Avante-garde Yorkshire chocolatier whose business is booming thanks to vegan demand

A chocolate business owner who has doubled her orders as a result of the coronavirus pandemic says avante-garde veganism chocolate tempering is key to her Yorkshire small business spike during lockdown and once measures are lifted.

Business woman Lily Gaskell, owner of Truffle Pig Chocolates, has seen a 50 per cent rise in the number of online orders in comparison with the same period last year, as a result of the crisis and the veganism boom in recent years.

The self-taught chocolatier, who is one of those pushing the boundaries to keep carving out a crafty career during the outbreak, said although Easter is usually the company's busiest time of year, online sales were at a record high with more than 150 online orders a week.

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Truffles Pig's cream eggs have proven to be a year-on-year best seller while peanut and salted caramel flavour chocolate creations are also popular.

Business woman Lily Gaskell, owner of Truffle Pig Chocolates in Sheffield, pictured holding her vegan chocolate egg creations. Photo credit: Simon Hulme.

"The demand at the moment is huge," she said. "We have been a lot busier than usual."

"I know it's only chocolate but people are posting online about being so happy just to get a little treat in the post.

"A lot of people are sending it as a present to those who are self isolating at the moment."

"It's amazing how something as small as receiving some chocolate can really make their day."

Lily Gaskell (left) runs her company from her house in Sheffield with her partner Ian Everett. Photo credit: Simon Hulme

Most large scale companies use a machine for tempering - the process of heating and cooling chocolate.

However Miss Gaskell, who runs her company from her house in Sheffield with her partner Ian Everett, tempers by hand using a marble slab and a paint scraper.

The 27-year-old said despite a wholesale decrease by 30 per cent, online customer demand for certain items including her cream eggs, was outstripping supply.

"We start selling our cream eggs in February so there is a long Easter period," she said.

"They are the most popular item and they are going straight away.

"We can't keep up with it - they are selling out in under five minutes.

"It gives people a little bit of comfort and happiness - that's why we've put a lot of pressure on ourselves to continue.

"If I could do all the orders put in it would be a further double or triple on sales as well."

Truffle Pig Chocolates has had to change the way it packages its chocolate during the coronavirus, including heat sealing all truffles in a biodegradable plastic bag to ensure no airborne contact is made.

"We are packaging more carefully," she said. "And I never physically touch the chocolate."

Miss Gaskell started Truffle Pig Chocolates at Christmas four years ago having been vegetarian since she was eight and vegan for the last five years.

The former UK prison music teacher said she saw a gap in the market for a company with veganism at its centre.

"I love making presents for my family and decided to try making chocolate truffles," she said.

"After experimenting I decided I might be on to something and there was definitely a lack of good normal vegan chocolate".

A record 400,000 people worldwide signed up to the Veganuary movement this year.

While according to the Vegan Society, the number of vegans in Great Britain quadrupled between 2014 and 2019 to 600,000.

Currently about half the population are either not eating meat or actively reducing it, according to market researchers Mintel.

Miss Gaskell said her company has benefited due to the significant rise and popularity in veganism in recent years which has seen many retailers rush to join the trend.

"I've been really lucky to ride this wave and the business has grown massively," she said.

"There is an increasing demand for vegan chocolate at Easter and people want to look further than supermarket eggs to have something special.

"What I've found is vegans are loyal to vegan businesses.

"In times like this we have a really loyal customer base that have stick by us, so I am very lucky."

She said she was confident Yorkshire small businesses could enjoy a “boom” during lockdown and after measures are lifted if they are prepared to move to a "online" and "collaboration" focus.

"If you can get online it's the perfect opportunity to get online and start selling from home," she said.

"Strip the business back to the essentials and also look for opportunities to collaborate with other businesses."