Traverse City Record-Eagle

Archive: Thursday

October 10, 2013

Community-supported chocolate?

LELAND — Nichole Warner is pretty serious about her chocolate.

So serious that she and her husband, Drew, decided to launch a bean-to-bar chocolate manufacturing operation as part of their food company this year.

And this week the couple announced a community-supported chocolate program that will help their fledgling company buy $50,000 worth of equipment and supplies for the operation.

The Warners have owned and operated the Just Good Chocolate company in Leland since 2011. Despite dreams to manufacture chocolate from scratch, the cost of the equipment required to process cocoa beans into chocolate bars is a bit prohibitive.

“It’s always been our intent to grow our base of products,” Warner said. “It’s very specialized and it’s very expensive.”

The Warners decided to start small, producing cacao nib snacks, cocoa powder and hot cocoa mix. Those products are available in about 70 stores across Michigan, including Tom’s grocery stores and Oryana Natural Foods Market. The organic, fairtrade products fulfill Warner’s moral mission as well as her passion for chocolate.

The production of those foods was relatively easy and didn’t require much processing, but it’s always been Nichole’s intent to produce artisinal chocolate, she said.

Nichole, 39, works in the company’s kitchen to package the snacks and powders while Drew works a day job.

The idea to give the company a boost through community involvement was a thought that came to Warner while she was considering turning to crowdfunding websites like Kickstarter to expand the business. But crowdfunding asks for donations and Nichole didn’t want donors.

“We just thought this was a great way to get people involved,” she said. “This is a way to do it where people will get their money back. We’re hoping to sell at least 100 shares by Nov. 30. That will make us pull the trigger.”

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