Edinburgh vegan chocolate maker forges links with farmers in Ghana

Name: Zsolt Stefkovics.

Age: 28.

What is your business called?

Fellow Creatures.

Where is it based?


What does it produce?

Ethical, plant-based chocolate in five flavours and two sizes. We have also recently added Wowza, a premium twist on Nutella with 53 per cent freshly roast hazelnut and coconut blossom sugar.

We work with a Swiss chocolate manufacturer that produces our proprietary recipes using beans sourced from Ghana.

To whom does it sell?

We are a digital-first business and started selling on our own e-commerce platform first marketing to vegan and dairy-free consumers. We have gained a customer base of 20,000 people since our launch that have been very loyal to the brand. Since then, we have extended our target market and scored some key retail listings while appealing to a wider target market.

What is its turnover?

Currently, we are run-rating at £0.5 million annual turnover.

How many employees?


When was it formed?

We have been trading since 2019.

Why did you take the plunge?

Being born in a dairy-farming family in Hungary, I was raised drinking dairy and eating meat. As a kid, deep down, I always felt that the exploitation of animals just wasn’t right.

Ever since becoming vegan, about six years ago, the only thing I truly missed was creamy and smooth milk chocolate. I literally tried all vegan chocolates on the market and set out to create my own with all the fun and creaminess we all remember fondly from childhood.

The current proprietary recipes are still based on my original kitchen top recipes while we successfully reformulated them suited for mass production upon our launch two years ago.

Growing up as a flamboyant kid in Eastern Europe in the 90s, I was often subject to bullying so my brand promotes kindness, inclusivity and a positive body-image. With ethics at the core of our DNA, the Fellow Creatures name refers to treating both animals and humans with respect.

Our business model means we have removed animals from our supply chain while we are committed to paying our farmers 60 per cent over commodity price for their cocoa. With this, we are contributing to the creation of sustainable jobs and alleviating poverty in deprived cocoa communities in West Africa. To substantiate our ethical claims, we have just joined the group of only four chocolate companies in the UK to be B Corp certified.

HeraldScotland: Picture: Fellow CreaturesPicture: Fellow Creatures

Our long-term vision is to be able to invest a portion of profits back into our farming communities in Ghana. With ambitious growth plans to become the UK’s leading vegan chocolate brand, we hope to play a part in building a more sustainable chocolate industry for the future.

What were you doing before you took the plunge?

My background is in food and drink brand development.

How did you raise the start-up funding?

After creating the brand on a shoestring budget using my personal savings, I took on a seed investor to further support the growth and to launch the first iteration of the product.

In 2019, I was the winner of Scottish Edge’s Young Edge category. Fellow Creatures was at a pre-launch phase then yet I managed to secure a grant of £15,000.

In 2020, we were one of the seven successful start-ups who took part in ProVeg International’s six-week brand accelerator programme. Following this, we raised seed investment from multiple angel investors and VCs. ProVeg is the world’s largest vegan and fermented food accelerator.

Last Autumn, we successfully closed a funding round securing £450,000 investment from the likes of VegCapital, which was founded by Matthew Glover, the founder of Veganuary.

What was your biggest break?

In only one month after our launch in 2020, we secured a listing in all Planet Organic stores in London supported with an influencer campaign and sampling activities. Since then, we have been listed by various wholesalers and distributors such as CLF, Tree of Life, Suma and Diverse Fine Foods.

Our bars are now available in 125 WH Smith locations all over the UK. We recently completed a successful trial in Sainsbury’s and are having very promising conversations about a long-term listing.

This year, we have received our first major order from a strategic importer in South Korea.

What was your worst moment?

We are amidst a global logistics crisis and we do feel the impact of that reflected on the business as rising costs and a shortage of labour.

There have been many hurdles along the journey but I find it immensely rewarding that my ideas, with some work put in, become tangible objects that people love.

What do you most enjoy about running the business?

Running a start-up perfectly suits me as my brain needs constant stimulation. I really enjoy having to wear various hats, from product development through to logistics or management.

What was the most valuable lesson that you learned?

Running a business is much simpler than it seems from the outside. When things get overwhelming, I remind myself that everything comes down to a simple yes or no decision. If you break down your tasks far enough, tasks get smaller and decisions get easier.

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