Lake Champlain Chocolates was created in 1983 and offered hand made confections crafted in Burlington, Vermont, to specialty food stores mainly in the greater Northeastern United States. Thirty-five years later, Lake Champlain Chocolates is now one of the top 15 specialty chocolate brands in both the Natural and Specialty Grocery channels and is gaining traction in the conventional retail channel. We had the chance to catch up with president, Eric Lampman.
Can you share with us some of Lake Champlain's achievements over the past few years in terms of market growth, cocoa supply chain support and B Corps designation?
The company strengthened its commitment to fair trade, organic and non-GMO ingredients in the past eight years, resulting in a refreshed portfolio that spans everyday and seasonal products that are certified Fair for Life and USDA Organic.
In 2012, we were connected with BK Matlick, a long time cocoa industry consultant working with cocoa farmers around the globe. Our desire was to connect with a cocoa community and develop a supportive relationship. Quickly a partnership with producers in Lachua, Guatemala, formed and collaboration began, including: Farmer Field School Training for 25 farmers, fixing three motor bikes to assist budstick transport between remote community grafting nurseries, and super tree flavor evaluations.
Lake Champlain Chocolates invested in the co-creation of Cacao Verapaz in 2014, establishing an export supply chain for premium cacao sourced from indigenous cocoa farmers. We are thrilled with the growth opportunity this has created to cocoa producers in Guatemala and smile each time we discover a new craft chocolate maker product made with Guatemala cacao.
We are very proud of becoming a B Corp -- certified in May 2018! The designation confirms our commitment to progressive social and environmental business practices, accountability and transparency. The B Corp community of businesses includes more than 2,500 companies worldwide that believe business is a force for good. We are excited to join a small number of chocolate industry companies that are already B Corp certified, including FCIA members French Broad Chocolates and Uncommon Cacao.
Lake Champlain has been a strong supporter of FCIA's new strategic plan. What aspects of the plan do you find most important for your business and how do you see the FCIA platform in general helping the fine chocolate industry?
The new strategy at FCIA brings a renewed energy and perspective for its members. New leadership from an experienced cocoa industry advocate, in Bill Guyton, will undoubtedly bring exposure to new resources and programs. The recent restructure and new strategic plan bring with it seriousness about moving the fine chocolate segment forward in a united manner. New programs with USDA and Canopy Bridge, among others, offer great opportunity for U.S. chocolate makers and confectioners to work on capacity building projects within the supply chain. Such opportunities in the past have been less available and difficult to navigate independently for smaller businesses.
Where do you see the fine chocolate industry in five years from now?
The fine chocolate industry has evolved in the past five years considerably. I believe there are now more companies that have a clearer vision of themselves. In the next five years I foresee more bean to bar chocolate makers becoming vertically integrated confectioners, building out product offerings well-beyond the tablet format.