Sales of handmade chocolates tripled in 2015 compared with the previous year. Fruene Manager Tove Eide said she's envisioning strong growth in coming years.
Thanks to grandma
It's been three years since the cafe in the town center has put the chocolates on its menu. There are currently 18 different chocolates, all with names, tastes and appearances highlighting Svalbard themes.
Selections include, among others, "Von Post" in the shape of a glacier, "Mine 7" with licorice and black decorations, and "Ny Ålesund" with caramel and sea salt on top. Each piece is meant to tell a story.
Small pieces of art, with a twist of Svalbard. FOTO: Ole Magnus Rapp
The name of the cafe – which translates in English to "wives" – which started up in 2003 also has a history.
"It is a tribute to all women before and now in what from the old days has been a male-dominated place," Eide said "And a little thank you to my grandma in inner Troms who taught me my love of homemade cooking."
"The idea behind the chocolates was that we in Longyearbyen needed a little unusual souvenir. In both loose pieces and boxed collections, the chocolates have been a winner," said Eide said, emphasizing all 11 employees at Fruene are responsible for the success even though it's chocolatier Elin Blindheim who's in charge of that part of the cafe's business.
"Longyearbyen needed a
little unusual souvenir"
The confections are made from scratch from a base of special pellets imported from Belgium. They are first tempered to 45 degrees, then cooled to 29 degrees and then gently increased to 31 degrees. They are poured into special molds, fillings – or ganache as they are called in chocolate-technical language – then bottoms are fitted and any garnishes applied.
The chocolatier is daring enough to seek out entirely new concepts, using items such as chilies, elderberries, licorice, sea salt and Svalbard brandy in her creations.
The white chocolate polar bear is the top seller, although "Ny Ålesund" and "Fruene Fristelser" are popular as well. Among tourists, the white hearts with "risk of polar bears" signs are very popular.
About 20 percent of the production is exported. Sales to date have occurred via Facebook, but a website is being created where customers can see, order and pay for the chocolates. Eide said she expects a nice increase in sales, and more will occur with changes to rules related to customs and VAT refunds.
About 20 percent of the chocolate is exported. FOTO: Ole Magnus Rapp
"As it is now, each shipment can be worth up to 350 kroner," Eide said. "Therefore, we need to send many smaller packages to firms that have a larger order and that becomes cumbersome."
Another measure she believes will increase sales is regular events centered around chocolate making, infused with wine and champagne tastings. Attendees at the gatherings will learn about production, a little history and be able to taste their way through assortments. The gathers are planned to be a regular-scheduled activity.
Translated by Mark Sabbatini