Macalat: A New Kind of Chocolate

Macalat: A New Kind of Chocolate

Macalat is a new Organic Sweet Dark Chocolate that is also sugar free, vegan, keto and diet friendly! Made from a mushroom mycelium extract that successfully eliminates bitterness and astringency, Macalat was recently named by dieticians as one of the healthiest chocolate choices; it was also given the distinction of being one of the top-ten sugar-free snack options in US News.

Lisa Ellis is the company’s President and Owner who has over thirty years of experience in the natural food industry. Lisa grew up in a communal setting surrounded by artists, musicians, culinarily masters and caretakers of the earth with natural gardening skills. These influences led Lisa to learn to cook with whole food ingredients while acknowledging the importance of organic foods and how everyone deserves access to food free of pesticides, GMO’s, antibiotics, hormones, etc. Lisa’s mother and step-father — who respected the Earth and its soil — were the ones who initially created Macalat Sweet Dark Chocolate. They formulated this dark chocolate that is sweet, sugarless, is 70% Cacao and dairy-free. Lisa’s own personal health and wellness journey resulted in her coming to the helm of the brand which she has since grown from Durham, North Carolina.

Lisa recently discussed Macalat via an exclusive interview.

Meagan Meehan (MM): You grew up in a very health-conscious family, so how much did your childhood prepare you for a career in the natural foods market?

Lisa Ellis (LE): Actually, I was raised by my father, in a southern Baptist household, with a lot of country cooking. My step-mother was anything but a health-conscious cook, and not a very good cook overall. I spent a lot of time with my grandmothers who both were avid gardeners and always had fresh vegetables, herbs and flowers growing throughout the year. Every summer we would pick and shell peas, snap beans, shuck corn and cut it off the cobb, pick and can tomatoes, freeze strawberries, squash and more. They had compost-bins where every scrap from the kitchen went back into the soil to feed the garden the following year. I didn’t know then that I was witnessing organic farming and healthy soil practices. I just thought my grandmothers were really talented because they could grow nice things.

I started spending time with my mother and step-father as a teenager. They owned the first health food restaurant that served vegetarian food, in a barbeque town, in the late 1980’s. I worked with them after school and on weekends and learned how to wash the local produce, prep food for restaurant service, cook meals, serve customers, clean up the front and back of the house, rinse and repeat the next day. SO much work goes in to feeding people healthy, quality meals. After ten years in the restaurant business John started the Wizards Cauldron, the first organic manufacturing facility in the US. I watched John and Carol grow a small business with a handful of customers in a 2500 sq ft facility to a fully automated 100,000 sq ft production facility making hundreds of SKUs. I traveled to Europe and Asia with them to source ingredients for the organic sauces that they produced. I was able to see how and where the ingredients were made and meet the families that made many of these small batch artisan products (miso, Roquefort blue cheese, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, feta, etc).

I went with John and Carol to many natural foods trade shows over the years to help them show the products of their customers. I watched how they worked as a community in the Natural foods ecosystem and ultimately were a driving force in getting the Organic certification approved to have a “seal of quality” to discern the difference between conventional foods and organic. John has always been cutting edge and way ahead of his time with innovation. At the age of 25 I sat on the Wizards Cauldron, Board of Directors, and watched the inner workings of some of the top Brand owners in the country (Steve McDonnell of Applegate Farms, Paul Nardone of Nantucket Naturals, Brett Smith of Counter Culture Coffee, Lex Alexander of Wellspring Grocery). What an amazing group of business owners in the natural foods arena to watch mentoring John as he prepared the Wizards Cauldron for the growth it experienced in the 20 years of operations. So, all of these things, and more, are what got me interested in and educated about the natural foods market.

MM: Your step-father came up with the recipe for this chocolate, so how long did it take him to perfect it and when did he first share it with you?

LE: John took on the project of creating a chocolate recipe for his son, who wanted to get into the CBD world with a chocolate product. Ultimately, that project didn’t get off the ground, but John and Carol enjoyed the process of making new products so they continued on with Macalat. They made it by hand, in their guest cottage turned chocolate factory, for 8 years. I tasted a lot of chocolate through those years as John tweaked the recipe and ingredients. We performed blind tastings with kids and adults to get feedback over and over. Macalat was always good, but it was really the mushroom mycelium that helped put the finishing touch to perfecting the flavor profile. Sweet without sugar, 70% without being bitter. Once this final ingredient was added, I knew Macalat was a “home-run” for the consumer. I was all in.

MM: How did you take control of the chocolate and how did you turn it into a brand?

LE: I wish I could take credit for the branding strategy, but again, that is all John. He has been coaching me for 20+ years on the 22 immutable laws of Branding by Jack Trout and Al Ries. The laws are exact and if followed correctly lead to a successful brand adoption and exit strategy for business owners. Macalat was created to fit a niche in the chocolate market that doesn’t currently exist. Organic Sweet Dark Chocolate. “Hit ’em where they ain’t”, “Differentiate or die”. These are some of the laws that Macalat follows. I wanted to help with the Macalat brand building for several years before I purchased it from my parents. But, when your production facility is only two people working part time on a passion project, you can’t exactly scale sales. They didn’t want to work any harder and had really done their part to incubate the brand for the 8 years and build their consumer franchise.

MM: How did you go about getting this candy mass produced and how have you gotten it into stores?

LE: When I decided, I was really going to do this thing, there was a lot of legwork done to find a co-manufacturer that would take on a small emerging brand. Most companies only want to make large runs of 10,000 to 100,000 bars, so we heard a lot of No’s. We were fortunate to meet Doug Cale, owner of Birmingham Chocolate in Ferndale, Michigan. He was just a few years into being a manufacturer and he saw something in the Brand that he decided to take us on. Who knew so much went in to scaling from the kitchen to the production facility?! New wrappers, equipment, boxes, supplies, etc. Everything had to be adapted to the equipment used at Birmingham. The only thing that didn’t change was the sweet dark chocolate recipe.

MM: What has been the hardest thing about managing a startup company?

LE: Honestly, everything! Carving out the time from my full- time career, finding the hundreds of thousands of dollars to invest into the infrastructure and product re-development for scale, learning to run online sales channels, figuring out the metrics and margins of what everyone wants from all different outlets (wholesale, distribution, retailers), understanding the cost and value of trade shows, demos, PR, and more. SO much to learn and take in!

MM: This chocolate has a very unique taste, how much healthier is it than standard dark chocolate?

LE: Macalat is the first organic sweet dark chocolate that is honestly sugar free. The flavor profile is unique for several reasons. First, because it doesn’t have the bitter finish that most dark chocolate lovers have learned to like. Those are the superfoodies who already understand the benefits of 70+% cacao and have learned to like a lot of healthy foods that don’t have added sugars. Macalat was created to be the “go to dark chocolate” for the other 80% of chocolate lovers who choose milk chocolate with no nutritional value. These consumers now have a choice to enjoy a delicious sweet treat that is superfoods-based with actual health benefits. Second, Macalat is a coverture chocolate. That means it is made with more cacao butter than most other brands. It is quite expensive to make it this way, but that’s part of its unique flavor profile is the creamy, melty finish. Third, Macalat is made with a specific tempering process. Tempering is the process of getting the liquid chocolate to set up and harden to a certain consistency with all the proper crystals perfectly intact. Macalat uses a unique seeding process that instantly tempers a cauldron of chocolate with all 5 crystals. It won’t melt in your hands quickly like most chocolate and it also has a snap and freshness that you’d be hard pressed to find in most other chocolates. The process is more expensive and labor intensive, but it’s worth it to get that Macalat finish. Lastly, Macalat was created by a Wizard. Creating over 500 skus in his career for brands like, Organicvile, Whole Foods, Dr Atkins, Lighthouse, Kraft and more. Macalat has a special magic touch, not just the magic of the mushroom, but the magic of chocolate wizardry.

MM: What has been the best feedback that you’ve gotten about this chocolate?

LE: Macalat is creating a new category of chocolate. It is rare to see and hard to educate about through an emerging, single-sku brand. It takes a few conversations to get people to understand why Macalat tastes so sweet, for a dark chocolate. Some people expect the bitter and like it. For those who want to eat dark chocolate for the health benefits, but don’t because its bitter, Macalat is revolutionary. The best feedback is when the consumer “gets it” and understands the innovation of sweet without sugar and filled with nutrient dense superfoods. They become part of the consumer franchise of Macalat lovers. We have customers who have spent $5000+ dollars buying Macalat over the past 10 years. This is why the brand’s battle cry is “Tasting IS Believing”!

MM: How do you hope that the Macalat brand evolves over the next five years? Essentially, how would you like to add to the line?

LE: I would like to see Macalat gain brand awareness so consumers know there is a new go-to option for getting in the health benefits of cacao and having their daily sweet treat. Nobody wants to feel deprived in their diet. Also, for mothers who want to give their kids a sweet treat but they don’t want to get them hooked on sugar at a young age, Macalat is the perfect solution. Diabetics who struggle to stay out of the pantry at night can have their 2 squares without spiking their insulin levels. Macalat is so useful as a daily staple for anyone who wants to eliminate sugar and create a healthier life. Sugar is the #1 cause of inflammation in the body. Inflammation leads to most every disease that attacks the body including diabetes, heart disease, cancer, obesity and more. Within five years, I would love to see Macalat become synonymous with Organic Sweet Dark Chocolate and be nationally available to help people get the sugar out of their diets!

MM: What are your ultimate goals for the future and is there anything else that you would like to mention?

LE: Macalat was created as an orphan SKU. Macalat is the consumable, like a Butterfinger or Snickers. It was not created to line extend with different flavors and inclusions. My goal in taking Macalat to market is to create a new category in chocolate and to hand off the brand to a large portfolio of brands who don’t have an Organic Sweet Dark Chocolate that is honestly sugar free in their line of offerings. This way it can reach a national and global scale to be available to millions more consumers who struggle to get sugar out of their diet while maintaining some joy and pleasure in their food. We are looking for a strategic partner in the Organic consumer packaged goods industry who understands the branding strategy and wants to participate in getting this much-better-for-you product to more national natural foods stores and accelerate the growth of the consumer franchise online. People need to know about this product and try for themselves. Tasting IS Believing!

* * * * *

See the full article here.
Back to blog