We didn’t save the factory, but we did make a brand new one. This week marks one year since OCHO raised $2 million thanks to thousands of keen chocolate lovers and supporters. The machines are in and we can’t believe how far we have come in only 12 months. A new production line has been shipped from Italy, a new chocolate factory designed and built in a matter of months, and a new era of Dunedin chocolate has begun.
Craft chocolate is a new industry and many of our investors haven’t tried it before. Think about the first time you tried whiskey and that’s what it is like; a punch of flavour that your taste buds adjust to overtime. Before you know it, you can tell the difference between a single and double malt of Scotch or Irish origin. So how did we convince over 3,000 people to invest in something they knew very little about? Read more on chocolate flavour and origin here.
We exceeded our equity crowdfunding target in less than two days. At the time it was the fastest and most successful PledgeMe crowdfunding campaign in New Zealand. We did it thanks to an incredible groundswell of support to keep chocolate making here in Dunedin and, of course, a large dose of enthusiasm from chocolate lovers who liked the idea of owning a share of a chocolate factory.
OCHO craft bean-to-bar chocolate in a sack of beans from the Pacific.
The Dunedin connection has been key. People across the country and all around the world have a special connection to our great little city. Whether they were a Scarfie and studied at the University of Otago or Otago Polytechnic, or an admirer of our Gothic Revival architecture and sculpture, Dunedin strikes a chord with them all. Chances are they also visited Cadbury World, or even remember the days of Hudson’s biscuit factory. When news spread that chocolate making was to be lost in Dunedin city, it was a real shock for many of us.
The first idea mooted was to buy back the Cadbury factory and run it as a community-backed initiative and this gained significant support in principle from around the country. Ultimately that idea wasn’t a goer, but the seeds were sown for a collaboration between the group that wanted to save regional manufacturing and a small Dunedin craft chocolate maker.
Otago Chocolate Company's first kitchen on Glasgow Street.
OCHO, aka the Otago Chocolate Company, had been started by Liz Rowe five years earlier. From initial experiments, Liz had grown OCHO into a boutique business making bean-to-bar, craft chocolate. While a small business in the general scheme of things, OCHO had some valuable assets, including an excellent brand, an established reputation for making premium chocolate, reliable sources of beans from the Pacific, and a small but dedicated staff. By joining forces, OCHO and Own the Factory could ensure chocolate making was going to stay in Dunedin no matter what.
What's the point?
Before any money was raised the OCHO and the Own the Factory teams sat around a table and wrote on post-it notes what work means to us. It was really clear that we wanted to build a better kind of business model, one that isn’t lethal to the environment, or harmful to our community, including OCHO employees.
These wants and needs further reinforced OCHO’s core values that Liz always held true from day one. This includes simple things like paying everyone at least the Living Wage and paying farmers fair prices, or working on a plan to measure our carbon footprint. Read more on our pillars for success here.
OCHO Cafe & Shop on Vogel St.
Many people still think that making chocolate is a mysterious and complicated process that can only be done in big factories with industrial-scale equipment. But OCHO is part of a new model of craft chocolate that is gaining traction around the globe, which will prove the skeptics wrong.
In our new factory, we want to change attitudes towards chocolate and help people to understand what craft chocolate is all about by showing people how we make chocolate and what we make it with. That will help fight another of the myths about chocolate - that it’s bad for you and should only be eaten occasionally as a treat food. That’s a perception we are determined to change.
So, what did we do with the money?
Early next year we will be opening our factory doors so we can show people just exactly what we do and how we do it. Visitors will walk away knowing lots more about chocolate making, how to taste the difference in various chocolate styles, and perhaps even a little more curious about the origins of other kinds of food they buy.
For us, we love connecting with chocolate lovers and anyone curious about the food they eat. We are so proud that in just 12 months, thanks to the support we’ve had from our investors, the OCHO team, our community, and a bunch of hard-working local contractors, we have built the platform to make our vision a reality.
OCHO's new factory, an old woodmill in the Dunedin precinct, during the refit.
Up until Christmas, you can continue to visit the OCHO Cafe & Shop at 22 Vogel St, Dunedin. Half the team will be out the back making and wrapping chocolate bars and the other half of the team will be at the new factory making chocolate. We’ll all be moving after Christmas and we hope to start tours of the new space early in 2019. In the meantime, we’ll continue to be at the Otago Farmers Market every Saturday and you can shop the collection online anytime at www.ocho.co.nz/shop.