Finnish chocolate startup makes ethical business taste good
Finnish raw chocolate company Goodio knows how to satisfy even the most demanding sweet tooth and has plans to change the food industry for the better.
The Goodio co-founder Jukka Peltola is full of ideas. The latest one is to open a gym next to the company’s small factory in Helsinki where people could train for free and in exchange the kinetic energy produced would be harnessed to power Goodio’s chocolate production.
While this latest vision is for the long term, it reflects the values driving Goodio: wellbeing, quality and fairness.
“We want to be a food brand that people can trust to know what is best for them, but also what is best for the whole production chain,” explains Peltola.
At the moment Goodio’s main product is handmade organic raw chocolate. Goodio sources all its ingredients directly from farmers to ensure quality, ethical production and fair prices. The chocolate itself is crafted by slowly combining the ingredients, such as cacao beans, desiccated coconut and wildcrafted vanilla, together in a stone grinder. There is no milk or white sugar in sight.
The end result is 12 different flavours of stylishly packaged chocolate bars which are gaining popularity in the Nordics. They are already sold by almost 400 retailers in Finland and in February Goodio expanded its operations to Sweden where it plans to open production facilities later this year.
Goodio was established in 2012 as a result of Peltola’s own healthy eating epiphany. Peltola left out dairy, refined sugars and most carbohydrates from his diet and felt much better for it. But a challenge proved out to be finding snacks and treats that are healthy, tasty and have strong ethical production values behind them.
This is the market Goodio has set out to change. While chocolate may not seem like an obvious starting point, Peltola stresses cacao has many health benefits yet only a fraction of it is produced in accordance with fair trade ethics.
“Cacao itself is one of the most nutrient rich fruits in the world, but chocolate is typically full of white sugar and very little cacao,” Peltola says. “And even then the cacao is highly processed, with ruins its benefits. This is exactly the opposite of what we want to do.”
Goodio’s chocolate has minimal ingredients and a high cacao content. The company also buys its cacao beans unroasted and aims to visit all producers personally. Sometimes Goodio employees even spend a few days working at the farm to get a feel for its production and culture.
And yet for a small artisanal chocolate factory with high ideals, this has proved the easy part. Business partners have changed along the way, development has been slower than expected and at times Peltola admits he has been ready to pack it all in, until he realised that doing what you love is a success in itself.
Consequently Peltola advises all new entrepreneurs to be brave. He believes it is important to acknowledge the worst case scenario and decide if that is a risk worth taking, but not to waste time worrying about all the possible challenges.
“You can do anything, if you really want it,” says Peltola. “We have had a crazy amounts of blunders, but now those experiences are kind of like battle scars or honorary badges. It has not been easy, but it has been the best school to go through.”
Act locally, think globally
Today Goodio employs a total of ten people in Finland and Sweden and has ambitious plans. The company is working to close its first funding round within the next few months to advance its international expansion.
“We are starting sales on the East Coast, US, this summer and already have ongoing negotiations in China,” Peltola says. “But we want go forward in a sensible way and carefully think about our next steps, so we do not drift away from our values.”
This means hiring staff who share the ideology of Goodio and setting up small, local artisanal factories in all the markets it operates. In future, the company may even run its own cacao farms and open up their whole production chains for customers to monitor digitally.
But before that Goodio wants to expand beyond chocolate. The company has trialled coconut-based, milk and gluten free ice cream which it will bring to market in Finland soon. A whole family of ethically produced healthy snacks is also on the road map.
“We want to change how the food industry operates and bring joy and wellbeing to it,” Peltola says. “We want to be a global brand, but instead of mass production we will get there with our own selection of niche products.”