Ventures Helps Indy Chocolate Maker Squeeze Sweet Success from Niche Market

Trade Secret Chocolates

Chocolate shots are making a splash at several Indianapolis-area restaurants and specialty food shops.

Trade Secret Chocolates is introducing a whole new way to savor gourmet chocolate. Rather than selling traditional chocolate bars, the Indianapolis-based company specializes in “shots” of warm, liquid chocolate to be gobbled up with a spoon, or added as a tasty ingredient to fresh fruits or other foods.

"People are amazed when they experience chocolate this way," says Matt Rubin," the company’s founder and owner. “It knocks their socks off.”

Rubin discovered the unexpected impact of liquid gourmet chocolate while running a more traditional high-end chocolate bar business. He noticed the “euphoric expression” visitors got when they tasted a spoonful of pure liquid chocolate.

“We wanted to sell that experience,” he says.

But making high-quality chocolate available on tap is not easy. Chocolate is finicky, requiring a specific temperature – about 105 degrees – to remain liquid without affecting the taste. And getting the chocolate to flow from a tap requires more than simple gravity.

Rubin, associate director of the Johnson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at IU’s Kelley School of Business, turned to Ventures for help creating a dispenser that would be simple, effective, and easy to use in a busy restaurant kitchen. The final result was a temperature-controlled dispenser utilizing air pressure to deliver chocolate on demand.

The dispenser went through several iterations—each carefully tested and each serving as a source of new information to bring the project closer to a successful outcome. Rubin said he was pleased with the excellent communication he maintained with Ventures engineers throughout this process.

“They were very good with the back-and-forth dialogue,” he says. “That helped us evolve very fast.”

Until now, shops selling Trade Secret Chocolates have been making do with a much cruder method of delivering chocolate shots. Now that the new dispenser is market ready, Rubin says folks are lining up to get one.

It’s clear there’s a big, long-term market for Trade Secret Chocolates shots, Rubin says. “We’re way past being a polite novelty.”

Trade Secret Chocolates are available at several locations in the Indianapolis area, including Mimi Blue Meatballs, Tapastrie, Chapati, Open Society Public House, Goose the Market, and Tinker Coffee Co.