Meet the chocolate maker in Leeds looking to make the industry more sustainable

The chocolate industry still has a long way to go when it comes to ethics and sustainability, a young chocolate maker has warned.

Frank Laws set up Frankly Delicious in 2017 while he was still at university.

Frank Laws set up Frankly Delicious in 2017 while he was still at university. He started off making pastries before becoming a chocolatier.

However, at the start of 2020, Mr Laws pivoted towards becoming a chocolate maker after watching a documentary about the cocoa supply chain.

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The 27-year-old saw that child labour, poor financial returns for farmers and unsustainable farming methods were still an issue.

Frank Laws pivoted towards becoming a chocolate maker after watching a documentary about the cocoa supply chain.

It was at that point that Mr Laws realised that he could either wait for the industry to change or look to make a difference himself.

“I transitioned from a chocolatier, which is basically a pastry chef, into a chocolate maker,” he says.

The difference between a chocolatier and chocolate maker is that he now takes cocoa and turns that into chocolate.

He said: “Bean to bar chocolate is what we do. We know where our cocoa comes from and we turn it into chocolate.

“It’s taking raw materials and turning it into chocolate rather than taking chocolate chips or chocolate drops and turning them into chocolate bars.”

The industry needs to go beyond the Fair Trade mark, Mr Laws says, “which is fine but not amazing”.

“I pay above the Fair Trade price because the Fair Trade price doesn’t really cover living costs depending on the regions,” he added.

Mr Laws says the industry needs to pay more for cocoa than just the Fair Trade price.

“Fair Trade is fine and it is needed but it needs to be better,” he said. “A lot of people do trust it and I don’t want to discredit it. I want to improve it.”

When it comes to sustainable sourcing of chocolate, people are more likely to be receptive to the idea.

Mr Laws said: “People are not aware of it enough but people are now ready to hear about it.

“Other industries have paved the way. I liken it to the craft coffee industry and craft distilleries. Where you are paying £8 for a bag of coffee or £6 for a pint because it’s made in the right way and sourced from the right places.

“More so with coffee. People are now kind of aware of it and there’s a want for it. Whereas ten years ago if you said I’m paying £10 for a bag of coffee, that wouldn’t happen.

“Chocolate I would say is five years behind that because chocolate is such a popular thing. You can buy a bar of Dairy Milk for £1. It needs to be rethought as more quality over quantity.”

It’s not just about sustainability but also taste. Mr Laws points to the fact that dark chocolate, he produces two varieties, has different flavour notes.

He said: “I make two dark chocolates. A Madagascar dark chocolate and an Indian dark chocolate. They taste completely different. They’re both dark but they have different flavour notes like wine and coffee.

“It’s telling people and educating people about how amazing chocolate can be.”

The young entrepreneur is currently making chocolates out of his flat in Leeds. He is hoping to put money back into the business to enable Frankly Delicious to move into a small unit.

“The big goal for me and the business is to really change the cocoa supply chain,” Mr Laws says. “That means making sure people are aware of the issues, which then means that Frankly Delicious has to be a big business so that we are buying enough cocoa to really make an impact.”

However, he concedes that it will need the big chocolate producers to change their approach for there to be a real positive impact when it comes to sustainability in the industry.

From music to baking

Frank Laws is originally from Suffolk and moved to Yorkshire to study classical composition at Leeds College of Music in 2014. He started baking as a contractor baker for his university.

“I was baking brownies, blondies, things like that, which they sold in the cafe,” Mr Laws says.

His interest in baking and chocolate making comes from an early age.

He said: “I remember baking fairy cupcakes with my grandma, when I was four or five.

“That’s what got it started. I’ve always had an interest in baking. That’s what I did when I was a teenager.”

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James Mitchinson