From creating unique treats to perfecting the shipping process, Canada’s chocolatiers are connecting with more Canadians online
With Valentine’s Day just over a week away, Canadians are getting ready to buy a whole mess of chocolate – and thanks to the online world, there has never been more mouth-watering choice.
With shops all over the country now selling online, we have access to an incredible range of chocolate, from bean-to-bar contemporary creations to family recipes that reach back over a century.
Founded in 1907 in downtown Vancouver by Richard Carmon Purdy, Purdys Chocolatier has more than 70 shops across Canada and an online store that ships within Canada, the U.S. and select other countries.
The company uses only 100% sustainable cocoa that helps support clean water projects, children’s education and improved medical care in rural cocoa-growing communities.
While Purdys is known for classic chocolates, they’re also celebrated for their “From the Chocolate Kitchen” pieces like Passion Fruit Ganache and the Goat Cheese & Chardonnay Truffle (winner of the Baking and Sweets Best Truffle award).
“We’re always inspired to take you away from the ordinary,” says Kriston Dean, Purdys’ VP Merchandising & Marketing. “For Valentine’s Day, chocolate is the gift of choice but we wanted to explore that more and create a collection that has something for everyone.”
Which is why you’ll find foodie-inspired gift boxes like Gourmet ($20) next to #realtalk Mini Favourites assortment boxes ($10) that say “I (maybe) love you more than chocolate”.
But while selling online provides access to more customers, all chocolatiers face a unique issue. Chocolate must be kept cool — and away from humidity.
To ensure customers receive an optimal product, some retailers turn to technology, such as insulated packaging. Some develop a highly guarded proprietary method. Last year, in the U.S., Hershey launched a public Cool Ship Technologies contest.
But for especially small chocolatiers, the answer can mostly lie in communicating to their customers – and staying on top of weather patterns.
SOMA Chocolatemaker, based in Toronto, began its life in 2003, the brainchild of David Castellan, a former pastry chef, and his architect wife Cynthia Leung. The plan: find the best cocoa beans, refine them according to their own recipe and transform them into the finest chocolate their customers ever tasted.
To ensure each work of art arrives in prime condition, orders are wrapped in special packaging designed to keep contents cool when summertime temperatures soar. Cool packs can be included for additional insurance.
Winter brings its own set of challenges. Ice storms can knock out power, while blizzards can close highways.
“We look up the weather. If a snowstorm is coming that might delay shipping, customers need to know,” says Cat Vieira, staff supervisor. “We do everything in our power to make sure our product gets to where it needs to be, in the best possible state to be enjoyed. That’s our job and we do our homework well.”
For Valentine’s Day, SOMA is offering a range of themed items, including its $9 XO Bar described as “sweet juicy strawberries, dark chocolate and poprocks added for a fun bubbly effect to up the romance levels.” But Vieira warns that around major holidays like Valentine’s Day, online orders need to be placed at least a week in advance.
“A lot of people order last minute,” she says. “Especially men.”
Not to worry if you’ve left Valentine’s Day too late. There’s never a bad day to give the gift of chocolate.