The Newfoundland Chocolate Company is celebrating its being awarded Co-op’s Eat Atlantic Food Product of the Year.
Owners Christina Dove and Brent Smith were on hand at their Duckworth Street location Thursday morning to accept the award — determined by an online vote, in support of Co-Op’s Eat Atlantic promotions (eatatlantic.ca).
In accepting the award, the company owners also took the opportunity to reveal their newest truffle. As all Newfoundland Chocolate Company truffles are given street names, reflecting their place of origin, it was decided the latest creation will be named “Atlantic Avenue,” in honour of the Eat Atlantic award.
“This is a big deal,” Smith said, calling the award a “massive honour.”
“The Newfoundland Chocolate Company received more than one-third of the votes and double the nearest competition,” said general manager of the Gander Co-op, Morley Goodyear, speaking on behalf of Co-op stores. The runner-up was Scotsburn Dairy Group’s Hoof Prints icecream.
Other finalists in the running for the award were: Covered Bridge Potato Chips, New Brunswick; King Cole Tea, New Brunswick; Oxford Frozen Foods Blueberries, Nova Scotia; Amalgamated Dairies Limited (ADL) Cheese, Prince Edward Island; Culinary Wines Liquid Seasonings, New Brunswick; Crosby’s Molasses, New Brunswick; Terra Beata Farms Dried Cranberries, Nova Scotia and Ganong Bros. Chicken Bones, New Brunswick.
In the four years since its start, the Newfoundland Chocolate Company has grown from a two-person hobby business to employ 20 people.
The startup and growth was assisted by the provincial government to the tune of $70,000 in workforce training, trade missions and marketing through various funding programs of the Department of Innovation, Business and Rural Development.
Minister Keith Hutchings attended the awards event and congratulated the owners and staff, while expressing the province’s continued support for entrepreneurs.
“This company, like many throughout the province, was born out of a hobby, I understand. With a lot of nurturing and patience, that company has become a viable business that has expanded its product line, delighting customers throughout Atlantic Canada ... Alberta and certainly coming through your doors every day,” he said.
“Additionally, by sourcing locally grown and produced ingredients from local companies, including Purity Factories, Pure Labrador, Tilt House Bakery and Jumping Bean Coffee Company, the Newfoundland Chocolate Company is supporting the growth of other industries and local businesses.
”Dove told The Telegram the company started out with long hours of mixing, shaping and decorating chocolate creations at home, as company staples were perfected, with family members being regularly called upon for product testing.
Right from the start, the plan was to focus on creating a premium product, she said, with local ingredients wherever possible, no preservatives and using natural sweetners, like dried wildberries, instead of added sugars.
“It’s amazing when you first start a business because you connect with so many local businesses,” she told The Telegram, explaining the connections go beyond ingredients and into areas like training and marketing.
Along the way, “it’s been a bit of fun,” Dove said with a laugh.
City of St. John’s Mayor Dennis O’Keefe — who chomped through a chocolate ribbon to help launch the store two years ago — was on hand for the awards event and offered his congratulations to the company, its owners and staff.
Before closing out the speeches, Dove and Smith acknowledged all of the companies voted into the Top 10 of the Eat Atlantic vote as worthy of support from Canadians at their checkout counters.
“We were again overwhelmed by the response to our competition,” said Paul-Émile Légère, chief executive officer of Co-op Atlantic.
At least 6,000 online votes were cast for the different finalists this year through social media accounts.
“This shows how passionate Atlantic Canadians are about the world-class products that are produced here in Atlantic Canada. Clearly when it comes to food, nothing beats the taste of home. That’s good for our economy, our environment and our future.
”The winner of the contest in 2011 was JustUs! coffee, out of Nova Scotia.
“We should all be very proud as Atlantic Canadians, as well as Newfoundlanders, of the tremendous products and services that are being offered in this region,” Smith said.