Chocolatiers Doisy & Dam recently launched their first brand new product innovation of 2021 - the Peanut D&Ds. Shaking up the confectionary aisle, they're celebrating just how far they've come with their palm oil-free, vegan, non GMO and ethically-sourced chocolate.

We spoke to Doisy & Dam co-founder Ed Smith, to find out a little bit more about the inspiration for the brand, launching vegan products and more...

Why were you unhappy with the chocolate that was being sold to consumers? What needed to change?

We've always wanted to build a sustainable and responsible business from day one; both for personal reasons and because cocoa can be an ethically murky raw material to deal with and we had the opportunity to address that. We initially thought that having a personal audit of our business would be the best way forward, but coming across the B Corp certification made us change our mind. It allowed us to look at more than just our sourcing, but also our social, environmental and ethical approach to business as a whole. It also presented us with a structure to monitor and continue to improve our ethical approach.

When did you decide to make the difference?

At the start, we knew the kind of product and brand we wanted to create, and we knew how we wanted to approach running our business. It wasn’t until about two years into trading that we came across the B Corp certification which allowed us to focus and track our approach to building a sustainable difference. We’ve never aimed for perfection, rather constant improvement in our products and our approach to building a business.

Please tell us about the process of getting your product to launch.

We didn’t know where to start as neither me nor Rich had any experience in food. We had to break it down into finding the people to help with the packaging, the production of the product and then finding people to sell it for us. We found our first manufacturer weirdly through Twitter, we contacted multiple packaging companies to print what we had designed and then we jumped on our bikes and cycled to all the independent stores in our area with the final product and some of them took the risk on us! Since then, it’s been a process of constantly learning how to take the next step and sometimes taking the leap without knowing where we’re going to land!

Why was it important for you to create a vegan product?

Our products aren’t vegan because we wanted to be a purely vegan brand, they’re vegan because that’s how great dark chocolate should be made. It’s a representation of the fact that we never put unnecessary ingredients in our products. Given that we don’t use any dairy, it also makes the environmental impact of our chocolate substantially less than a range which includes milk chocolate.

What tips do you have for launching a vegan product?

It’s really important to understand your supply chain and make sure you can say for certain that there will be no cross-contamination all the way through. For example, all our products are certified vegan by the Vegan Society as an ethical claim, not a dietary claim. Some of our products are made on the same lines that milk chocolate production occurs on, so while we test our batches to make sure that the amount of lactose traces is below the legal standard, it’s not vegan from a dietary perspective.

What are your thoughts on the vegan food market as it stands? Does it need work or are you content with the progress that has been made?

There has been a huge rise in new vegan products and vegan alternatives to existing foods. The level of innovation has been staggering over the last few years and there have been some amazing developments. I think the area that I’ve been most impressed by is making vegan alternatives that taste fantastic and, in some cases, better than the original. The speed of innovation is being driven not just by the increase the number of vegans but, maybe more importantly, the increase in the number of ‘flexitarians’ who don’t have solely plant-based diets but consciously consume less meat. My favourite innovations have been in the plant-based burger category where companies like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods are making vegan burger patties which are almost indistinguishable from meat in terms of flavour, texture and look.

Please tell us how you ensure your product is ethical for customers, suppliers and workers?

We've changed our supply chain to ensure that all of our cocoa is fully traceable back to its original source. We personally make sure that we have one of the most ethical and carefully sourced supply chains of any chocolate business. We are also in the process of applying this approach to our packaging, with a goal to use 100% recyclable packaging by the end of next year [we already use recyclable packaging for our Truffles and Nut Butter Cups]. Doing good is at the heart of our company values, ensuring that everyone who works at the company is of the mindset to leave behind more than we take. Overall, being a certified B Corp gives us clear guidelines as to how we should act as a business and helps with every decision we make.

How did your business fare during lockdown?

It’s sort of a mixed bag. We’ve grown as a business through lockdown but not as fast as we would have hoped as many of the new supermarket opportunities were pushed back until they had a better idea of what was going on with the economy and people’s shopping habits. Hopefully now that things are easing up, these will start to return to normal along with everything else. Unsurprisingly, one of the things that we noticed was a huge increase in the number of people who were shopping on our website, on Amazon and on Ocado, as well as the recent boom in quick grocery delivery services. We took the opportunity of more traffic on our website to improve our offering, make shopping easier and give customers a better experience of online shopping.

Please can you tell us about the inspiration for your brand name?

The name came from two scientists, Edward Doisy and Henrik Dam, who won the Nobel prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1943. Their work influenced our modern understanding of nutritional science and given that we were trying to make chocolate a better product to consume we thought it was a fun name to represent that! Also, it’s a lot more fun than Smith & Wilkinson...

What is next for you and the brand?

New. Delicious. Products. We’ve got some products coming out over the next 12 months which we think will blow your socks off, keep an eye on our Instagram for more information and for a chance to win some of them before anyone else can get their hands on them!

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