Local chocolate startup finds success in taste and in business
by Ken Levy
When Eagle’s Kay Johnson had the opportunity to buy out a chocolate company and offer high-quality products, he knew his dream had come true.
Johnson founded and became president of Dream Chocolate in Boise in 2002. Looking for a niche market, he started selling River Bars, named for the Boise, Payette, and Colorado rivers, and sold them to outfitters and gift shops in those places.
Now, Dream Chocolate also makes and develops special recipe chocolate bars for private labels, as well as its own.
“We focus on high-end quality at various retail outlets, including the airport,” where a Greenbelt store dubbed “It’s a Boise Thing” is due to open soon, and will carry a Greenbelt-themed chocolate bar among its wares.
Developing these chocolates includes Dream Chocolate’s buying and shipping its high-end cocoa beans for processing to Germany, where the very best processing is done, Johnson feels.
The premium product that comes back to Dream is known as tempered chocolate, which has a fine sheen and snaps when it’s broken. It’s the basis for all of Dream’s products.
The manufacturing plant now puts out about 3,000 bars a day, many with some rather unusual twists. Biting into a Dream means getting a taste of their No. 1 selling bar, Dark Chocolate Almonds and Sea Salt, which uses organic 70 percent cocoa. If that’s not your taste, give their new cranberry-orange dark chocolate or dark chocolate caramel-pecan with sea salt a try—you won’t regret it.
Variety is definitely the spice of life, and chocolate is no exception. There’s a plethora of flavors and spices here, including one made with paprika that’s popular with those of Basque descent. Hot Habanero Mandarin Orange might pop your eyes open a bit but, of course, you just can’t miss with banana-raspberry dark chocolate.
From pouring to molding to foil wrapping and labeling, each Dream Chocolate bar is prepared by hand. And some of those hands making those bars belong to political refugees, who have found a job and hope for a new future through Dream Chocolate, according to Johnson. These are people who might otherwise be in danger in their war-torn homelands, and Dream Chocolate helps them get back on their feet.
Company philosophy is deeply rooted in community, and the firm manufactures several bars carrying different labels for non-profit organizations in the Treasure Valley and beyond. They also contract their specialty chocolate bars for some private label companies.
For example, Dream Chocolate makes chocolate bars for City Peanut in Boise, in a collaborative effort using peanuts cooked in Payette Brewing Company beer.
“We did a collaborative effort with Depak Chopra for a special event,” Johnson said, which was received quite well.
Among the other varieties of chocolate bars Dream makes are dark chocolates with cranberry orange, espresso, as well as extremely dark chocolate—with 85 percent cocoa content—and dark chocolate with cocoa beans and huckleberry. They also make a huckleberry milk chocolate, one with coconut almond crème, as well as straight milk chocolate.
Dream Chocolate is always looking for community input, and they invite community members to suggest recipes for making their own label of chocolate, with the possibilities virtually limitless.
Johnson proudly remarks, “If you have a dream about a chocolate bar, we can make it happen.”