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What do you do when your local celebrity author is also a chocoholic? Vermont’s Lake Champlain Chocolates jumped at the chance to honor Chris Bohjalian with a limited-edition chocolate bar.
Green Mountain state native Allyson Haynes Myers ’93, the company’s director of marketing and customer experience, helped bring the bar into being for the bestselling writer’s latest novel — a historical thriller set in Hollywood and the Serengeti.
Selling from the Heart
Growing up, I was the band kid who sold chocolate bars for field trips and the Girl Scout who sold a lot of cookies. So I guess I’ve been selling sweets since I was 6 years old!
Chris is a chocolate freak — and especially likes dark chocolate. When his publisher, Doubleday, approached us about a partnership, it was appealing because while we have products that change holiday to holiday, we don’t create a lot of brand-new formulations specific to a campaign. From research, we know that our customers are big readers, so we thought it would be exciting for them, and might bring in new customers.
Taste of Place
Kate Brown [innovation and product development manager] and I discussed the book’s themes and homed in on a sense of place. Starting with extra dark chocolate, she used coconut to make a toffee, which is always a crowd pleaser, and added a berbere spice blend, which is customary in African stews. A number of the book’s female characters are fiery, and there is also some literal fire and smoke, which connected with the warming nature of the spices.
We are a Certified B Corp, and our motto is “‘B’ the change” we seek. Chris said he’d like to do something where we could collectively give back. So we sourced fair-trade cocoa from a farmer’s co-op in East Africa, where the book is set, and set up a special fund for women in the region, which resonates with the themes of female empowerment in the book.
Launching the product in May — outside of Christmas and Valentine’s Day — let us give the campaign special attention. We created packaging with artwork from the book, and Chris came on launch day and made chocolate bars with us. Some of the retailers we work with hosted him for book-signing events. One of his fans drove to Vermont all the way from New Jersey.
After I was accepted to Bentley, I got a scholarship, which was unexpected and made a big impression on me. Now, being fortunate enough to work at an organization that is all about giving back, I give back to Bentley as well. I hope my donation gives others those same feelings of delight, and sets them up for success.