The new entity, called The Functional Chocolate Company, pairs an executive exiting the cannabis industry with a category manager with long experience in the natural products industry. The company is based in Evergreen, CO.
CEO Nicole Smith, who until about a year ago headed up EvoLab, a Colorado-based cannabis products manufacturer, said she saw the potential of the formulas that COO Chris Peruzzi had been working on for about six years. Peruzzi has a long history in brand management in the natural products industry, including stints with Natural Balance, MegaFood, Garden of Life and Reserveage.
“We do believe the healthy fats in the dark chocolate are a nice carrier for the functional ingredients,” Smith told NutraIngredients-USA.
The company is launching with four products aimed at women. They are branded as Rhythm Chocolate for PMS, Carefree Chocolate for Stress & Anxiety, Hot Chocolate for Menopause symptoms and Sexy Chocolate for Low Libido.
Each product features a host of functional ingredients, including some branded ingredients from major suppliers. For example, the Carefree product features Suntheanine, a branded form of L-theanine from Taiyo International as well as Pharma GABA from Pharma Foods International. Similarly, the Hot product features Estro-G 100, a branded form of three herbal extracts marketed by Helios Corp.
Chocolate has marketing, functional benefits
Smith said chocolate was chosen as the delivery mode as it would provide both a powerful differentiator on the supplement aisle and could also be seen as appealing to women.
“We did believe that women might be better early adopters with a chocolate product,” Smith said. She said she also believed the products would stand out in the supplement aisle alongside the rows of generic pill bottles. It’s far easier than trying to get noticed amidst the cacophony of new chocolate brands, she said.
Perruzi said that was one reason the company chose to sell the products as supplements. Another was to get a return on investment for the many branded ingredients in the bars, by being able to make claims against them.
“We have specific ingredients that have specific claims. We decided we wanted to go with the supplements facts panel as opposed to a nutrition facts panel because we wanted to be in the structure/function part of the store as opposed to being over on the wall where all the chocolates are,” he said.
The bars sell for $7.49 a piece with each bar making up three servings. The branded functional ingredients are included as part of proprietary blends of 8-10 herbal ingredients which range from 185 mg to more than 400 mg per serving per blend. Smith said that while those dosages might be lower than what could be found in a standalone product, the company anticipates that consumers will more often than not consume an entire bar.
Solving the taste puzzle
Smith said that Peruzzi and the product development teams at the contract manufacturer the company is using worked long and hard to solve the taste challenges. Dark chocolate is a bod, forward flavor, but many herbal blends can be both bitter and astringent, so care was needed, she said. And in some cases the herbal ingredients provided a flavor benefit, such as the ginger that is the primary functional ingredient in the Rhythm product.
While the company is launching with the four products aimed at women, Smith said new products will be online soon aimed at energy and sleep.
The brand is being sold direct to consumer at the moment, which includes the ability to customize orders via mixed ‘boxes.’ Doing so gets consumers a bit of a discount via an extra bar or two per order. Smith said the company also has wholesale sales strategy, and plans to place the products in natural food stores as well starting with smaller independent stores.