Sunday, February 25, 2018

'The Original Solid Egg': Since 2012 (and why we do it)

In 2012, a chance comment by a friend (Thanks Emma) triggered an idea: Easter eggs were always hollow, and as a child - as an adult, even - you still hankered after the fantasy that one day you'd pick one up and bite into it to find not more air, but more chocolate. A solid, filled, no-bubbles, not-in-chunks, not-full-of-truffles Solid Chocolate Egg.

So, as with many projects before and since, and knowing very little about Easter egg production, we went ahead and made it a reality. We had a history of creating chocolate products as giveaways, promotion and uprated business cards, so we commissioned 50 eggs from a local chocolatier, designed some robust, no-nonsense packaging and an appropriately working-class blocky logo for them, and sold the lot. To our delight, mates, colleagues and strangers alike thrust money at us in exchange for the childhood fantasy of this non-hollow egg.

We initially gave no thought to doing it again, but six years on, Solid Egg is not so much a product as an annual event. We're quite good at events - Leigh and I were putting on events within the first few weeks of meeting each other - so treating it as such feels more native than 'selling a product'. The planning starts before Christmas and the packaging is designed, the ads are plotted and the eggs made as close as feasibly possible to Easter sales time, in order to keep them as fresh as possible. Then with eggs inside packaging and the web shop stocked, we're off, on around six weeks of mentally and physically challenging work on top of whatever else we're working on in the run up to Easter. The Internet can make selling look easy, but it's bloody hard work bringing a hand-made, personalised product to market and even harder actually persuading people to part with their hard-earned cash.

But, with a cult following worldwide, the eggs sell out every year, and we've sold them as far afield as Manhattan, LA, Canada, Korea, Japan, and all over Europe. Every year we're surprised at their geographical reach. The only thing that's stayed the same since 2012 is the logo; the eggs have increased significantly in weight and quantity, the packaging is re-designed every year, advertising routes and looks change; we've designed our own, bespoke moulds.

We've consistently had the eggs made in the UK, with ingredients chosen for their flavour, ethics and origin. People buy our eggs for far-flung relatives as Easter gifts; as thank yous, as presents for themselves; they hide them from their children, buy them for their children, treat their work colleagues with them and keep them on shelves for months, chipping away at a bit of Easter all year round (their average shelf life is around 16 months).

Of course, what happens when you do something that's popular and appealing? It gets copied. There's a big blog coming up about that happening in a much wider context - copying and imitation has been a growing issue in the last 18 months - but, in the time since we've been doing this, another bloke's come along and set up a company selling what he describes as 'solid chocolate eggs', complete with a logo described, when we sought advice on it, as 'uncomfortably close' (you'll see what I mean if your Googling is terrier-like enough to find it!) His egg is, in reality, an egg shape made up of lots of little bits held together by its plastic packaging - so purely in terms of physics alone, not at all solid.
There's room for all styles of chocolate egg in the world of course, and we even laughed and looked the other way when we realised he'd nicked chunks of our copy too (our assistant wasn't so chill about it, she had to be talked down with a nice cup of hot chocolate) and even kept our heads when we noticed he'd dissed our actual egg on his website. But. As long as we keep reinventing and making our egg better and different every year, we're happy to let him have his corner of the chocolate egg world. We know our market, and we know where the motivation for making it comes from - and it's not from the desire to make a few extra quid on Amazon. (There's also no plastic in our egg. Thanks Blue Planet II!)

The other thing we've always done is made vegan eggs. Way ahead of the massive surge in vegan eating, we knew there was a market for a big greed-based hunk of chocolate for people who happen to avoid dairy, and 'inclusive chocolate' was a thing we both sought out and pursued with our own products. As vegans since the late 90s, it would have been insanity not to. Since then we've made a gluten and nut free one too.

So it's all good, and we're quite proud of keeping this project running for all this time. But people still ask us why we do it, since it's hard work and a risky thing to do - after all, what if you don't sell through? There are only so many chocolate eggs you can eat*. The supermarkets are awash with less costly, pretty, or fancy, or character-led, decorated eggs; vegan eggs are even in Aldi now, and for the amount you spend on one of our eggs, you could go mental in Lidl's Easter aisle and still have change for a treat from the 'Seasonal Clothing Bargains' section.

We've come to think it's because people trust us, and the product, and our reasons for doing it. We're not quietly building up an egg-shaped retirement stash - a nest egg, if you will - but we do make a modest profit which is fed into other projects. We don't claim to make the biggest egg, or the fanciest, or the cheapest - it's what it says on the tin (and yes this year, the eggs are coming to you in tins!) - just a solid block of beautiful-tasting no-nonsense chocolate made with love and care. And heavy enough to break a window, or replace your favourite kettlebell.

You can keep track of this year's Solid Egg on Eggstagram, Twitter (chicks, baby hens innit) and Facebook.

*Theory yet to be tested.

And, you can buy them at

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