Our chocolate bars might be smooth, but our journey hasn’t always been. Read on to see how one simple idea kickstarted a natural revolution in snacking and helped us become the brand we are today.
All companies start with an idea. An idea that sits at the core of a journey, propelling it forward through barriers and setbacks. For Prodigy, that idea was simple — to create new, healthier versions of classic chocolate treats that are good for people and good for the planet. But how did that idea come to light, and how did it turn into Prodigy?
Time for change
The Prodigy story begins with our founder Sameer Vaswani. At a young age, a love of good food and delicious, clean ingredients was instilled in him. This passion helped guide his career, and after training as a chef in Hong Kong and London, at just 23 he opened his own Asian Fusion restaurant in Notting Hill.
In 2002, after the success of his restaurant, Sameer left to start a new journey. He relocated to the bustling city of Lagos in Nigeria and set up his own confectionery manufacturing business with the support of his family. Producing a range of sweet treats, from biscuits to gumballs, Sameer gradually grew the company into a thriving brand. Business was booming, but it was also opening his eyes to the widespread industry use of cheap, harmful ingredients — as well as their impact on the surrounding environment.
After 12 years of work he sold the company and returned to London. Inspired by all that he’d seen in West Africa, he knew that his next venture had to create change in the confectionery industry, with a new kind of sweet treat that embraced all things natural.
And that sweet treat had to be chocolate.
A new take on old favourites
Sameer had always been a chocolate lover, but he hadn’t grown up with natural dark chocolate or vegan-brand treats. His old favourites had been everyone else’s. Indulgent, comforting, yet heavily processed chocolate bars bundled up in plastic wrapping and packed with artificial ingredients.
While there were plenty of vegan, raw chocolates on the market, no one had tried to recreate healthier versions of these classic chocolate treats. Because of this, people were missing out on the wonder of real craft chocolate and buying treats packed with refined sugar, dairy, and damaging ingredients.
And that’s when the idea came to him.
He could create a whole new kind of chocolate brand, one that took classic chocolate favourites and changed them for the better. This wouldn’t just be raw, healthier chocolate. This would be smooth and creamy chocolate made with vibrant raw cacao. This would be chocolate wrapped in plastic-free packaging that wouldn’t harm the environment. This would be chocolate with less than 20% sugar content, brimming with delicious plant-based ingredients. This would be real chocolate made for everyone. This would be chocolate reborn.
Prodigy is born
Sameer’s aims were bold, so his brand needed an equally bold name to champion them. While his first choice of Sugar Rebels had already been taken, with some rethinking and the help of a creative agency, he landed on a second name, Prodigy. Meaning an amazing or unusual thing, the name was a perfect fit, reflecting the brand’s core in just three simple syllables.
So, Sameer’s dream had evolved into a company — Prodigy. Now it was time to make some chocolate.
The early days
Manufacturing chocolate isn’t always easy, especially if you want to break the rules. We wanted the bars to be plant-based and low sugar, but with our heart set on making the very best chocolate we could, we had other requirements too.
Industrial cattle farming makes an enormous impact on the environment, so we knew our chocolate had to be totally dairy-free. Aside from the effects on the planet, dairy hinders the rich and fragrant flavours of cacao. We wanted Prodigy to champion that real chocolate taste while changing the perception many had of dairy-free treats. Vegans and lactose intolerants could enjoy our chocolate, but also anyone who just wanted a delicious sweet treat.
Unfortunately, confectionary manufacturers stuck by the old rules of dairy, artificial ingredients, and a lot of sugar. They just weren’t used to making products this way, and the first 18 months of Prodigy’s life was a stream of rejections. Trade show after trade show yielded no results until luck finally arrived in the form of a European manufacturer who was already a pioneer of plant-based chocolate.
Working together with the manufacturer, our small team (just 3 people) experimented with ingredients and cacao levels to create the perfect bar of plant-based chocolate. The first set of trials were all about meeting the nutritional goals, with the aim of reaching a sugar content of less than 20%. By trial 18 we’d succeeded, but with every bite of our chocolate, it became clearer and clearer that the ‘feel’ just wasn’t quite right.
Our chocolate bars needed to have that creamy, smooth texture that elevated them from ‘healthy chocolate’ to ‘mouth-watering luscious chocolate, that just happened to be better for you’. The solution? A lot of churning. By putting the chocolate through an extended refining process, the particles become smaller and smaller, resulting in a bar that’s rich and velvety smooth.
After countless chocolate tastings, ingredient tweaks, and a lot of refining, we had the recipe where we wanted it. All we needed to do was sign off with our European manufacturer. And that’s when we hit a roadblock. They couldn’t do plastic-free packaging.
The aim had always been to create great-tasting chocolate using eco-friendly ingredients — and that included our packaging.
There were two choices — launch the bars and come up with a non-plastic solution later down the line or hold everything and look for a new manufacturer.
We wanted to show that plastic-free packaging was possible, even for a mainstream chocolate bar, and were determined to stick by our values. Plastic could never be an option, so, after a lot of meetings and some sleepless nights, Sameer made the difficult decision to find a new manufacturer.
“Everything happens for a reason”
It was a heavy setback, but it didn’t last long. Sameer’s belief in everything happening for a reason came true when we discovered a UK-based raw chocolate manufacturer. Reducing our carbon footprint by using a UK-based producer had seemed like a distant dream, but here they were — not only excited by the Prodigy project but happy to use plastic-free packaging. They were the perfect match.
And the luck didn’t run out there. After a chance meeting, Sameer was introduced to an innovative, plastic-free packaging solution called NatureFlex. Made from cellulose from sustainably sourced wood pulp, the plastic-like material was strong enough to protect the chocolate bars and keep them fresh, while still being entirely compostable. Made with biodegradable inks and glues, the packaging could just be thrown into a compost or food waste bin, helping to prevent the dangerous build-up of plastics.
The road had been a long one, but we’d finally reached our eco-friendly goal.
The snacking revolution is here
With our chocolate crafted to be smooth, creamy and rich with nutrients, our packaging perfected to be eco-friendly, and our team excited to share the wonder of plant-based snacking, it was time to launch our chocolate bars.
While we started with our Chunky Chocolate bars, it didn’t take long for us to release our Cahoots chocolate bars in Coconut and Peanut & Caramel. Championing health and happiness with every bite, we’re all about delivering an incredible chocolate experience that does you and the planet good.
Our passion for real, plant-based, and truly decadent chocolate has taken us on an incredible journey. We’ve discovered magical plant-based ingredients, found unexpected partners who’ve helped us grow, and seen emerging solutions that could change the world. But our journey isn’t over yet. We want to help show that smooth, creamy and truly delicious chocolate can be dairy-free, use healthy, superfood ingredients, and not damage the planet. With so much more to learn and share this is just the beginning of our natural revolution.
Join the Chocolate revolution! Explore our full range of chocolate bars.