Our founder of Choc Affair, Linda, discovered her love of making chocolate back in 2006, when she created our hot chocolate stirrers. Since then, the company has grown immensely; and after just launching our new branding, we thought it would be a great idea to have a chat and a cuppa with Linda to find out more about what Choc Affair is all about…
Q. Linda, it’s lovely to chat to you about Choc Affair and your journey so far. You began by making hot chocolate stirrers in 2006; but why was it you created these and not just a standard chocolate bar?
A. I actually never actually intended to make chocolate at all, I had a job that I loved in the Cosmetic surgery industry at the time. Both of my daughters had an intolerance to milk so they were on a dairy free diet. At that time there weren’t a lot of options for such a diet, and treats were limited. So, I used to make them hot chocolate at home using dark chocolate, unrefined sugar, and soya milk. I then saw a potential business idea; if I could make it a single portion (which is where the hot chocolate stirrer came in), then I could be doing something that other people would also be interested in – and as they say the rest is history! It was the stirrer that launched Choc Affair, and other products were to follow.
Q. Over the years, you’ve experimented with so many different flavours in your chocolate bars – what has been your favourite so far?
A. Gosh, that’s a difficult one, because my choice of flavour will often depend on my mood at the time. I would like to be able to say that over the years my palette has become more sophisticated; but it really hasn’t! My easy, any time of day (and I can start eating chocolate at 6am with a coffee some days), go-to flavour would be our salted caramel; it has a richness and strength of flavour like no other, and the salt balances the sweetness of the caramel to perfection. It’s absolutely delicious. Of our more unusual flavours, I would have to say Orange and Geranium, which has always been, and still is my absolute favourite.
Q. If you could create any flavour chocolate for yourself – what would you choose and why?
A. Haha, I think we already have. I love a Gin & Tonic, and a dry one in particular; and I really believe we’ve cracked it with our range of Gin & Tonic bars. They are stunning, and the flavours work so well in a milk chocolate – especially when many other producers only do a dark gin bar. The flavoured gin chocolate bars are lovely, but I especially like the classic Gin & Tonic, probably due to its vibrancy, as I do like a strong gin!
Q. Every year your bring out a fabulous Christmas range. Our guess is that you have been working on 2019’s collection already; can you give any hints as to what we might find in this range?
A. Ooohh yes, I am really excited about this year’s range, as we are introducing 4 new limited edition flavoured bars, and having tried them, they are delicious. Two milk chocolate bars and two dark chocolate bars; all with a different Autumn/Winter themed taste. We’ve also finally come up with a gift pack of our stirrers which launched the company, so I am thrilled to see that come to fruition. Let’s hope our customers think the new range is as strong as we do!
Q. What do you feel is the company’s biggest achievement to date? What has made you feel really proud and excited?
A. I am excited about seeing lives changed, and I am really proud of how our team embraces our employment initiative, and how accepting they are of the young men and women that we have working with us. At times it can be challenging and even disruptive, and over the years we’ve had a lot of real characters come and join our team; and it amazes me just how great our core team are at welcoming them in. My personal feelings are very much captured by the African saying, ‘It takes a village to raise a child’; and as a business within our local community, we need to be part of the solution – we can’t just moan about society and how bad things are and do nothing. Rather like climate change I suppose; I take the view: stop saying the government needs to sort it out – NO- let’s all play our part and make better buying decisions as consumers, and be prepared to pay more for something if it helps the planet! (Laughs) I do get on my high horse about these things, I know – and can often go on a bit of a rant!
Q. You are one of many women who have created a business from scratch and seen it grow from what seems to be a seed into full bloom. As a business woman, who inspires you? Is there anyone that you have looked up to since starting Choc Affair?
A. If I’m honest, I’m not particularly inspired by any one person or business leader. It’s so easy to be defined by the world’s opinion on what success is, and namely that is nice cars, designer clothes, a large house and expensive holidays; all the trappings of wealth. My faith is where I’ve found my feet I believe, and it has shaped how we operate as a company. I wholeheartedly believe we should all be working towards a better world community, and making a positive impact wherever possible, adhering to the biblical principle that we are to treat others as we wish to be treated. To that end, we invest in cocoa growing communities in Colombia, a street children’s project in Uganda, and then locally we work with agencies to offer opportunities to those who struggle to gain access to employment. I am blessed in having a business partner and MD who enables me to do this, as it does have an effect on the bottom line, which is what most businesses are focused on.
Q. If you could give some advice to yourself when you started, what would you tell the lovely Linda Barrie?
A. That you need to have more cash reserves and more energy than you could ever imagine! Oh, and of course, a plan! I didn’t start out that way; I kept on with my job for the first three years or so, which thankfully provided me an income. I had no plan; I just thought ‘I’m going to give this a go’, and I didn’t know the first thing about chocolate. I just had to buy a mini machine, read the instructions, and get started. It was chaos! Sometimes though, you just have to do that, simply get started. I think if you actually take stock and weigh up everything that could go wrong, you wouldn’t even try; and now, 12 years in, with a team of 21 amazing people, I am so glad I did.
Thanks for chatting Linda. It’s great to find out more about you and Choc Affair. We are very excited for the future of the business, and what you do next!
Try Linda’s Favourites…
Salted Caramel Milk Chocolate
Our Salted Caramel Milk Chocolate bar starts with a smooth, melting sensation; and as you continue to taste, a toffee like flavour imerses; finishing with a hint of salt that will certainly lead you into the next bite. We say never underestimate the power of Salted Caramel Milk Chocolate.
Orange & Geranium
Orange and chocolate is of course a winning combination, and one that we all know and love – but we wanted to take this all-time favourite to a whole new level! With the addition of the floral flavour of geranium, this more-ish orange flavoured chocolate is uplifted into a taste reminiscent of summer in all of it’s glory.