After switching to a dairy-free diet and struggling to find any free from chocolate on the market that satisfied her sugar cravings, Rachel Widger decided to take matters into her own hands.
Residing in the outskirts of St Fergus, Aberdeenshire, the single mum of one launched The Green Cocoa Team, which offers handmade dark chocolate truffles and creams that are both dairy-free and vegan-friendly, in spring this year.
The 35-year-old, who has spent a lot of her working life being self-employed, operates the business from a converted caravan outside her home.
Rachel’s love of baking and being creative stems from her mother, Rosalind, who she describes as “an amazing cook” that had her own bakery business and once sold from a market stall, something that Rachel now does regularly.
As well as being inspired by her mum, the business owner’s interest in baking was developed further after realising her health benefitted greatly from following a dairy and wheat-free diet.
This resulted in her being more creative with recipes and ingredients.
“My whole family absolutely love chocolate and have a bit of a sweet tooth,” she explained.
“Over the past few years, several of us have turned to being dairy-free so making our own free from chocolate seemed like an obvious solution as we weren’t keen on the current range available. I never had any intentions of selling it at that point.”
Rachel was a freelance retail auditor, so all her work stopped immediately with the first lockdown. After realising her line of work was not going to “bounce back quickly” she looked for new ways of generating income.
She added: “That’s when I had the thought ‘if I’m making dairy-free treats because I can’t find ones that I like in the shops, then other people must be looking for something truly delicious, too’.
“The idea of turning our homemade treats into a business was so exciting.
“Working from my own kitchen was never really an option due to it being very small, so my budget-friendly solution was to buy a caravan. My dad, Chris, converted it for me into a chocolate making kitchen.
“One year after my initial idea, Peterhead Producers Market in June was my first event. The website went live shortly after.”
10 indulgent flavours
Dark Belgian chocolate, which is naturally dairy and gluten-free, is used to make The Green Cocoa Team’s range of indulgent treats.
This is sourced from a UK-based company that specialises in sourcing quality chocolate and baking ingredients, known as Henley Bridge.
Her range comprises 10 different flavours of truffle, however, Rachel adds new flavours on a monthly basis.
She said: “We are adding new flavours every month along with chocolate-coated fruit and nuts and a selection of bars. I also have a gift range that includes a variety of hand-decorated truffles, as well as hampers.
“I am not a bean to bar chocolatier but I do hand make everything using luxury Belgian chocolate couverture. I like using old fashioned recipes and playing around with ingredients to turn them into free from treats.
“By making fresh truffles it gives them a super creamy and smooth texture that you can’t get from truffles with a long shelf life.”
The chocolatier sells her range at Peterhead Producers’ Market, which takes place the first Saturday of every month, and the new Bridge of Don Market, which runs on the third Saturday of every month. She takes around 300 truffles to every market.
Rachel also takes orders via her Facebook and Instagram pages and the website.
Besides making great-tasting treats, the main aim of The Green Cocoa Team is to be as environmentally friendly as possible.
Rachel has solar panels at her property that help power the cocoa kitchen, ensures all of the brand’s packaging is 100% bio-degradable and buys ingredients from reputable and ethical suppliers.
Although still in its infancy, Rachel says she has a list of ideas to help the business grow.
“The Green Cocoa Team only uses biodegradable and compostable packaging,” said Rachel. “Being as environmentally friendly as possible is really important to me.
“I love that I get to be creative every day and really enjoy working with chocolate, even though it can be a little stressful at times as it needs the correct temperature and humidity range to set correctly.
“My family and friends have also enjoyed being taste testers, as well. Even though I plan and make everything, The Green Cocoa Team really is a family business where everyone gets involved.
“While it’s still in its early days, I have so many ideas but I can’t make them fast enough!”