I’d like to say that the photograph of me on the bicycle shows my commitment to being green and reducing my carbon footprint. And although I used to ride a bicycle to the train station in the past – about three miles one way – I’ve succumbed to the convenience of driving a car to work these past years.
Actually, the three-wheeler pictured is a bicycle typically used by vendors in Mexico . Taza Chocolate’s co-founders, Alex Whitmore, Kathleen Fulton and Larry Slotnick, all bicycle enthusiasts, brought two of the bicycles over to the United States to peddle their wares at farmers’ markets.
The bicycles have a large storage area and a decorative roof so they can be ideal mobile retail units even during a hot, humid day. When Fulton told me they had them on site, I couldn’t resist getting my picture taken on one.
It’s that kind of unconventional thinking that formed the basis for Taza Chocolate, and continues to drive the organization, inspiring customer, consumer and community loyalty.
Consider what happened to the company last August. After several months of do-it-yourself construction to prepare newly leased space for expanded production and office space, the company moved its operation downstairs to take advantage of more operating room and improved efficiencies. That weekend, a massive downpour in Boston overwhelmed the city and flooded the facility.
As Whitmore explains, the plant had an average of eight inches of water, requiring partial teardowns of freshly painted walls as well as scrub downs throughout the facility. Luckily, most of the finished product was still being stored upstairs, which gave Taza a small window for recovery.
Despite the loss – the company didn’t have flood insurance because the building was not in a flood plain –Taza was back and running in less than 10 days. Coverage by the local media prompted retailers who sold Taza Chocolate to organize a “Save the Chocolate Factory” drive, which promised that a portion of sales from Taza’s product line would be donated to the recovery effort.
Consumers also could purchase Taza Bucks on the company’s Web site, which generated much needed cash to use at the company’s store for future chocolate purchases. Mike Schechter, production manager at Taza Chocolate, said he was amazed by the genuine community concern for the business. It’s extremely difficult to generate such loyalty through even the best marketing campaigns.
Given the limited resources that small and midsized companies have to work with, it’s tremendously important to generate positive publicity on one’s home turf.
Taza Chocolate not only has great chocolate, it also has a fascinating startup story, one that nearly all American consumers can identify with. They’ve also done an excellent job working with local retailers and other small businesses to establish relationships, all the time nurturing a positive image with consumers through the media and local events.
In late January I covered the International Sweets and Biscuits Fair and I can assure you that there are plenty of competitors out there, both foreign and domestic.
There’s no room for complacency. Consequently, confectioners need to recognize the importance of being a good corporate citizen – and then work hard to tell the world about it.
Confections continue to have a “feel good” aura about them, despite the ongoing concerns about diet and health. Magnify the power of that aura by showing that the company producing those treats is also an entity consumers can feel good about.
As Taza itself experienced, the payback goes beyond what you can imagine.