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Sweet business finds its niche

Chocolatier specializes in the high-end candies

You might think the Salt Lake area had enough chocolate and candy companies to satisfy its residents' collective sweet tooth.

But based on the early success of V Chocolates, 3590 S. Via Terra St., you'd be wrong.

The company is not quite a year old, but already its product mix of rich chocolate, tasty toffee and chewy caramels has drawn a legion of loyal fans, said Mark Nelson, president, chief executive officer and one of the owners of V Chocolates.

Nelson said the company's master chocolate-maker, Ron Best, has been in the business for more than 20 years. Best started the company with several investors last fall, and its first products rolled out just in time for the holidays.

"We had a very successful holiday season," Nelson said. "Now we've just been growing and expanding, and we're looking for a dynamite increase in business and big holiday season (this year)."

V Chocolates sells some of its products from its Sugar House location, and it has a retail kiosk in the Fashion Place Mall. But many of its sales come through wholesaling to high-end stores, like Emigration Market, The Store, Tai'Pan Trading and Thanksgiving Point.

"A big part of our business is selling V Chocolates for corporate gifts," he said. "A lot of the larger companies in Salt Lake and in Utah and the surrounding area give V Chocolates at the holidays or other times."

But what makes this new company stand out from established competitors like Cummings or Godiva or See's?

First of all, Nelson said, V makes a delightful chocolate-covered strawberry.

"Those are extremely popular for weddings and banquets and parties," he said. "Every kind of an event you can imagine, people come and get our chocolate-covered strawberries and raspberries."

The company also is unique, he said, because two of its primary products are toffee and caramels.

"We make six different varieties of toffee, but the main one is almond toffee," Nelson said. "Another main product is caramels, and these are nothing like the caramels that you would go to the grocery store and buy. . . . These are the most delicious, melt-in-your-mouth product you've ever tasted."

And since V Chocolates "makes the best caramel in the world," he said, "we make the best caramel apples in the world, and we sell thousands of those."

To get a bite of one of those apples, expect to pony up $5. And a one-pound box of toffee or caramels costs $15.95.

But Nelson said the quality and freshness of V products make them worth every penny.

"Many toffee companies and many chocolate companies, their products are made to sit on the shelf for six months or longer," he said. "Our product is very fresh, . . . and we so far have been very successful in turning it over very quickly. We only keep it on the shelf for 90 days."

Even the packaging for V Chocolates has won awards for its elegance, he said, making it an excellent gift idea. And that is why the company expects to have "several million dollars" of sales this year.

"It's successful beyond our expectations so far," Nelson said. "We think V Chocolates can be a regional at least and, likely, a national brand. We have a lot of exciting things we're working on that we can't talk about, but early next year we will: . . . expansion from the retail and wholesale point of view."

A sweet business, indeed.