The chocoMe story: from a home-grown enterprise to a globally renowned chocolate empire
You have probably heard the brand name "chocoMe". Over the last few years the press has been loud with the various awards and accolades this Hungarian manufactory of world-class chocolate desserts has received at the worldʼs most prestigious gastronomy and chocolate competitions.
And if you have been lucky enough to taste chocoMe products you will know why international jurors have been unable to resist them.
Year after year, this small Hungarian manufactory keeps renewing itself as it creates amazing seasonal and holiday specialties which, despite their supreme quality, are priced to be widely affordable and, thus, enjoyable by a broader audience. A perfect example was the latest Fall/Winter chocolate collection which redefined and upgraded a range of traditional products including hot chocolate and Christmas fondant. These unique chocolate drinks proved to be the most popular new dessert of the season. Now there is a new addition to the range: Hot Chocolate Flakes with Tonka Bean arrive just in time to celebrate Valentine’s Day. Tonka beans are the personal favourite of chocoMe founder Gábor Mészáros. No wonder he created a mouth-watering new product using this spice – in fact, the novel use of tonka beans makes this new product a totally unique offering on the international hot chocolate market.
Humility, dedication and perseverance have been some of the key qualities defining the success of chocoMe. Founder and owner Gábor Mészáros was inspired to launch his own business when, after spending six years at the marketing department of a multinational company, he was made redundant in 2009, just at the onset of the global economic crisis. He spent one week feeling sorry for himself; then several months looking for work. Although he is an economist, Gábor has always been interested in gastronomy, so he decided to venture into a brand new field of enterprise. That is how he ended up with chocolate – partly because it required a low level of initial investment.
His friends and colleagues unanimously labelled this a madmanʼs choice. At that time, his newly chosen line of profession barely existed in Hungary – little did they know that in a decade he would go on to become one of the most prominent representatives of the trade. But all the negativism just added more fuel to his fire: he was adamant on proving he could produce luxury consumables and thrive amidst the crisis. He has always had international markets in his sights. He prepared a thorough business plan and calculated with an initial investment of HUF 5 million – he ended up investing slightly more to ensure solid fundamentals. He started by travelling to Belgium, France and Italy to learn the secrets of chocolate making at its highest level. At that point he did everything by himself, preparing his desserts by hand in a small workshop under his apartment.
He has always wanted to come up with his own, unique recipes, and create peerless combinations of exquisite flavours. He built and launched his web shop in 2010, giving his customers the choice to mixand-match their favourite flavours into one-off desserts. But he soon learnt that customers preferred his recipes and combinations.
Gábor continued to do everything by himself, including purchasing and deliveries. After receiving an order he would drive to the wholesaler, prepare the chocolate overnight and have them shipped in the morning.
One day Gábor was at a high-end floristʼs and overheard a customer wishing to buy a box of chocolates to go with the bouquet of flowers they have just bought. This proved to be a watershed moment in his life. He instantly recognised a potential market. He met with the owner of the flower shop and agreed to prepare an exclusive line of chocolate desserts decorated with flowers.
While he had been making a mere handful of boxes every day, this new contract landed him an order of 300 boxes. He took out a loan to pay for the ingredients, and worked night and day to fulfil the order. After this he went on to sign further contracts with other flower shops and grocery stores.
He made sure his first press conference was a memorable one, too. The invited guests had been given a list of ingredients to choose from, and upon their arrival they received their custom-made bar of chocolate at the event. It was a real success: newspapers and magazines kept contacting him. The word was getting around about chocoMe, and this also meant more retail opportunities.
After a year of intensive work he was beginning to land good results. The company was rapidly expanding. But the first five or six years also demanded significant sacrifices from Gábor. He lived and worked practically secluded from the world, devoting all his time and resources to chocoMe. It wasnʼt until the birth of his son that he made conscious efforts to "reconnect with the living".
After nine years chocoMe has an annual net turnover of almost one billion HUF. They have been able to finance HUF 100 millionsʼ worth of investments with a minimum of bank loans. chocoMe now employs nearly 30 people. One thing Gábor continues to do himself is product development. He will happily travel half way across the globe, visiting the Caribbean to search out new cocoa plantations and skilled farmers, with the ultimate goal of creating new recipes that will leave chocolate lovers speechless.
ChocoMe products are now available in nearly 30 countries worldwide, including the duty free stores of 21 major international airports such as Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Munich, Berlin and Istanbul.
The manufactory has won more than 80 international accolades at prime competitions like the International Chocolate Awards or the Academy of Chocolate Awards, not to mention the Great Taste Awards (informally known as the "Oscars of the Food World") where their now legendary coffee & hazelnut Raffinée dragée made history and became the first Hungarian product ever to be voted among the 50 best food products in the world.
Thus, the secret of chocoMe lies with more than exquisite ingredients and world class technologies.
The personal story of the brand and its founder is also exemplary and unique, not unlike their exclusive chocolate creations.
SUPPORT THE BUDAPEST BUSINESS JOURNAL
Newspaper organizations across the globe have struggled to find a business model that allows them to continue to excel, without compromising their ability to perform. Most recently, some have experimented with the idea of involving their most important stakeholders, their readers.
We would like to offer that same opportunity to our readers. We would like to invite you to help us deliver the quality business journalism you require. Hit our Support the BBJ button and you can choose the how much and how often you send us your contributions.