Case Study: Chocolate Dreams (Kingston, Jamaica)

by Austin Johnson March 11, 2016

Think you know about Jamaica? Well here’s a sweet secret. Besides Bob Marley, balmy tropical paradise and an abundance of coffee brewed fresh from misty mountain plantations, Jamaica is home to Chocolate Dreams – the handmade chocolate shop owned and founded by Michelle Smith, a resident Jamaican who has lived her entire life in the quaint island nation.

Michelle Smith, CEO and Founder of Chocolate Dreams

Tap was lucky enough to have a conversation with Smith about why she chose to start a chocolate business, what makes chocolate so dreamy in the capital Kingston, and how Tap’s custom packaging is helping her achieve beyond her highest aspirations for Chocolate Dreams.

TAP: What’s the story behind Chocolate Dreams?

Michelle Smith: I started it in 2004. Jamaica is home to one of the five fine flavored cocoas of the world. My interest was piqued by investigating that Jamaican cocoa. I decided to try it for the market.

TAP: What are you using Tap’s custom packaging for?

MS: People here like nice packaging, and they like when their products are in good packaging. What we’re using Tap Packaging for is to create a line of products that we’re selling to hotels and airports to try to get our Chocolate Dreams line out. We’re selling the top six items we have using Tap’s packaging. It has worked for us because we were able to order a large amount so we could break our way into the export market.

Our top item that we have is called “cherry surprise,” which is cherry soaked in white rum and dipped in chocolate – one in white and one in dark. Then we have an almond butter crunch toffee, and we do another flavor called pecan butter crunch toffee. We do sea salt caramels in another and we do chocolate covered tamarind balls, which is a fruit from the Caribbean. Customers are able to pick the flavors that go into the boxes.


TAP: Where did the name “Chocolate Dreams” come from?

MS: This is my dream; my dream was to have a chocolate shop. So it was my dream that inspired that name.

TAP: How did Chocolate Dreams create its brand identity?

MS: That was work. The brand has always been bigger than the business. I spent a lot of time creating my brand. I started out going to expos and fairs and going on television, and doing different things that made my brand stand out. Our factory is 1,700 square feet, but it started out as 900 square feet. If you experience our brand, people think that they’re coming to a 5,000 square foot factory.

TAP: How did you gain so much popularity in Jamaica?

MS: People like chocolate! Chocolate is a symbol of happiness. People use it to lift their mood – they just love it.

If you read a lot about Jamaica you learn that it’s an island with many coastlines, but I’m in the city. We have a lot of crime in Kingston, but what I found was that my chocolate was a haven for people to feel better and to feel good. People want the comfort that chocolate brings. I feel that my chocolate is a comfort to people. It’s just something that lifts people’s moods, and I like that about it. Now we’re expanding into some of the other islands.


TAP: How did the custom package design evolve?

MS: I said I want something tropical, something that’s going to attract people to the packaging. It started out with hibiscus flowers, and then we evolved into the current design with the different colors (red, orange, yellow, green, pink and purple). I chose these particular colors because they’re bright. People ask why I didn’t use red, green and gold for Jamaica and Bob Marley, but my design looks classic. It makes my product step up on a shelf. The colors are vibrant, and not the same as everybody else.

TAP: What makes Chocolate Dreams special?

MS: We do things in a special way for each person. You may see a box, but every single box that we share out of this shop looks different. It may have a different bow, or we do something else differently. You’re not just buying chocolate off the shelves – everyone who comes in here gets a special package.

People love bold, and they love when their packaging looks nice. Customers like how they can choose and experiment with packaging and chocolate, and that’s a large part of what makes Chocolate Dreams really popular. And were consistent. I like the fact that people come back, and they keep coming back.



TAP: Why did Chocolate Dreams choose Tap Packaging Solutions as their brand consultants and packaging manufacturers?

MS: I just fell in love with your sales person! She just looks after me and honestly, she knows that it was really hard in the beginning when we started working on these custom boxes. We had to get approval from our Bureau of Standards here in Jamaica. Your sales person was patient and she understood. I told her every step of the way, because it’s not easy here. I like the fact that I can call her and ask questions. I like the fact that I can call Tap Packaging and my problems are taken care of. Truly, she’s a gem! It makes a difference.

For me, it’s good when you have a good relationship with your supplier, because you feel like you’ve known them forever even if you’ve barely ever seen them in person. There are so many places where you can buy packaging, but it makes a difference when someone is so willing to work with you. It makes life much easier.

TAP: What’s your best advice on marketing your brand with packaging?

MS: Don’t skimp on the price! Because people like packaging. It’s a good tool to get your product out there. It’s better to spend on it. A lot of Tap’s packaging is FDA approved and that’s why I use it. If I’m going to export to the USA I need it. I like to know that my packaging is from somewhere that understands.



Austin Johnson
Austin Johnson