By Nick Carne
There’s a hot chocolate revolution going on in suburban Adelaide. Local business PODiSTA is the first in the world to produce chocolate pods that work just like coffee pods, and the idea has really taken off. The production line is working double shifts to produce 150,000 pods of coffee, chocolate and milk flavourings a day – that’s 20 million in total over the past year – and they are selling to Woolworths, Coles and other stores nationally, as well as overseas.
It’s all happened in just two years since Toby Strong grabbed the chance to be the only supplier of Nespresso compatible coffee pods in Australia. He saw the growing popularity of single pod coffee and the potential to then take things further and create “drinks and beverages that no-one else was thinking about”. The only problem with the second bit was that he couldn’t convince his Italian coffee supplier to branch out into chocolate and other products.
“At that point we knew we had to have our own production line,” he said.
“If we want to stay ahead and we want to be innovative and have different beverages we have to do this ourselves, and we have to do it in Australia.”
With a $2 million investment from a partner, Toby set up a factory in Beverley, which is where all the action takes place. The product range now includes 15 varieties of coffee, chocolate and flavourings and a second production line is planned. Toby, as managing director, leads a team of 16.
That’s always how he rather hoped it would be. After returning from an overseas working holiday (working largely as a skateboard instructor) he tried various jobs but really wanted to do something of his own. He had no business background, but had dabbled in commerce while still at school; he and a friend ran a clothing label that sold t-shirts to more than 80 stores around Australia.
“I don’t know what it is but I‘ve always had a fascination with running a business, for some reason,” he said.
“I’ve always liked chess strangely enough and even though I’d had no influence in my life to push me in the direction of chess, I’ve always liked the strategy, and thinking a few steps ahead and in different directions.”
His current thinking is to keep as much business as possible in South Australia, while following up more overseas opportunities.
“Last year was all about getting set up and getting the product out but starting in January this year our big focus has been on export markets.
“We are now doing well and are selling in the United States, Hong Kong, China, South Korea, Taiwan Singapore and New Zealand, and we are negotiating with potential buyers in another 10 countries in South America, the Middle East and Europe.”
You can get the full PODiSTA story here. It includes a blog if you want a little light reading with your coffee.