kaempfer,
co-founders and managing partners of Chocomize.

Below is an excerpt from my interview with the creative brains behind Chocomize, to be featured in the upcoming, at-show issue of Retail Confectioner. Visit the week of May 24 or pick up a copy of our magazine at the Sweets & Snacks Expo for the full Q&A.
How did you get into the business?
Eric: We officially got into the chocolate mass customization business in August of 2009 when we incorporated in New Jersey. We began our research and our work on the effort about a month earlier when Nick bought a bag of nuts, granola, gummy bears and chocolate from the penny candy section of Wegmans. Nick forgot about the candy and left it in the back seat of his car, only to be discovered the next day, the chocolate having melted. The melted chocolate created an amalgamation of treats. We tried it and thought it was delicious.
What are some of your more unusual offerings?
I would say that there are two different categories of unusual ingredients. First, there are the ones that are very polarizing, like bacon, beef jerky, cayenne pepper, etc. These ingredients attract people who are on the lookout for unusual flavor experiences. The second category of unusual ingredients are those that people wouldn’t expect on a chocolate bar, i.e. 23-karat gold flakes, crystallized violet petals or even gummi bears.
How do you use Social Media to promote your brand?
The two main social media platforms that we use are Facebook and Twitter. The main goal of these two sites is to build a strong fan base and following. We are constantly updating both sites with news and information about our company. For instance, if Chocomize appears in a magazine, we will post the link, and we constantly offer special discounts to our Facebook and Twitter fans. We also use these sites to build a dialogue with our customers. People will post on our wall or send us tweets, and we always try to respond and create a conversation.
Ten years after entering the job market, I’m still a magazine editor, albeit for a different industry. (For example, I now know less about dining room furniture than I do about chewing gum.)
I venture to say that Eric, Nick and Fabian still will be in the chocolate biz at age 33, if the popularity of their current business model is any indication. Yesterday, got so much traffic (3,500 visits in 20 minutes) as the result of a write-up by Urban Daddy ( that it crashed. Like all good customer service providers. Chocomize blogged an apology on its site and offered visitors a 10% discount on all orders placed today to make amends.
Now that’s what I call dotting your i’s and crossing your t’s.

NPD kid survey finds hard, chewy candies a growing snack favorite

Hard and chewy candies were among the Top 10 snacks posting significant growth among children ages 2-17 in a NPD Group survey of kid snacking. Although fresh fruit remained the No. 1 snack consumed by this age group, the market research company’s findings indicate that hard and chewy candies ranked fifth and seventh, respectively, among snacks showing the most growth.
NPD’s SnackTrack, which continually monitors the consumption of snack foods both in-home and away, also revealed that ice/fudge or cream pops, corn chips, donuts and snack pies/pastries were among the top growing snacks in 2009.
SnackTrack defines snack foods as a group of foods generally perceived to be snack foods -- such as candy, chips and fruit -- regardless of when consumed. Sixty percent of snacks are consumed at snack occasions -- before, between and after meals or throughout the day -- and the remaining snacks are eaten with or instead of main meals. One out of every five meals consumed in the United States is a snack meal.
For more information, visit

Ann Czaja,
Lindt Master Chocolatier

Choosing chocolate is personal

It’s personal … choosing chocolate, that is. According to a new survey by Lindt Chocolate based in Stratham, N.H., three out of five (61%) Americans choose a chocolate based on conditions such as their mood, the occasion, time of day and even the weather. A national survey of about 1,000 men and women revealed the following about chocolate eating habits and preferences:
  • Seventy percent of Americans agree that choosing their own chocolate is just as personal of a decision as selecting an item from a menu.
  • Two out of three women say chocolate is just as personal of a decision as choosing their own lipstick or makeup.
  • Nearly half of Americans (46%) choose a different type of chocolate based on their mood.
  • More than half of Americans (55%) eat creamy milk chocolate when they need an escape, followed by any type of chocolate with nuts (44%), intense dark chocolate (36%) and smooth white chocolate (23%).
"Personal taste preferences differ, and people aren't always drawn to the same type of chocolate," says Ann Czaja, Lindt’s Master Chocolatier. "Eating premium chocolate is truly an experience to be slowly savored. As an expert in all things chocolate, I encourage chocolate lovers to think outside their traditional chocolate choice and fully appreciate the different flavors found in each type of chocolate, to create a truly memorable chocolate experience."
The 2010 Lindt Chocolate survey was conducted via the CARAVAN omnibus survey by Opinion Research Corp. Results are based on telephone interviews conducted April 15-18, 2010, among a nationally projectable sample of 1,010 adults, 18 years of age and older. Interviews were weighted by age, geographic region and race to ensure reliable and accurate representation of the total population. The margin of error at a 95% confidence level was +/- 3.2% for the entire sample.
For more information, visit

Lake Champlain Chocolates wins Bride's Choice Award for favors

WeddingWire, the nation’s leading wedding technology company, has selected Lake Champlain Chocolates to receive its 2010 Bride’s Choice Awards for wedding favors.
“We are thrilled to receive this honor, particularly since this is based on the reviews and feedback of our own customers,” says Allyson Myers, director of sales and marketing for Burlington, Vt.-based Lake Champlain Chocolates. “We’d like to thank our past newlyweds for nominating Lake Champlain Chocolates as some of the very best wedding favors.”
The annual Bride’s Choice Awards recognizes and celebrates excellence in quality and service within the wedding industry, as determined by recent reviews and extensive surveys of more than 500,000 newlyweds.
Lake Champlain Chocolates is among the top 5% of all vendors in the WeddingWire community, which includes more than 100,000 wedding professionals across the United States and Canada. Awards were given to winners across 19 different service categories, from wedding venues to wedding photographers.
“We are excited to recognize and honor the success of the top wedding professionals within the WeddingWire Community,” says Timothy Chi, WeddingWire’s ceo. “The annual Bride’s Choice Awards program has given us the unique opportunity to highlight the best wedding professionals in each region as reviewed by brides and grooms who have utilized their services in the past year.”
For more information, visit

Cargill hands over first premiums to farmer co-ops in Cote d'Ivoire

Cargill's Cocoa & Chocolate business has handed over the first UTZ CERTIFIED premiums to two farmer cooperatives in Cote d'Ivoire. Co-operatives Agricole de Fiedifoue and Coopaga received more than $400,000 for deliveries of certified sustainable cocoa beans since the beginning of October 2009.
The premiums will be shared amongst the cooperatives and their members, totaling nearly 1,600 farmers. More than half of the overall amount will be distributed directly to farmers based on their individual deliveries.
For maximum transparency, farmers are able to consult the list of the deliveries they made and check them against the related amount that is payable to them. The remainder of the money is retained by the farmer cooperatives to strengthen their operations, help improve their organization and provide support to all their farmer members.
"We are delighted to be able to hand over these premiums to the farmer cooperatives," says Harold Poelma, managing director of cocoa, Cargill Cocoa & Chocolate. "The UTZ CERTIFIED cocoa program was set-up to help produce cocoa more sustainably and to improve the incomes and livelihoods of the farmers that produce it. These premiums recognize the hard work undertaken by the farmers and demonstrate that we are fulfilling our aims."
The UTZ CERTIFIED cocoa program -- co-founded by Cargill, along with the Dutch development organization Solidaridad and others in the cocoa sector -- has introduced independent certification to improve agricultural, environmental and social practices in cocoa production. It is supporting small-scale farmers to improve their farming practices, thereby producing a higher quality crop with increased productivity. The certification of the cooperatives in Cote d'Ivoire was the result of an intensive 10-month training program run by Cargill for the farmers in the cooperatives.
Cargill's farmer training program has resulted in farmers benefitting from a 30% increase in their incomes from higher yields as well as an improvement in the quality of their crop. The better quality and compliance with UTZ CERTIFIED standards is being rewarded with these first payments of the UTZ Certification premium.
"We believe training farmers to increase yields, improve quality and adopt more sustainable practices can directly contribute to increased earnings for cocoa farmers," Poelma adds. "While increases for each farmer may vary depending on the market price, quality and yields, farmers who adopt better farming practices are benefitting from higher incomes as well as improving their long-term success."
For more information, visit

sweet of the week: Quench X Gum

Mueller Sports Medicine, Prairie du Sac, Wis, introduces the next generation of Sugar Free Quench Gum, infused with xylitol for dental health and bursting with flavor. Quench X has the flavor to cure dry-mouth while protecting teeth with every chew. Quench Gum originally was introduced in the ‘70s and has had a strong following in the sports gum market. The reformulation now is available in a Fruit Blast variety and in blister packs of 8 super-sized chunks. The suggested retail price is $1.39 per sleeve.
For more information, call 1-800-356-9522 or visit