So Sweet Couture was founded by 27yr.old Chloe Valentine Whittock who works out of her farmhouse kitchen producing her brand of vegan and gluten free chocolate. Chloe is gluten intolerant and vegan and wanted to produce a chocolate bar that tasted similar to 'milk' chocolate which she has now shared with the public. We caught up with her to talk about her new business and why she decided to ditch the dairy.
When and why did you decide to leave meat and animal products off your plate?
I have always been a vegetarian and decided to go vegan around 3 years ago. After becoming more aware of the dairy industry & the dairy farming practices I felt it was something I wanted to avoid contributing to and with the abundance of dairy free alternatives starting to appear more and more on supermarket shelves it was easy to choose plant based milk, yogurts, desserts etc. Also the horrendous practice of battery hen farming that it was an easy decision to leave these foods out of my diet.
When did you start and experiment with vegan chocolate and what prompted you to try and make it?
I was modelling in London and missed living on our farm in Pembrokeshire and had always wanted to start a sweet business, working from home when the opportunity presented itself. – In 2015 I won the free from division of The National Cupcake Championships ( I have always been a keen baker ) and one of the prizes was an afternoon’s chocolate making course. This was something I was always interested in and after the course I went home and started experimenting with chocolate. I have a gluten intolerance as well as not eating dairy chocolate so I decided to try and produce a dairy free, vegan and gluten free chocolate. This had to taste every bit as good as ‘normal dairy’ chocolate as I wanted everyone to enjoy it, not just vegans or people with dairy or gluten allergies. After much recipe testing and trying out different flavour and chocolate percentages I feel I have created great tasting chocolate that tastes different to the dairy free chocolate that generally can have a high cocoa percentage and can taste like darker chocolate does so not to everyones taste if you don’t enjoy dark chocolate.
At what point did you realise there was a business in it?
After trying my chocolate out with various taste testers and attending a few food fairs I realised there was a definite gap in the market for my chocolate, plus there wasn’t much in the way of childrens chocolate gifts so in creating these I have filled the gap as the gifts are proving very popular particularly with parents who have children with dairy allergies as my chocolate products are unique and always sell out especially over seasonal periods like Easter and Christmas.
Why did you decide to branch out into children’s chocolates as well?
I decided to launch the new childrens chocolate bars as my normal bars are 100g and I felt a smaller bar (45g) would be a more appropriate child friendly size. I also wanted to make the new bars fun and more appealing to children so they could enjoy having a more ‘normal’ looking packaged bar as other children do.
Do you think vegan chocolate tastes better than milk chocolate?
I certainly think my chocolate tastes better, it has a cleaner taste. Some milk chocolates can leave your mouth feeling a bit ‘gloopy’ or feeling like you need a drink straight after eating but mine leaves a fresher taste, not so heavy or sickly which alongside being a kinder chocolate is a bonus.
Is vegan chocolate better for us- even as a treat?
It is certainly better for the animals! And knowing you can enjoy the chocolate guilt free, must surely be better.
Please tell us about your newest venture Just Doh!
Edible cookie dough is taking the USA by storm. It is quickly overtaking cakes, donuts, etc. to become one of the best selling desserts there. There are one or two edible dough companies in the UK but we are the first all vegan one. Everyone loves to lick the spoon when making cookies – it’ the best part – I remember fighting with my brother over who got the spoon and bowl, I think we would have preferred not to bake the cookies and just share the mixing bowl! This can be hazardous though as raw eggs can cause food poisoning but what you might be surprised to know is that raw flour can be just as bad. Being vegan our cookie dough contains no raw egg and our flour is heat treated so you can enjoy eating Just Doh! We have 5 flavours at the moment – Strawberry Cheesecake, Salted Caramel, Fudge Brownie Choc. Chip, Peanut Butter and Birthday Cake. Since launching just 3 weeks ago sales are booming. All dough is made fresh to order and is sent out first class post from our website – www.justdoh.com
How did you come up with your design concept for the wrappers?
The concept for the Hooey & Boo childrens chocolate bar wrappers came about as I wanted to create a brand that would appeal to children and that they could connect with to make them feel they had chocolate especially for them. Hooey is our pet chihuahua and Boo is our pet house rabbit. We felt they would look great on packaging so we had them turned into cartoon characters especially for the wrappers. They are also great friends too.
You have a dog and a rabbit- so why are they the best animal companions or vegans?
Rabbits are naturally vegan and dogs surprisingly love vegetables and some fruits, unlike other pets such as cats for instance that cannot live without meat.
What is next for you and So Sweet Couture?
As well as selling online via our own website – www.sosweetcouture.com and www.justdoh.com – we are selling on the artisan foodie website Yumbles.com and will be partnering up with Not on the High Street soon. We are also attending larger food festivals and stocking in more independent food outlets across the UK and with new exciting products being developed we hope to continue to grow.