When you're creating a new product or service, it's important to establish that there's a market there for your product. Michéla and Lois Wilson are the founders of Empire Edible Art, a business creating chocolate so beautiful that it's a treat for the eyes as well as for the tastebuds. Here's how they proved there was a market for their product - and you can see more edible art over on their Twitter and Instagram.

At a time when one can barely get a sip of coffee without someone at the table whipping out a smart phone and hash-tagging until it’s cold, we decided to create something worth photographing. 

Capitalising on a market for handmade artisan food and the rise in food and lifestyle sharing through social media, Empire Edible Art answers the call for food to be not only delicious but also beautiful. With unique design, delicious flavours and luxury packaging we strive to awe and engage the consumer, creating an indulgent, share-worthy experience.

The dessert and chocolate industry is estimated to be worth £3.68 billion and has shown resilience in the recession. Everyone loves luxuries, and the confectionary resilience to the recession indicates that sweet treats are an area that people are willing to still spend and indulge as chocolates have a lower price point to other comparative luxuries. Launching in the UK, we are particularly well-placed as the UK has the 7th highest consumption of chocolate in the world. This coupled with the nation’s relatively high GDP meant that a luxury confectionary brand such as Empire was well-placed to take off.

Purple Rain - a tribute to Prince
Purple Rain - a tribute to Prince

Key players in the UK market with strong branding and eye-catching chocolates are Hotel Chocolat and Artisan Du Chocolat; however we believe that the bold theme and design of our chocolates grants us a strong identity, and therefore creates a more iconic and stand-out brand in the crowded confectionary industry. 

Taking a curated approach to our collections, each Empire Edible Art Chocolate is inspired and named after a cultural icon or civilisation. Whether gilded with gold like the Klimt, drip-painted like the Pollock or garnished in edible glitter like the Force, our signature pyramids are structures of art as much as they are delicacies. We believe that this unity between art and chocolate results in a product that engages and excites the consumer. In order to confirm this we decided to do some primary market research on our target customer.

Whilst beautiful chocolates have a universal appeal, we sought to attract a specific type of consumer. Our ideal customer is passionate about the arts - creative and sociable, they enjoy galleries and attend fashion events, they celebrate cultural and artistic icons they admire.

As we had hoped, we received an unbelievable response from our first event with Scoop International Fashion Show in The Saatchi Gallery. Not only did we witness guests visit our chocolate canapés multiple times for first, second and seventh helpings, we also noticed that before anyone ate them, they took a photo. There was a buzz and excitement everywhere our pyramids went. Juxtaposed next to the art of the greats in the Saatchi Gallery, our chocolates were perfectly at home.

Guests enjoying our chocolates at Wolf & Badger Absolutely Fabulous LFW new designer showcase in Dover St, London
Guests enjoying our chocolates at Wolf & Badger Absolutely Fabulous LFW new designer showcase in Dover St, London

We were pleasantly surprised that the buzz continued long after the event. Fashion Designer Maya Magal had received a box and requested a collaboration for the launch of her new collection with Burberry model Amber Anderson, which would be stocked in Harvey Nichols. Bloggers Lady Loves also wrote a stunning review, stating "For these little mini works of art are grown up chocolates - a treat for the eyes and the tastebuds". We were so impressed that, beyond the initial seeing and eating of the chocolates, people were so excited and appreciative they remembered us and took action. 

Eager to continue to engage with our target consumer, we collaborated on several new events, including Wolf And Badger's Absolutely Fabulous New Designer Party, Maya Magal's Launch at London Fashion Week, and a second Scoop International Fashion Show.

Following the LFW event, a buyer from Harvey Nichols got in touch and expressed his enthusiasm for Empire. He confirmed to us there was indeed a market for our luxury, unique edible art chocolates. Armed with this valuable first-hand feedback from an expert in the confectionary industry, as well as the enthusiasm of our target consumer, we decided to put our all behind Empire and apply for Virgin Start Up Funding.

Christmas In July Not On The High Street Event featuring our Marie Antoinette Edible Gold, Oreo and White Chocolate
Christmas In July Not On The High Street Event featuring our Marie Antoinette Edible Gold, Oreo and White Chocolate

As a new business, support is an integral part of the recipe of success. Virgin StartUp became the special ingredient that made our vision a legitimate enterprise. Through mentors, business plan workshops, technical planning and financial support, thanks to Virgin StartUp, the blueprint for a viable business was established. 

We strongly feel that British Entrepreneurship is integral to a stronger economy, and a prosperous future for UK residents. We could not see ourselves doing anything but working for ourselves, and through Virgin StartUp we have met other like-minded entrepreneurs - including Sir Richard Branson. 

It is great to be a part of something bigger than us and that seeks to create positive change the lives of budding entrepreneurs nationwide - tapping into the wealth of talent and creativity in the UK and offering access to funding which can make dreams into reality. Since relaunching Empire post funding we have been selected for the Virgin Red V marks the spot treasure hunt, are collaborating on the launch of The Budding Entrepreneur Club in the Shard, and are very exited to be selected for The Not On The High Street Christmas Catalogue and Christmas in July Event, where guests tweeted about how much they enjoyed the product. It’s a great feeling to be able to live your passion everyday and we look forward to sharing our chocolates with the world.


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