Industry: Food & Beverage
Products: Artisan chocolate
Elisia Otavi's heart-healthy chocolate company enjoys sweet success working with suppliers near and far.
Named after Otavi's two sons, Raphael and Rio, Raphio Chocolate was inspired by the desire to provide the best for her children in all things in life -- including treats. "Sweets and chocolate are such a big part of childhood," Otavi explains. "But rather than giving them sugary sweets, I strive to give them healthy treats."
When she was introduced to craft chocolate by her husband, Yohanes, who was attempting to import cacao beans from his birth country of Indonesia at the time, she discovered how simple the ingredients involved could be. "Chocolate can be made from three pure ingredients," continues Otavi, citing cacao, oil, and sweetener as essential. "It was a no-brainer to make it my mission to make and sell the same chocolate that I feed to my own children."
Today, Otavi operates her chocolate shop out of a 1,000-square-foot manufacturing and retail space. Her signature products are her olive oil and dark chocolate bars, which combine ethically sourced cacao beans and organic olive oil to create a smooth, silky treat.
Why explore such an unusual combination? "Cacao is a superfood," Otavi says. "It contains a very high level of antioxidants as well as good minerals for your heart and brain. Extra virgin olive oil is also one of the superfoods. Combined, you have a perfect, heart-friendly indulgence."
While the company's bestsellers vary by season, Otavi's personal favorite is the Fresno Chili Olive Oil bar. "It's unique and yummy," she says. "Not hot and spicy, just pleasantly balanced flavors on the spectrum between peppery and caramel with a lingering mild heat at the back of the throat."
But the ingredients and flavors Otavi uses are not the only factors that set Raphio Chocolate apart in the craft chocolate market. Every product she produces -- from the aforementioned dark chocolate and olive oil bars to sugar-free white, 72 percent sugar-free dark, and single origin bars -- are handcrafted from high quality, responsibly traded cacao beans. The entire production process from sorting and roasting to molding and wrapping requires 14 steps and six weeks of hands-on labor.
Demand for Otavi's bean-to-bar chocolate continues to grow, and the company's revenues increased 31 percent last year. She anticipates 25 to 35 percent growth for Raphio in 2020.
"Our customers love our story and our commitment to high-quality products," Otavi says. "New customers are excited to find out that we collaborate with local companies to create delicious made-in-Central-Valley products." Local supply chain partners include Enzo Olive Oil, Kuppa Joy Coffee House, and Ficklin Vineyards.
Challenges: Otavi says the required time away from her family is a challenge. "I love what I do, and I understand that any new business needs time to grow," she explains, "but it's always hard to be away from the loved ones because I still have to do most of the production." Projecting future sales to anticipate workforce demand is also difficult.
Opportunities: Otavi would like to expand her facility in order to increase production to meet demand. She's also interested in developing additional sales channels. At present, Raphio Chocolate products can be found in the company's retail shop and at farmers markets, chocolate events, and wine events.
Needs: From more space to additional equipment, Otavi says additional funding would be helpful if Raphio Chocolate is to continue to grow. The company will need to expand its workforce in the future as well.