LOS ANGELES — Chris Young, co-founder and CEO of a startup chocolate company, recently noted a lack of leadership diversity behind established and even emerging brands in this category. Mr. Young recounted in a LinkedIn post that he and his co-founders “felt we needed to hide our Asian heritage for the industry to take us seriously”.
He described the “uphill battle” the founding team has faced over the past four years since launching Pocket Latte, a brand of coffee-filled chocolate boxes, noting that “at candy fairs, we’ve often received questions like ‘Where do you import this from’ or ‘Which one?'” Part of China “that’s who.”
“Today, that’s all changing,” he added, revealing an upcoming launch of the chocolate-covered almond featuring Asian-inspired flavors, including black sesame, matcha, Vietnamese coffee, and yuzu mango. Mr. Young said the expansion marked the “biggest and boldest move ever” for the brand with products that “proudly represent our upbringing and culture”.
“For the first time ever, we will announce that we are Asian-American,” he said. food pioneer. “We’ve never mentioned the word ‘Asian’ in our packaging, marketing, or products, but we haven’t been able to hide our ethnicity at a trade fair or industry event. Now, we’re done hiding, and we’ll always be proud.”
The new Choco Nuts line of Pocket Latte will be available to order online at pocketlatte.com. In addition, Mr. Young said he hopes to partner with a major retailer on an exclusive launch “to lead by example” and pave the way for increased representation of minority-owned brands. The brand’s basic line of coffee and chocolate boxes is available in more than 7,500 stores across the country.
“Chocolate almonds are very American,” said Mr. Young. “It is an aspect of chocolate where consumers are more open to being innovative, trying something new that they might not otherwise try in a regular chocolate bar. We thought it was a good way for consumers to warm up to flavors they might not have heard before.”
He explained that the company is making its own products and developing a line of coated almonds within a few weeks. Mr. Young said he hopes the new product line will inspire a movement among founders and other underrepresented leaders in the food industry.
“I was born and raised in America,” he said, “but I go to trade shows and this perennial stereotype of aliens is abundant.” “If I’ve always been foreign, I want to make Asian-inspired things more American because I can’t make myself more American. That’s kind of our thought process. If they were going to put us in that box, we’d make that box accessible to any American.”