Smart50 Awards 2016

23 Noosa Chocolate Factory

Revenue

$4.4 million

Growth

136.1%

Founders

Chris Thomson, 30, Amy Sargeantson, 29, Gordon Thomson, 65, Pam Thomson, 57

Head office

Noosaville, Queensland

Year founded

2012

Employees

11

Industry

Manufacturing, transport and logistics

Website

www.noosachocolatefactory.com.au

Noosa chocolate factory_Sargeantson and ThomsonThe founders of Noosa Chocolate Factory eschewed the typical approach taken by confectionery retailers, choosing to offer “take home and share with the family” products rather than “over packaged” gifting products. This model has proven successful for the business, which landed in the top 10 of last year’s Smart50 despite being only three years old.

With strong family pedigree in the chocolate-making business, Chris Thomson founded the business four years ago with partner Amy Sargeantson and his parents Gordon and Pam Thomson.  

In 2015-16, the business turned over $4.4 million. Over the past three years, the business has grown its revenue by 136.1%.

Noosa Chocolate Factory aims to offer fresh, high-quality chocolate products for shoppers to buy for themselves and enjoy at home, from its chocolate-covered macadamias to its own Rocky Road recipe. All products are manufactured by the company from its own facilities.

Having found a niche in the already crowded chocolate market, the company regularly sells out of its products on a given day, despite manufacturing over six tonnes of chocolate every month.

“As a result our retail stores look quite empty after busy periods, such as Fridays after 2pm or Father’s day,” Thomson says.

“There were two options to solve this running out of stock – dramatically increase our retail prices to curb demand, or build a larger manufacturing facility.”

A larger 1800 square metre manufacturing facility will open in February 2017, which will allow the company to manufacture $20 million of product each year. Overseas demand has also prompted the Queensland company to open a store in Japan, with the potential for satellite factory to match.

An online hamper subscription will also be coming in late 2017, which rounds out the company’s immediate plans for expansion.

“Our goal is to successfully manage the growth of the company from $5 million to $20 million turnover without losing focus on our brand objectives and target customers,” Thomson says.

This focus on the Noosa Chocolate Factory’s brand appears to be holding the company in good stead, as competitive supermarket chocolate pricing is creating an increasingly difficult environment for other manufacturers.

“[The supermarket’s] margins are still extremely low. I cannot see supermarket chocolate at $4-10kg retail being sustainable,” Thomson says.

Internally, the chocolate-loving founders often turn to their staff for new ideas and use social media tools to help the business continue to innovate. Recently, one staff member suggested the company install live cameras in their warehouse so customers could see the products being created.

“Our management, factory staff and retail staff have a Facebook group and together we come up with pretty cool ideas on there. It’s a really easy way to collaborate and show off with clever suggestions,” Thomson says.

Finally, Thomson and his co-founders have some simple advice for fellow business owners.

“Don’t procrastinate, achieve your objectives as fast as possible,” they say.

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