Video game maker tries his hand at chocolate
Quebec chocolate maker aims to expand regionally famous brand
Is Dominique Brown the world’s coolest dad? His kids must certainly think so.
Recently retired from Beenox, a video game-making company he founded in 2000 at age 21 and later sold to multinational video-game giant Activision for mega bucks, the Quebec City entrepreneur is now busy developing a unique chocolate business he bought last year. And like his video-game company, which churned out such world-class hits as Spiderman and Prince of Persia, he is intent on turning Chocolats Favoris into a global sensation. “I want to make it a brand that goes across borders,” says Brown. “The potential is huge.”
Founded in Levis in 1977 as a small family owned business that produced high-end chocolate products for Easter, Chocolats Favoris became regionally famous for the dark liquid chocolate it made to dip cones at the three ice cream counters it owned in the Quebec City region.
A lifelong lover of the company’s dipped cones, Brown decided to buy the business last May after learning it was up for sale. “I was looking for a company with an established brand that I thought I could develop,” he recalls.
During his subsequent research into chocolate, Brown said it dawned on him that most companies make it in solid form – but that liquid chocolate is what fires people’s imaginations. “Liquid chocolate is so expressive,” said Brown. “People’s eyes pop out of their heads when they see big vats of liquid chocolate.” He also decided to focus on the fondue market, which he says features mostly low-quality brands of hard chocolate that require “very complex, annoying and troublesome” preparation processes.
In an effort to exploit what he calls Chocolats Favoris’ “unique edge,” Brown asked the company’s chocolate makers to develop a new range of flavours. The result was a dozen varieties, from classic dark and white chocolate to an orange flavour and a sparkling variety that crackles on the tongue like kids’ candy. “They are very cool,” says Brown, who sometimes got his three young children – nine-year-old twins and a six-year-old – to taste-test recipes.
Brown then spent several hundred thousands of dollars on a new manufacturing facility and retail outlet that opened in Quebec City in late April. The new location features stylish counters for selling hard chocolates and ice cream products, including dipped cones. Notably, the location also features brew pub-like pipes that are designed to carry, in full view of customers, liquid chocolate from vats to valves that dispense the 12 varieties of liquid chocolate. The chocolate is then poured into two choices of tin cans (a four-serving size and an individual size) that are then sealed on the spot for customers.
“The chocolate stays liquid in the can for a few hours,” explains Brown. “If you want to have it later, you don’t need to store it in the refrigerator. And when you want to have it all you have to do is put the can in hot water for 20 minutes and violà, you’ve got the best-quality fondue ever, whether you’re at home or on a camping trip.”
For now, Brown says he’s focusing on putting the same design in the company’s three other sites in Quebec City. Once that’s done, he plans to expand to other locations in the province and beyond. “I want to open and operate a chain of these stores,” he says. “I see them across Canada and eventually around the world.”