How many thriving businesses do you know of that started from a case of mistaken horticultural identity? Small batch, hand-crafted, bean-to-bar chocolatiers Kasama Chocolate have just such an origin story. And it perfectly matches the colourful, friendly, and fun vibe of this rising Vancouver, BC-based company.
Co-founder Stefan Klopp tells us the tale: “Myself and three of my friends, Vince [Garcia], Dom [Voser] and Oliver [Koth-Kappus], created this company. It started because Vince inherited a small piece of land in the Philippines. We were having drinks one night and Vince was showing us a picture of his dad on the property, holding what he thought were mangos. They ended up being cacao pods. So, we started telling Vince that if he brought some back to Vancouver, we’d figure out how to make chocolate. One day, he showed up on the doorstep of the place where Dom and I lived with two suitcases full of them.”
True to their word, the friends embarked on their exceedingly steep learning curve. They watched YouTube videos. They read things online. Dom’s machinist father helped build their first piece of equipment. And as their hobby of making “chocolate that tasted not that good” started to shift to artisanship, they began sharing their work.
Early on, the friends developed a savvy model for nurturing their start-up. “We had a subscription for our friends. We’d have them fill out a Google form with questions and opportunities to rate the chocolates. That helped us to develop and refine our recipes. And when subscribers started asking us if we could make more chocolate for them to give as Christmas presents, we felt like we were ready to take the next step.”
That next step was to apply to farmer’s markets, where the reception was enthusiastic right away. The friends were ecstatic to see strangers become regulars who came around to rave about the bars and ask about flavour profiles.
This was an exciting time for Kasama, but as with most early-growth phases, the challenges were real. Navigating the complex world of regulatory standards was difficult. Trying to balance chocolate with full-time jobs tested their limitations.
“One year we signed up for lots of markets and we were way too busy. I’ll never forget it: two of us were at markets while the other two made chocolate. The chocolate-makers would deliver new supplies to the ones at the market in the middle of the day.”
As Kasama grew from a home-based business to a retailer with a space on Granville Island, the founders found ways to reduce inefficiencies. That’s when their partnership with Great Little Box Company/Ideon Packaging (GLBC) began.
“We had started out hand-wrapping our bars with foil and paper, but as we gained customers, we knew we had to change that. It made sense to shift to folding carton sleeves. GLBC did such a wonderful job of working with our artwork, which is an important part of our brand, and making sure our designs worked. Our sleeves really stand out and the time we save by using them is through the roof.”
Now that Kasama Chocolate has levelled up so much, they are spreading the gospel of bean-to-bar. “The majority of chocolate companies buy pre-made chocolate and melt it down to make their bars and bonbons. But we take the raw ingredients and execute all of the steps ourselves—removing shells, grinding, roasting—and that gives us way more control over flavour. It’s just like with wine or coffee.”
In other words, Kasama makes chocolate for connoisseurs. As those die-hard chocolate fans grow in numbers, we’re very proud to be helping them put their best—colourful and friendly—face forward.