The secret’s in the sauce
Manitoulin Chocolate Works collaborates remotely with Toronto team
There’s a sense of charm and heritage when you visit Manitoulin Chocolate Works, a business delivering delicious handmade chocolates, confections, fresh roasted coffee and sweet, savory gourmet items from Ontario and the United Kingdom since 1998. The shop and manufacturing space resides in one of Kagawong’s original historic buildings on Manitoulin Island. Over 10 years, starting in 1995, Louise and Keith McKeen converted the 105 year-old building into a home for their artisan chocolate company.
Heather McKeen, Manager of Retail and Production, approached George Brown College’s Food Innovation and Resarch Studio (FIRSt) for help optimizing the manufacturing process of the company’s chocolate and caramel sauces. Heather’s goals for this project were to review the recipe and cooking methodology Manitoulin Chocolate was currently using to make sure any new methodologies didn’t negatively impact the product quality, provide food safety and equipment recommendations, and provide theoretical nutritional analysis.
“It was great to tour the test kitchen at George Brown,” says Heather. “It made the project feel personal and not so big and formal. Meeting the faculty and staff working on our product gave us the opportunity to emphasize what we were looking for and what the product meant to us.”
With almost 20 years of their own history on Manitoulin Island, it’s important to Heather and the rest of the company to continue to improve and create new treats for their clientele to enjoy. “A large part of why we pursued this project was because, as business owners, we have several jobs always on the go and [FIRSt] was like an extension to our team that didn’t need to be trained.”
Throughout the majority of the project FIRSt team members worked remotely from Toronto with Heather and the rest of Manitoulin Chocolate Works on formulation of the chocolate and caramel sauces. Senior Food Scientist Robert McCurdy was joined on this project by student researcher Alison Marczenko. Heather recalls the logistics of being so far apart geographically from the George Brown team didn’t interfere with the goal at hand, “Aside from answering questions on flavour and consistency […] they did not need much guidance in achieving the desired results in the end. [The] project was a series of samples sent to us in the mail for tasting, the more difficult recipe of the two being the salted caramel. Once [FIRSt achieved] the texture and consistency we wanted it felt like we had succeeded already.”
Family and community has always been a corner stone of Manitoulin Chocolate Works and Heather trusted FIRSt’s expertise and approach. “If you want to develop or improve current products and processes, but as a business owner aren’t sure where to start or if you have time, I would highly recommend working with FIRSt. They guided the whole process while ensuring we were getting exactly what we wanted.”