Head chocolatier Gary Mitchell has been experimenting with a sweet-savoury combinations such as Italian balsamic chocolate with raspberry puree. His Chardonnay white wine truffle recently won a chocolate competition at the Canada Baking and Sweets Show.
These are among 150 new creations every year tested by the 106-year-old chocolate creator, which attempts to stay ahead in the competitive chocolate business with wide selection and good prices, according to president Peter Higgins.
Purdy’s relies on in-house testing and response from its customers to determine which products stay in the mix, he said in an interview with CBC's Lang & O'Leary Exchange.
Higgins said Purdy’s is flexible enough as a small business to prepare for the all-important Christmas season.
“Christmas is about 40 per cent of our year. We’re making gifts, chocolate favourites for our customers – the planning is important. The planning happens much before the season, by September we’re ready for Christmas,” he said.
Because it makes all its chocolates in its own kitchen, Purdy’s has the ability to step up production to meet customer demand, he said. Customers are invited to weigh in via social media, if they want to ask for favourites that have disappeared from Purdy’s shops.
“For us, a really key part of this is that it is artisanal handmade chocolate but making it in an efficient way – that never compromises quality....We want to make sure our customers see great value for amazing artisanal homemade chocolates,” he said.
The Vancouver kitchen has experimented with automating some processes, but that doesn’t always work, Higgins said. For example, the white chocolate and almond bark made in a mould had a different texture to the earlier handmade version and, after consulting with its customers, Purdy’s went back to the old method.
Higgins is a chocolate scientist, who understands the crystal structures of cocoa butter and how to combine ingredients so they complement each other. He also manages the company’s commitment to sustainable cocoa-growing in Africa.
Purdy’s recently expanded into Ontario, and has an extensive network in Alberta and B.C.
“We still deliver once a week fresh to all our shops, We have logistical challenge around that, but we have extremely tight shelf-life controls that we never compromise,” he told CBC News.