Boutique chocolate company Schoc is celebrating 10 years in business, turning over nearly $1 million a year after an initial investment of just $10,000.
The Greytown firm is known for its creative flavours such as curry and poppadom dark chocolate, rose geranium and bittersweet sea salt. The initial range of 30 flavours has ballooned to 80.
Co-founder Murray Langham started Schoc with a store in central Wellington, which shut two years ago when he bought out his business partner.
The former chef-turned-counsellor became interested in chocolate in the 2000s. He had a clinic on The Terrace practising hypnotherapy and other alternative treatments, and chocolate kept coming up as a problem for clients with weight issues.
He began to identify that certain personalities had similar tastes.
"I started asking people just randomly at the end of session, if someone gave you a box of chocolate, what sort of chocolate would you pick? Similar personalities seemed to pick the same one, so I sort of evolved it from that."
He authored a book, Chocolate Therapy: Dare to discover your inner centre!, that detailed what personality traits chocolate flavour preferences revealed.
The writer described her preference for a fudgy, soft caramel chocolate when selecting from a box. Langham then gave a remarkably accurate reading. "Caramel people don't miss much. They have a good eye for detail. They are very logistical and make lists. The fudge side is the opposite, they like to shop and they love to have me-time, to fluff up the pillows, read a book and not be disturbed."
Following the book's publication he began developing chocolate flavours. All the ingredients in the chocolate, which is imported from Belgium, are fresh. For its lemon flavours, Schoc staff peel, slice, then dry the lemons.
Schoc now makes about 200 kilograms of chocolate a week and its products are stocked in about 50 stores nationwide, including Kirkcaldie & Stains, Auckland's Farro Fresh and Oamaru's Riverstone Kitchen. The 75-gram tablets retail at $11 to $12 each.
Flavour inspiration comes from a range of sources. One day, when stuffing a chicken with apricot and rosemary, Langham was inspired to develop chocolate in that flavour.
When making carrot and coriander soup, he thought he would try grating and drying carrots to mix into chocolate. The fennel flavour was perfected when chef Al Brown, visiting the Greytown shop, suggested roasting it.
Word of mouth, media coverage, and work with Tourism New Zealand and Destination Wairarapa, has helped promote the brand, but as a "chocologist", Langham is known around the world.
He has appeared on television shows in the United States, Britain and Canada talking about what he calls Chocology, the art of finding oneself through chocolate. He is soon to host workshops on the topic in Dubai.
"It's my take. People get too serious about themselves. Sometimes we have to laugh about ourselves. I've also made a CD about the weight-loss process with meditation and visualisation for habits people don't want to let go of."
He hoped the business, which employed 10, could expand this year to take turnover into seven figures again for the first time since its shop closed.
"We really need to start selling in Sydney, but we don't want to get too big too fast."
Do you feel better off than at this time last year?