Chocolate Purveyors 25- Tim McCollum
Chocolate Purveyors is a blog series where we connect and discuss everything chocolate with both makers and enthusiasts. This discussion is with Tim McCollum, Founder/CEO of Beyond Good Chocolate.
Beyond Good is a Brooklyn-based chocolate and vanilla company established in 2006 by two Peace Corps volunteers who served in Madagascar. The company sells a range of single-origin chocolate bars and vanilla products, sourced from Madagascar, and Uganda. All of the cocoa is certified direct trade and is sourced directly from Madagascar and Ugandan cocoa farmers.
Do you remember your first experience with chocolate? What was it?
I remember my first experience with real chocolate. That was in a chocolate tasting class about 12 years ago. It blew my mind. And I’ve never thought about chocolate in the same way since.
How have you cut down the cacao supply chain, benefiting farmers?
A typical chocolate supply chain has 5-6 layers of middlemen sitting between a farmer and the factory processing the farmer’s cocoa. Our supply chain has zero middlemen sitting between the farmer and the factory. This enables us to direct a much higher price to the farmer, and invest into their operations, in a way that can be life changing for a farmer.
For someone trying Beyond Good for the first time, what chocolate bar would you give them to try?
70% Pure Dark – Madagascar. For many people experiencing craft chocolate for the first time, it’s tastes like their first bite of real chocolate.
What are some challenges and benefits of making chocolate in Madagascar?
The challenges include: lack of infrastructure, currency risk, political risk, no culture of food manufacturing, etc. The benefits include: we get to do what we were put on this planet to do. We get to build a chocolate supply chain fit for the moment, and see the impact that has on the ground in Madagascar, and the impact the product quality has with customers in the U.S.
You rebranded to Beyond Good, where did this name originate?
We wanted a name that could be a platform for us to articulate what we know, and how we feel, about the chocolate industry. Being good isn’t good enough. Both in terms of flavor and in terms of sustainability.
What was the motivation to expand in sourcing Ugandan cacao?
It’s going to sound like a lot coming from a small company, but we literally think we’ve stumbled on the ideal business model for the chocolate industry. The real test of that is whether or not we can replicate it.
How has Beyond Good improved the agroforestry in Madagascar?
First thing is that cocoa grows on trees. And those trees require a shade canopy above them to thrive. So a cocoa forest, from a distance, looks a bit like a tropical rainforest. By most estimates, poverty in Madagascar has slowly destroyed 90% of its original rainforest. And, 85% of the plants and animals there are endemic.
That’s a terrible combination. About 3-4 years ago we started to realize that we could use cocoa agroforestry as a sanctuary for endangered lemurs in Madagascar. Also chameleons, birds, other reptiles. Through our work with the Bristol Zoo we’ve identified 14 species of mammals living, safely, in cocoa forests.
What chocolate are you eating from other makers these days?
Solstice. 70%. Uganda. They do a great job with this origin.
What does it mean to have made one million bars in your Madagascar factory?
It’s a nice round number for us. We’re trying to double that number each year over the next 3 years. It means we have a supply chain we’re proud of, free of relative poverty. That’s a bit of a paradigm shift.
How can we all help promote craft chocolate?
Buy craft chocolate.
What is the inspiration behind the packaging designs?
We wanted to be true to origin, but also not overly serious. We learned early on that more people than we thought had a brand association with lemurs and Madagascar. So we wanted to use the lemur to help communicate the backstory in a fun way. Then we gave him a name (Lenny) and a personality (he’s a bit of a harmless rascal). We knew we wanted to play on this more when we went into Uganda. So we chose a Giraffe. And gave her a name (Genny) and a personality (she has much more poise than Lenny).
What does the future hold for Beyond Good?
Well, we have a lot of unfinished work in Madagascar. And we have more unfinished work in Uganda than we have in Madagascar. And, one day, we’re going to have 4-5 animals on front of our packaging.
We want to thank Tim for taking the time to answer our questions and the Beyond Good team for organizing it. We hope you learned more about Tim and Beyond Good.
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