Sydney dairy-intolerant yoga teacher Malindi Lovegrove loved chocolate but was intolerant to dairy products, so she devised her own milk-free chocolate recipe.
“I started looking for alternatives in shops and nothing tasted like milk chocolate to me, so I started experimenting at home.”
This was the start of a thriving vegan chocolate business called The Chocolate Yogi which supplies hundreds of retailers Australia wide.
The move from enthusiastic amateur to chocolate manufacturer happened four years ago when Lovegrove and her husband Ed Lower decided to attend a seminar on turning your passion into a business.
“That was July 2014. We asked our friends and family for funding and we got $35,000. That was the figure we thought we needed to start a chocolate business, but it turned out to be a bit more than that.”
Lovegrove went to professional chocolate making school in Melbourne to refine her process.
The pair operated two big stone grinders in their lounge room originally but soon found the need for a suitable warehouse where they could build a food-safe facility.
“Our family and friends helped to build the factory. We now have a whole functioning chocolate factory with many more stone grinders, which makes the chocolate smooth.”
The process is now around 60 per cent automated, but inclusions such as the vegan honeycomb and toffee are still hand-sprinkled.
The Chocolate Yogi products are sold in around 700 stores nationwide, says Lovegrove, and they are looking at further growing the product range and expanding into new markets.
“We found lots of vegans loved it, so we focused on that market, and then we recognised the need for allergen-free products so last year we brought out the first Australian-made children’s bar that was free of all eight allergens,” Lovegrove says.
So far, the growth of the business has been strong, with turnover doubling every year over the past three and a half years of operating.