How a family holiday down under gave a Yorkshire mum the idea for a new healthy snack business
Charlotte Miller has a lot on her plate.
Not only is she mum to two young children and her husband Darran, an Advanced Clinical Practitioner, works on the frontline at Harrogate District Hospital, she has just launched a new business.
And what makes the new vegan snack business, Caroboo, even more challenging is the fact that neither she nor Darran have any experience or working in the food industry.
But what she lacks in experience she makes up for in passion and determination.
“I had been running my own wedding planning business and loved what I was doing. But I really wanted something that I could build into having a team and not just me,” she explains.
But it was while the couple were on holiday in Australia with their young daughter Adelaide that they got the idea for Caroboo.
“We were visiting my brother. Adelaide was one and we were looking around for business ideas while we were there,” recalls Charlotte from Skipton.
“We were in Sydney and sheltering from the rain in a health food shop and I picked up a product to keep Adelaide quiet and it turned out to be a carob bar. I was so intrigued by it as I’d never come across it before.
“I did some research and couldn’t believe what a fantastic product it is. It is naturally sweet and so you don’t need to add as much sugar to the end product as you would in a normal chocolate bar – it also has lots of health benefits.”
When the family returned to the UK, Charlotte continued her research and found there was a gap in the market for a chocolate bar made out of carob.
“I set about making trial samples in my kitchen at home, but my first attempts were pretty horrendous. In my naivety I thought I could just mix two things together in a bowl and it would come out fine. I was wrong.”
She once again launched into research and after buying some equipment used by chocolatiers to make small batches of chocolate she started again. This time the results were far better.
She initially used dairy milk but then switched to creamed coconut as it went better with the carob’s base flavour and gave a silky chocolate-like texture to her bars.
“I never set out to make a vegan product, but I was making a few changes to my diet and it just worked better and now I am so pleased I did as there is even more demand for a product like ours.
“I tested it on family and friends and it went down very well. I was also determined that the product would be as environmentally friendly as possible and so I spent a long time researching home compostable packaging which really makes us different from anything else similar out there.
But then the business stalled.
“I had a product that I was happy with but with no experience in the food industry I didn’t know what to do next. People kept telling me if I took my product to a manufacturer they might steal my idea and so I was scared to move forward. I even considered giving the whole thing up. I was very naive.”
Then fate stepped in.
“Darran had a patient who just happened to be a food consultant and they got talking. He asked if I’d phone him as he thought he might be able to help.
“He was fantastic and really helped me move forward and gave me the confidence that I had something that was worth pursuing.”
In the midst of all this she also had a second child, George, who is now two. “We found two manufacturers in the UK and had some really productive conversation with major retailers but then Covid happened.”
And so in the end the couple decided to go it alone and raise enough funds to launch their guilt-free chocolatey snack themselves.
“We had a few issues with the original name and ended up having a day to change it and so we decided on Caroboo.”
They launched their snack bar this month to coincide with Veganuary. Caroboo comes in three flavours coconut, orange and mint although more flavours are planned in the future.
With the normal food fairs cancelled due to the pandemic Charlotte turned to social media to launch the product.
“We have a good following on social media and we created some interested before actually launching. Since we have launched he feedback has been great – and not just from people who are vegans.
“I wanted to make a healthy snack bar that everyone – even children could enjoy.”
Caroboo is a gluten, dairy and caffeine-free product
“We were so excited to finally launch Caroboo and share the results of three years’ hard work. It’s been quite the rollercoaster.
“We have something that’s special and something that we absolutely had to run with and that is exactly what we have done.”
The Millers are in discussion with health food shops to stock their product but eventually Charlotte would love to see it on supermarket shelves.
She is also looking to export markets.
“Although the pandemic has been challenging I do think people will be looking at their health more and at what they are putting in their bodies.”
Consumers can get their hands on the new product at eatcaroboo.co.uk, with national stockist details currently being finalised.
Caroboo is a range of gluten, dairy free and vegan bars that taste chocolatey but are not chocolate at all.
They are full of carob, creamed coconut and use either organic or sustainably sourced ingredients and all the bars .
The carob is a flowering evergreen tree native to the Mediterranean and Middle East which produces edible pods. The pod is ground to carob powder which is used as an alternative to cocoa powder. Carob pods are naturally sweet and contain no caffeine.
Caroboo comes in three flavours coconut, orange and mint all surrounded in fully home compostable packaging.
They contain 45 per cent less sugar than a normal chocolate bar and use no refined sugar. A taster pack of three 35 snack bars costs £4.99.
■ For more information visit eatcaroboo.co.uk
■ Facebook: facebook.com/CarobooUK