NOMNOM: Lili and The Chocolate Factory

In the heart of Llanboidy, down a gloriously green winding road, hidden away amongst the trees, lies NOMNOM’s magical new home. From starting up in a small caravan, a team of two, it’s safe to say that NOMNOM’s story is a very inspiring and successful one, as you now see these marvellous chocolate bars popping up in more and more farm shops and food stores all over the country. During the Easter holidays, a very crazy time indeed for chocolate factories, SOON met with the very lovely Lili Woolacott, NOMNOM’s Keeper of Deliciousness, to learn a bit more about where NOMNOM all began and to see what they’ve got in store for the future..

Where did it all begin with NOMNOM? What made Liam want to start a chocolate business, and when? Tell us a bit about how it all got going… It actually all began in a little caravan in the back of Liam’s mum garden which is just outside of Llanboidy, this was in 2013. From there we grew from caravan to caravan park kitchen in Llansteffan which was beyond minuscule, all elbow to elbow wrapping and foiling what seemed to be enough chocolate to last a lifetime (at the time)! The idea of starting a chocolate company was stemmed from passion of flavours and textures that Liam has had from a very young age. Chocolate has an enchanting form of transformation as it goes from a liquid to a solid and then back again as you wish. The stuff seems to be running through that boys veins, growing up on Bourneville Lane right outside the Cadbury factory and starting his first chocolate shop under the stairs in his Grandparents house when he was just the age of 7. There was no getting away from it even if he had tried!

Compared to when he started up on his own, you now have quite a few people working here. What characteristics do you look for in workers here? The working environment is so very important to us. We want happy chocolate makers that make bars that are a labour of love and every bite tells its tale. We look for people that are enthusiastic in what they do, no matter what the task, you need a certain get up and go to be a part of a start-up. Real people who all bring something different to the chocolate table. Times can obviously get very tough, the same as in any small business but when you’re surrounded by people who care it makes it all the difference. We get to listen to jazzy tunes and have long afternoons filled with hot chocolate tastings. Could be worse ey?

Is where the chocolate ingredients are sourced an important factor to you? Massively important. Our favourite thing to do is collaborate with all the incredible producers across Wales & UK. Sourcing our fillings and ingredients from local suppliers which are already out there causing a taste sensation, then we add some chocolate, what more could you need! Last May the whole team took a trip to Madagascar which has got to be one of the most incredible experiences of my life. Seeing every step of the little cocoa beans journey to become the chocolate we know and love was so important as makers. We even planted our own trees that we will be fruiting in 4 years to come! We will have our very own NOMNOM beans. Hurrah!

What’s the weirdest flavour you’ve tried to make in the factory that didn’t work out? It has to be ‘Old Books’ that we created for a Perfumer called Azzi Glasser who asked us to design chocolate bars around her latest range of scents. We took Cuban cigars, leather essence, burnt hazelnuts and a whole range of other insane ingredients that were created to take you back to a nostalgic time of sitting in an old library where pungent aromas had been embedded into the pages on the shelves for years. The trialling however was ever more interesting. I can safely say that I will not be consuming cigar or leather essence again in a hurry.

What was the first flavour that hit the shelves? “Llaethdy Llaeth” which we were led to believe was Dairy Milk in Welsh but have since realised it actually means “milk house” which I kind of like even more. Liam’s mum Emma used to hand stamped every single letter onto the craft parcel paper she got from down the post office whilst also hand cutting all the boxes. Every detail had heart and soul as it still does just Emma doesn’t have to hand stamp the wrappers any more. She’s quite happy about this.

A lot of companies tend to leave Wales once they reach your level of success, the fact that you have stayed here is pretty unique… what is it about Wales that keeps you here? Funny you asked because it’s actually a message that we’re trying to get out there, that you don’t need to leave Wales just to be successful. You don’t need to move to a city for prospects and opportunity. We want to create a space for young, old and everyone in-between to come and grow their dreams. We see so many young people fleeing the hills of Wales just to find a decent job. We want to stay here tucked away waiting the curious to come and find us, live in the beauty of Wales and still have adventures that take you far across the world.

NOMNOM seems to just keep growing and growing! What are your hopes for the brand in the future? Well we have just hi-jacked this incredible site that used to be Pemberton’s Chocolate Farm for over 25 years which sadly had to shut down about 4 years ago. The site was just sitting here waiting for life to be pumped back into its walls which is now happening and it’s such an exciting project we’re really getting stuck in to. We will be creating a Maker’s Village where people with a whole range of talents can come, discuss ideas, share resources and have their studio spaces here on site. Our first official Maker is Lee who is currently drawing everything in his Grandad’s shed, when I say everything. I mean everything.

If you want to see some cool videos, head to our website: www.nomnom.cymru for a sneaky peak at what’s to come. You can also (if you fancy us) sign up to our Curious Club where we will be letting you in to all the secret happenings here.

Finally Lili, if you were a chocolate bar what flavour would you be? It’s got to be our ‘Love’ bar. Our silky smooth super salted caramel made with Daioni’s Organic cream and Calon Wen’s butter with a lashing of Halen Mon oak smoked sea salt. It’s all gooey in the middle. A bit like me.

If you enjoyed this article, you’re in for a treat because there’s more! Just be sure to grab a copy of ISSUE TWO this summer to read the full story…