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INNOVATIONS Specially engraved chocolate says it all

December 23, 2018

Michael Sauvageau was tired of his corporate job and looking to start a business when he attended an events industry expo in New York City. While there, he noticed every vendor was enticing people to their booth with free chocolates.

A few days earlier, a friend had talked to him about lasers.

These two concepts quickly merged in Sauvageau’s mind and he contemplated starting a company that would use a laser to engrave messages and images on high-quality chocolates.

He got home and mentioned the idea to his wife, Jennifer. “That sounds sort of crazy. Let’s do it,” she said.

They began working on the idea a few months later at the Danbury Hackerspace for entrepreneurs. “We didn’t know anything about chocolates or lasers when we started,” Michael said.

That was in early 2016, and today the couple is expanding the product line at Noteworthy Chocolates, having moved the business to a second-floor location in downtown Bethel, their hometown.

“People love it when they see their name or their company’s name in chocolate,” he said.

They raised $28,500 in a Kickstarter campaign to help them formally launch the company two years ago. Their original research showed no one else was producing engraved chocolates, perhaps because it was so hard to do correctly. “No one had ever thought of doing it as a business before,” he said.

The key is making the personalized text and graphics easy to see without ruining the chocolate. They’ve gone through a learning process on what works best on chocolate, including type fonts, and been aided at times by an outside graphic designer.

“Chocolate is temperamental,” he said. “If you do it wrong, you can burn the chocolate or not go deep enough so you can’t read the impression.”

They use a commercial-grade laser, with determining factors being the device’s power, speed and pulse. They now hold three patents on how to properly engrave on chocolate.

Most customers are local businesses, who use the personalized chocolates as gifts. Sauvageau attends many business events to network and meet potential customers.

They’ve engraved company logos, a steering wheel image for a car dealer, and house designs for real estate agents. New employees at one large company are greeted by a “Welcome ” chocolate with their name on it, made by Noteworthy.

They also produce chocolates for individuals to give as gifts and for special events, such as weddings, birthdays, anniversaries and family reunions. Engraved chocolates have been provided for five marriage proposals. “So far we’re 100%,” he said.

Noteworthy Chocolates come in a gift box with a bow, and include a paper copy of the engraved message in a wax-sealed envelope and an extra, non-engraved piece of chocolate. The packaging is recyclable and bio-degradable.

Jennifer Sauvageau said they want receiving the chocolate to be a unique experience so people will think, “It’s for me!”

While some people are so enamored they won’t eat the personalized chocolate, the Sauvageaus recommend doing so on a timely basis to savor its freshness. “People should take a picture and then let themselves enjoy it — it’s meant to be eaten,” she said.

Noteworthy uses Guittard Chocolate from California, shipped to Bethel in wafer form. The Guittard family has been making small-batch, French-style chocolate for five generations and it’s free-trade certified and free of peanuts, gluten, soy, GMOs and tree nuts.

The wafers are melted and put in molds before being engraved and packaged. Noteworthy offers three flavors — milk chocolate, white chocolate and golden dark chocolate — and five different shapes from 4 to 9 ounces.

When first starting out, before having custom molds made, they used sandwich container lids and mason jar lids to shape the chocolate.

They are looking to grow the business, offering new products such as a bottle of wine with personalized chocolates, and hope to encourage more individuals to give customized chocolates as gifts, with prices starting at $35. They may try to franchise Noteworthy Chocolates in other locations.

The Sauvageaus are the company’s only full-time employees. He is a 1988 Danbury High School graduate and Jennifer grew up in New York state. They are both 48 and have two children.

It’s not their first time in business together. He’s a juggler and toy inventor, and for a dozen years they ran a company that sold unique toys targeted toward adults, often traveling to festivals, fairs and concerts. Their best toy ideas eventually were copied by larger businesses, they said, so he took a corporate job before starting the new chocolate business.

They’ve managed to avoid gaining a lot of weight since then. “I eat a little every day,” she said of chocolate.

He confessed to gaining about five pounds of “chocolate weight” at the beginning, but said the thrill of eating chocolate wears off when you’re around it all day.

See noteworthychocolates.com or call 203-456-6894.

Brad Durrell is a freelance writer.

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