A small shop of 30 square metres with two employees making sweet creations – these were the humble beginnings of Spell Chocolate in 2016 in Ukraine. Fast-forward six years and Spell Chocolate is one of the leading premium chocolate brands on the market along with imported brands Ritter Sport and Lindt.
With support from the EBRD and Sweden, Spell Chocolate improved its marketing strategy and successfully gained placement in the largest supermarket chains in Ukraine.
Trouble in chocolate paradise
“When we started our business, we envisioned seeing our products sold in hotels, restaurants and niche stores, or given as gifts,” says Alexis Antsiunas, Spell’s co-founder. “We wanted to use only the best technologies and Belgian raw materials for production, focusing on corporate customers.”
Yet despite the high quality of its ingredients and the passion of its founders, the company faced difficulties getting its products to the market. While most chocolate products typically sell out in two or three months, Spell’s product turnover was low, with bars sometimes sitting on the shelves for six months. Eager to remedy this, in 2019 Spell approached the EBRD's Women in Business programme, funded by Sweden, for support in improving its brand recognition and position on the market.
Overcoming hurdles to success
With the help of marketing advisers, the company discovered that one problem was their use of black and gold packaging, which led buyers to perceive the product solely as a gift option, as well as the lack of an ‘everyday’ product line. In 2019, work began on the design of new packaging and the adjustment of Spell’s market positioning.
“Research and interviews with customers helped us to understand and focus on their needs rather than our perception of our own product. We have successfully moved away from being regarded as a product which is bought or given exclusively over the holidays,” says Alexis.
Based on the advice, Spell redesigned its packaging from dark to light, making its chocolate bars more ‘everyday’ in appearance and noticeable on the shelves. As a result, the company doubled its sales and was able to sell its products in the biggest retail chains in Ukraine.
“We owe our success to the advisory project along with the business principles we have learned during Spell's development. Namely: know what you want; keep your head cold and your heart warm; remember that the company is built on the foundations of its team; and never give up,” says Alexis.
The company hopes to continue improving its marketing strategy and aims to scale up its operations through the development of new product lines, including gifts and holiday-themed products. It is actively seeking new sales channels and working its way towards the sweetness of success.