Invermere’s Wild Mountain Chocolate is raising the bar, but will consumers bite?

The bean-to-bar chocolate maker is betting on high-quality ingredients.

Helen and Glen Davies of Wild Mountain Chocolate

Credit: Wild Mountain Chocolate/ Wild Mountain Chocolate founders Helen and Glen Davies

The bean-to-bar chocolate maker is betting on high-quality ingredients

When Helen and Glen Davies moved from Vancouver to Invermere some seven years ago, they weren’t sure exactly what the plan was. They did know they wanted to start a company of some kind. After a couple of different ventures, they happened upon a documentary called Semisweet: Life in Chocolate. “We say chocolate found us, that’s really what happened,” says Glen Davies with a chuckle. With Helen’s background in accounting for food production companies and Glen’s previous work in automation—“I’m very technical and so is chocolate, so we get along well”—it was a natural fit.

The couple made a few batches in their garage by importing and roasting beans from Madagascar. “Everyone we gave it to was like, Holy cow, do you think you can repeat this on a larger scale?” Davies remembers.

The pair incorporated under Wild Mountain Chocolate, eventually becoming Canada’s first organic bean-to-bar chocolate maker. Davies estimates there are about 15 or so bean-to-bar chocolate makers in the country right now. “That’s how you create the flavour within the chocolate,” he argues. “The complexities of cocoa are far beyond grapes. There are different fermentation techniques; there’s a world out there that’s yet to be explored. That’s where we’re going, to do what beer has done, what coffee has done. There’s a long way to go.”

Tracy Connery photography of Wild Mountain ChocolateTracy Connery

The big question, of course, is whether the average customer is going to pay a premium for top-end, organic chocolate. Davies estimates that Wild Mountain pays double or triple the fair trade value for its beans, which it sources from Ecuador, Madagascar and Peru. As such, a bar of the company’s chocolate is around 40 to 50 percent more expensive than other premium bars on shelves in Canada—never mind the difference between it and the mass-produced stuff from the Nestlés and Hersheys of the world.

“But if you look at the grocery shelf, pretty much every store I do a demo in, every other bar on the shelf isn’t even packaged in Canada, let alone made in it,” says Davies. “And I’m talking brands that you might consider to be gourmet. You just have to read the back of the package.”

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Currently, Wild Mountain can be found in around 100 stores in B.C. and Alberta (the company also sells its product online). As Davies looks to expand across the country—he promises the push east is coming soon—he’s confident that Wild Mountain will be able to succeed in the margins.

“We knew that if we wanted to make this work, we needed to get to a certain point where our volumes outweighed our costs,” Davies says. “That’s where we’re getting to now—volume is going up, costs are going down. Not that we’ll pay less for our beans, we never will.”