One year after she launched The Violet Chocolate Company in 2012, Rebecca Grant decided to attend the second annual Canadian National Chocolate Awards. She didn’t think her new company could compete with the more established brands on the market, but figured it would be worth it for networking opportunities alone.
To her surprise, she ended up bringing home a gold medal. “They [the award presenters] got to the name of the company and were like, ‘we have no idea who this is,'” laughs Grant. It was just a hint of what was to come – since then, The Violet Chocolate Company has won a combined total of 11 International Chocolate Awards and 33 Canadian Chocolate Awards.
It’s quite the journey for someone who fell into the world of chocolate entirely by accident. A friend’s recommendation led to her working at a local chocolatier and, when the company shut its doors, she bought all the equipment and set out on her own. “It was kind of like the perfect opportunity,” says Grant. “I’ve always wanted to open my own business, I just never knew what it would look like.”
The Violet Chocolate Company headquarters are in a townhouse in Windermere, with an appropriately violet-coloured door. Grant recently doubled the company staff – by hiring long-time friend Maryanne Bejcar to handle the marketing and business side of things. In a space filled with the scent of chocolate, the team of two brainstorm ideas for labels and flavours. “It just starts with one ingredient,” says Bejcar. “It’s like, what are our favourite foods, what are the base ingredients?”
Though Grant has consistently won at various chocolate competitions, that doesn’t always mean her risky flavours are well-received. “I was talking to the head judge [at the International Chocolate Awards] and he said, ‘It’s funny because some of your flavours do really well at the Canadian competitions, but you’re just a little too far ahead of where the European countries are in terms of flavour profile,'” Grant says. Some combinations – with inclusions like taco spices or coconut curry – require adventurous palates.
The European market may not be quite ready for some of her bolder flavours, but Edmontonians definitely are, according to Grant and Bejcar. “I honestly don’t think if I had started this company anywhere else in Canada that it would be what it is,” says Grant. “I think Edmonton is just so open to trying whatever, that it works. It’s like a big city, but with that small-town mentality – once they’re behind you, they’re behind you.”