If you are looking for flavoursome, artisan chocolate with delicate botanical notes then look no further than Sue Gilmour Chocolate. Based in Herefordshire, Sue has a passion for cooking and gardening, the result being beautifully crafted chocolates infused with the wonderful flavours of natural ingredients growing in her garden.
Sue contacted the AGRI project (part funded by the European Regional Development Fund and run in partnership between Aston and Harper Adams Universities) after learning about the support from the Marches Growth Hub. Although Sue has a flair for creating delicious flavours and luxurious chocolate, she recognised that interaction with food specialists would benefit the development of her products allowing her to take her business to the next level. An initial meeting took place to discuss Sues requirements and it was decided that food experts from Harper Adams University would work with her on new product development.
Sue had already developed a popular range of vegan truffles but recognised that the existing ange required development in terms of shelf life testing to get maximum longevity and additional flavours to complement the ones that were already available. With many people choosing to follow a vegan or dairy free diet and limited options being available to them, it was acknowledged that there was a definite market for Sues products and the AGRI project was more than happy to provide support.
The Regional Food Academy based at Harper Adams University is a purpose-built facility perfect for teaching as well as commercial requirements with facilities for food processing, a sensory evaluation room, NPD kitchens with specialist equipment, teaching rooms and a lecture theatre. It is here that most of the development work took place allowing Sue and the food specialists to work on developing her range of vegan truffles. Over the course of a few months’ sessions took place in the kitchens, shelf life testing was carried out and some tweaks were made to recipes, the outcome was one of great success with a substantial lengthening of the shelf life, whilst not compromising on flavour or adding additional preservatives. Sue has gone on to add more flavours to her range which even outsold their incredibly popular traditional cream truffles at BBC Good Food.
The AGRI project and all the team involved could not be happier with the outcome of the support for Sue and her delightfully delicious chocolates! Following on from the success of the development, Sue will be looking to officially launch the new truffles in the coming months as well as adding even more new flavours. With this new lease of productivity, they will also be looking to take on another member of staff to support their expansion – what a wonderful way to start 2020!
Sue has said of the support she received: As a small producer time and expertise are limiting factors when it comes to enhancing our product offering. The support we received has been invaluable in making our new vegan chocolates far more attractive to our stockists. The enthusiasm and knowledge of the team were evident from the first meeting I had with Rose. She set up a development meeting with Rachel in the lab – Rachel was very clear about what we needed to provide and it only took a few hours to get a new recipe ready for testing. I doubt we would ever have got to that stage by ourselves.
Tanya then kept us up to date with progress and provided further information regarding extending the range of flavours we could work with. We are currently making 4 different vegan fruit truffles.
We were hoping that the project would take a few months but it actually ended up taking much longer as the internal shelf life testing showed that we had gone far beyond our expectations, and had managed to extend the shelf life to 3 months.
This has a huge impact on the saleability of the chocolates and the production schedule – and all this without the addition of any artificial sweeteners or sugars.