Name: Kate Hamilton and Jane Shandley
Company: iQ Chocolate
Location: Stirling, UK
iQ’s creators Kate Hamilton and Jane Shandley have gone from strength to strength, successfully launching a delicious yet healthy chocolate bar, which boasts over 20 validated health benefits. Their bars are stocked across the UK in key retailers, including Selfridges, Harvey Nichols, Real Foods and Whole Foods.
To think this dream only became a reality a year ago is an amazing achievement for the Scottish duo, who previously worked together as colleagues, before seeking a new challenge and opportunity.
They spent months scouring the globe, searching for the most flavourful, ethically produced, and nutritionally dense ingredients. After experimenting with a number of different ingredients and methods, they decided on a single origin, Peruvian bean. Maintaining a wonderful fruity taste, high in nutritional value and antioxidants, it was the perfect choice for their chocolate.
Their unique processing method has been developed to retain high levels of specific antioxidants, minerals and nutrients. The chocolate meets the criteria of being a raw food, as no heat is applied during the process, temperatures are kept below 42°C – the point at which nutritional values begin to reduce. The beans are ground with a mineral-rich organic coconut blossom sugar to add extra nutritional value.
After six months of experimenting, the duo found their ‘eureka’ recipe, with a chocolate high in magnesium, manganese, phosphorous, zinc and iron, as well as being a source of zinc and potassium.
By mid 2012 they were ready to take their first chocolate bar to market for a test-launch. It was very positively received by discerning customers, such as Real Foods and chocolate connoisseur Chloe Doutre-Roussel, a former confectionery buyer for Fortnum & Mason. It was also praised by chefs such as Mark Greenaway, who used it on BBC’s Great British Menu and it was served to dignitaries at the 2012 Olympics, and recently used at the Commonwealth Games Business dinner.
Once they had perfected the taste and had the feedback they needed, their next step was to successfully support their health claims, which they achieved by teaming up with the Rowett Institute of Nutrition and Health at Aberdeen University. After months of research, they were able to validate their 20+ health benefits, which include healthy hair, skin and bones, as well as energy and mood-boosting properties.
Their organic certification, achieved in 2013 was the final hurdle they set to overcome before the full product launched in September 2013.
The exciting range of organic, superfood chocolate bars include Original Bean-to-Bar, Espresso-Kick Coffee, Plush Peppermint, Lusciously Lovely Lime, Cocoa-Nib Crunch and Orange with Wild Raspberry. They all have the same amazing snap and texture we all love in a luxury chocolate bar, but with added health benefits.
Thanks to Stirling based Sporting Chance Initiative, Scotland’s hub for innovation in sport, the ladies have also recently partnered with Queen Margaret University and Scottish Rugby after receiving a Sports Technology Award for Research (STAR) grant to enable further research. SCI connect ambitious Scottish companies with the appropriate academic research teams in Scottish universities.
The bars were tested against a number of other leading chocolate bars on the market and the results showed a consistent trend towards faster reaction time and improved performance compared to any other bar.
This research has provided iQ with the support and confirmation they need to confidently provide their customers with more detailed nutritional information about the antioxidant properties of its products and its positive health benefits, especially for those who regularly take part in exercise and sport.
It’s an exciting time for the Scottish company, as they have been shortlisted for four business awards and a number of food and health awards across the country.
Their aim is to make an impression on improving the nation’s diet, and have some influence on that agenda. Through their regular tastings, product development and funded research, Jane and Kate have quickly gained the credibility and robustness to achieve this.
The future is definitely looking good for this passionate double act and with continued product development, new stockists confirmed on a weekly basis and exciting announcements just round the corner, iQ is set to take the healthy food market by storm.