An Austin, TX startup, piq Chocolates, wants you to stuff yourself with personalized and custom shaped chocolate delights.
A novel combination of high quality chocolate and rapid prototyping techniques, the founders want to "push the form factor possibilities of chocolate, provide a new platform of expression for our customers and offer an opportunity for decadent designs that has never existed until now."
Levi Lalla and Donovan Crowley are additive manufacturers. Granted, you generally think of AM as dealing with medical or aerospace production, but these guys are putting a sweet spin on the process.
Back in 2005, Lalla had his "Ah-hah" moment when he decided to create custom shaped chocolates. At the time, the processes involved were too expensive, but along came affordable desktop 3D printers and other rapid prototyping tools, et voila!
The pair, former employees of an engineering services company, have launched a Kickstarter campaign to combine technology, design, and chocolate, and to that end, they've already completed their first fully-functional chocolate 3D printer prototype.
Lalla, as an undergraduate at MIT, came up with the admittedly gonzo idea of creating a working grandfather clock out of, you guessed it, delicious, sinful chocolate.
"I often get asked, 'How did you go from prototyping electro-mechanical systems to starting a chocolate company?'" Lalla said. "They may seem different, but they actually have a lot in common."
So why a Kickstarter campaign? The pair say their current production method involves using shared equipment – and shared work spaces – and they say that limits their efficiency and capacity. They plan to open a combined storefront and production facility and purchase commercial kitchen equipment in Austin with the proceeds.
According to the pair, after creating a variety of different shaped chocolates over the past year, they've standardized some shapes and sizes to smooth the launch of their first two products – The Personalized Chocolate Bar and the Personalized Chocolate Favor. Those products will be available in dark chocolate, milk chocolate or white chocolate. The Personalized Bar is 3" x 7" and weighs in at about 3 ounces. The Personalized Chocolate Favor is 2.5" x 2.5" and weighs in at about 1 ounce, coming in groups of 50.
They're also working on an online tool to allow customers to personalize and customize their own chocolates with up to three images and three messages. The tool creates a 3D rendering of a chocolate bar in your browser, and they say they've made the tool as simple to use as possible and that their current prototype has "proven to be easy enough that a young child was able to design a bar."
Let's hope their ecommerce solution is a bit more opaque, or households across America will be receiving thousands of surprise packages ordered by precocious and hungry kids.