Glasgow-based artisan chocolatiers Bare Bones Chocolate recently bagged the £50,000 prize at the Scottish EDGE Awards. The annual competition applauds innovative businesses that pose high growth potential and rewards winners with a cash prize, split on a grant/loan basis.
The big win will allow couple Lara Messer and Cameron Dixon - the brains behind Bare Bones Chocolate - to expand their business, hire new employees, and move from their small workshop in Glasgow's Southside to bigger premises. As of Tuesday (15th June), the couple have acquired their new factory space, kickstarting the next step of their journey.
Cameron is a Design Engineer previously working for a premium automotive manufacturer. With a passion for coffee and bicycles, he is behind the precision and focus that goes into being a chocolate maker. Lara meanwhile is a food photographer and chef, previously working in London alongside some of the nation's most talented chefs, photographers and creatives. Obsessed with food, good design, and coffee culture, Lara works on every step from roasting to brand's social media presence - which is beautiful to say the least.
This is not the couple's first taste of sweet success, as they won the £10,000 prize at last year's Young EDGE awards, and their chocolate bars have also earned a coveted gold prize as well as four silver awards from the prestigious Academy of Chocolate.
In an Instagram post about their new premises the couple said: "We are so excited and emotional today as we have the keys to our new factory space 🤎 we can’t believe it. It’s been such an incredible journey to get here (blood, sweat and many many late nights!!!) so we are so excited to grow our team and see what’s to come in this amazing space. We can’t wait to welcome you!! x"
Bare Bones Chocolate are one of the UK’s few chocolate producers who craft from bean to bar. Previously, from their small workshop the couple produced their chocolate in micro-batches of 30kg at a time. The couple import unprocessed cacao beans from four different origins (Madagascar, Honduras, Dominican Republic, and Guatemala), which are then processed on a modified Giesen coffee roaster. Cameron's engineering background meant that he was able to tinker with and engineer most of the equipment from scratch in order to get the desired quality for their batch sizes.
“Nobody in the UK is roasting chocolate on a coffee roaster, but in America that’s a big thing,” he says. “With a coffee roaster the benefits over roasting in an oven is that you’ve got a much more even roast and so much more control. So you can make all these incredible flavours."
“Buying speciality cacao means paying far beyond the global market Fair Trade price. Paying for the worth of the cacao is so important in guaranteeing high-quality crops, creating a sustainable future for the farm and building a mutually beneficial relationship with the farmers. It’s not magic. An incredible chocolate bar starts with an incredible farmer.”
Bare Bones Chocolate has experienced year-on-year growth since launching in 2018, with Selfridges now stocking the product as well as a number of independent cafés and delis throughout the country. In 2020, the brand won silver awards for all four of their bars in the worldwide Academy of Chocolate Awards – as well as taking second place for their Madagascan Hot Chocolate in the International Chocolate Awards. Bare Bones also secured gold in Brand Experience at the Academy of Chocolate Awards.
As well as the award-winning flavour of the brand’s four core chocolate bars, Cameron credits Bare Bones’ recognisable, minimalist packaging as a contributing factor to the successful growth of the brand. “The bars sold very well from launch. I think it’s the packaging that drew people to the chocolate initially, because it’s a very simple high-quality design,” he says.
But as their fledgling business begins to fly, the couple remain resolute in their commitment to sustainability. Each bar is wrapped by hand in Vegware compostable sheets, and sealed with their signature 'Handcrafted in Glasgow' label. "People like that wee surprise when they open it up" says Lara, who is bowled over by the tremendous support Bare Bones Chocolate has received from the people of Glasgow. They then label, stamp, and fold their boxes by hand. "Our beautiful boxes are made from recycled coffee cups," explains Lara, "all of our packaging is from recycled sources and 100 per cent recyclable or compostable.”
The brand work also with amazing cooperatives, which ensures that cacao farmers are paid above the fair trade rate for their produce, and have access to micro loans and education surrounding the process that ensures a protected eco system and consistent crops in future. "From working with partners who share our mission, our sustainable packaging, through to CO2-neutral delivery on our wholesale orders - being kind to the earth comes first", they say.
Lara's creative eye teamed with Cameron's knack with machinery and invaluable contributions from his sister Holly, a product designer, all culminates in a complementary set of skills that contribute to Bare Bones Chocolate's incredible taste and beautifully designed, minimalist packaging.
Now, with more investment under their wings from the Scottish EDGE prize, the couple dream of operating a venue that also has a shop front, where they can hopefully offer tasting sessions to allow guests to enjoy the full chocolate-making and tasting experience.
“We are in such a fortunate position that people love our chocolate,” said Lara. “During lockdown when people couldn’t go to restaurants, they wanted luxury – and our chocolate was a luxury thing to have. On sale at £6.50 each, it gives people the confidence it is an amazing chocolate to try and, once they’ve tasted it, people are hooked.”
Bare Bones Chocolate recently featured in our guide to the best independent chocolatiers in Scotland. For more information about Bare Bones Chocolate, or to enjoy their award-winning creations for yourself, please visit: bareboneschocolate.co.uk/