Chocolate Earth Delights – Food & Drink Business
Loving Earth is one of Australia’s leading organic vegan chocolate companies, building an ethical and sustainable supply chain to produce its premium line of chocolates. Kim Berry talks to her Chief Chocolatier Thibault Fregoni and Director of Product Development Emil Kroll about one of the best jobs in the world. This article first appeared in the August 2021 issue of Food and Drink Business.
Q How did you both get into the chocolate world?
Emile: I studied a Masters in Food and Health Innovation at the University of Copenhagen, graduating in 2017. Before that, I was a chef for seven years.
During my studies, I co-founded a natural cider company, Decideret Cider, in 2015. Then, following my master’s thesis, I co-founded Circular Food Technology, a start-up in food technology upgrading a brewery by-product into a nutritious product. , aromatic flour called Agrain.
Food is a very emotional thing, we all experience the feeling of panic when we don’t know where to eat; or how the mood flows through the floor planks if the food is bad; and the ecstasy that a good meal can bring. For me, working with chocolate and confectionery isn’t just about putting something sweet in people’s mouths, but giving them bite-sized positivity.
Thibault: I landed in Sydney in 1999 after long trips. Like you do when I was young and free, I fell in love with the country and decided to settle down for a while … that was 22 years ago and that counts!
I stumbled upon chocolate by accident thanks to a French pastry friend in the early 2000s. We started a small business making handmade chocolates at a time when chocolate offerings were very basic in Australia. I moved to Melbourne and created Monsieur Truffe. Then I got into making chocolate directly from cocoa beans rather than using chocolate made by other manufacturers. So I launched a brand called Matale, named after a Sri Lankan town where I used to source my cocoa.
I meet Daintree Estates owner Barry Kitchen, who also gave me a whole host of new experiences. I worked with him in far north Queensland when he was
lobbying for feasibility studies on cocoa cultivation in Australia. Cocoa is rarely made where it is grown, so this is an opportunity to link cocoa cultivation and its manufacture in one place. My knowledge of chocolate now extends from planting to manufacturing.
Q How is Loving Earth organic and vegan chocolate made?
Emile: There are several ways to exchange the milk solids that are so widely used in conventional chocolate with other ingredients.
Loving Earth was the first to use nuts as a creamy base ingredient to create an animal-free version of milk chocolate.
We have a diverse group of people who work at Loving Earth, not just vegans. I am not personally vegan, but I do believe that our food systems should become less dependent on animal feed.
Not using atomized milk in our chocolates has opened up a whole new avenue of flavor opportunities, which we have mastered. This is probably how many great inventions were born, by having constraints and challenges that needed to be overcome, and then finding new and perhaps better ways.
Q What was the inspiration behind the new range?
We both started with Loving Earth over the past year or so, and to get started we had to dig deeper into the current product portfolio and identify some of the strengths of the current line. We quickly found four of the basic chocolates we could build on.
Our take on Turkish delight – the dirty rose, the base chocolate is our cashew, and the combination of this velvety mylk chocolate with the floral rose accentuates the strengths of the base, and the tangy cranberries balance the sweetness. Hazelnut Mylk Chocolate is such a solid base in and of itself, we just had to pair it with a few roasted hazelnuts to create the ultimate nutty choccie hit.
We gave Cream & Cookies a little more advantage by working with a lot of textures. There are crunchy chocolate cookies and crispy chips, all covered in our super soft white chocolate with world class vanilla and a hint of salt.
Q What is the NPD process at Loving Earth?
We are constantly working on new chocolate bases, flavors and textures. This work is ongoing and ideas from here will eventually turn into product launches. In confectionery, seasonal events are important because they create a great place to showcase new developments.
The NPD process varies in length from six to 18 months and involves a transition through several stages. In the ideation phase, we let the process be open and diverge. As more comprehensive ideas emerge that have business value, we’ll funnel them into a more streamlined process of lab-scale testing, scaling, and shelf-life testing. We strive to involve consumers from the start, but COVID-19 has called that into question. We are certainly keen to get more involved in this area in the future.
Q What can we expect next?
Loving the Earth encompasses many qualities that few companies have. Topping the list is our long-standing relationship with the Peruvian Kemito Ene cooperative from which we source our cocoa. This relationship is developing and will be manifested in our products, in particular in the development of a range of dark chocolate.
There’s also a giveaway offering launching later this year, which is delicious, surprising, and indulgent.
Q And finally, what is your favorite flavor?
Emile: Our vision for a double-layered chocolate, Caramel Swayzee has been with us for quite some time, and in the new version it’s still one of my favorites. But the Double Hazey is also difficult to keep hands off.
Thibault: I really like our new White which has a nice texture, is not too sweet and is a great flavor carrier. Our dark range is interesting and different from other dark chocolates because we do not roast or cap our liqueur, which is intended to remove acetic acid from chocolate.