Based in the heart of the Cotswolds, Doble & Bignall started their cocoa journey in summer 2013. They went on to win an Academy of Chocolate Award in 2015.
The couple based in Gloucestershire are passionate about the bean to bar process, using only the highest quality ingredients in their chocolate, and sourcing beans from around the world.
Gaining inspiration from a Radio 4 food programme about chocolate makers and the producing fine cocoa whilst driving around, Simon and Margie decided to pursue the idea of becoming a chocolate maker themselves, and this is where their journey all started (and we are glad it did!). Doble & Bignall do everything from sourcing the beans, and producing the chocolate in a small mélanger, to hand wrapping each bar themselves.
We were lucky enough to get some time with the maker to ask some questions about their inspiration to chocolate making…
What’s your background? Why and how did you get into chocolate?
Margie trained as a Cordon Bleu cook then studied ecology, culminating in a PhD with the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust. She has worked as an ecologist for many years, dreaming about foodie businesses. Simon trained as an agricultural engineer, working on crop storage and irrigation. He then branched into business management with a business psychology consultancy. Simon and Margie combine their sets of skills in running Doble & Bignall. Driving around in June 2013, Margie was listening to a Radio 4 Food Programme and Mott Green was speaking about his vision for a network of micro chocolate-makers around the world paying a fair price for fine cocoa and making beautiful chocolate. She was totally fascinated by the idea and pursued it by speaking to bean to bar chocolate makers, buying a small mélanger and actually making edible chocolate – we were hooked!
What was your inspiration for the bird packaging?
When the concept of D&B was hatched, we chose to be unusual in our approach to chocolate packaging, choosing black and white with a splash of colour and using hand-drawn images of different birds to represent the intensity and character of the chocolate.
What mission have you set for making crafting chocolate?
Doble & Bignall’s mission is to introduce as many people as possible to fine chocolate – using single origin, fine flavour cocoa beans to highlight the wonderful variety of flavours from different cocoa beans. We aim to trade ethically and hope to help improve the life of smallholder farming families.
When did you start your company — and with whom? How many are there of you?
We made our first chocolate in September 2013, sold the first bar in April 2014 and by mid-July 2015 we have sold 14,500! Doble & Bignall is Simon Doble and Margie Bignall, married for 30 years! The rest of the nest is our 4 children who help out with their varying skills and our two faithful friends who help with marketing and hand-wrapping our chocolate.
Where do you want to go next? New bars? New beans? New markets?
We have lots of plans for where next! We are expanding our range to include a Brazilian cocoa bean in the next few weeks and are always seeking interesting and unusual cocoa. We have recently launched a coffee-infused chocolate bar, where we use ground coffee beans infused in cocoa butter, which is then added to the mélanger with the cocoa beans. This is proving to be really popular. Other experimental infusions in the research facility are coconut and ginger. We are always looking out for unusual outlets for our chocolate, as well as moving into overseas markets.
How did you source your beans?
Our Venezuelan beans have a good story. We were queuing to get into Salon du Chocolate in 2013 when we met Claudia in the queue who sells cocoa beans from Casa Franceschi in Venezuela, we got chatting and that’s the source our Puerto Cabello beans. The same year at Salon du Chocolat we met Lars from Ingemann and that is how we source our Nicaraguan Johe beans. Our Brazilian beans come from Bertil Akesson’s plantation in the Mata Atlantica forest
What is your favourite food? Wine? Other chocolate makers?
Favourite foods, well, chocolate of course and then so many lovely things – pan-fried salmon, steak (cooked blue), potatoes in all forms, tropical fruits. Wines – rich, spicy reds; Prosecco; Champagne. Whisky – Aardbeg from Islay, island malts generally. Chocolates – Akessons Fleur de sel and Coconut Blossom, Friis Holm’s triple-turned Chuno, Cacaosuyo. Margie also loves Cadbury’s fruit and nut because of her childhood association with family picnics.