Cocoa Bombs Explode into Life
Eric Torres-Garcia (right), founder of Cocoa Bombs, with his mother Pilar Torres (left), the company’s operations manager.
Eric Torres-Garcia experienced new types of candy and chocolate when he studied in Italy as a Boise State Undergraduate seeking a degree in International Business. The concept of Kinder Eggs stuck in his mind; globes of chocolate that contain small plastic toys or figurines. Eric had the idea to fill chocolate shells with marshmallows and other treats that explode and melt into instant hot chocolate when drowned in hot milk. This inspiration led to the creation of Eric’s Original Cocoa Bombs™ in 2019.
Eric posted a video of his first Cocoa Bomb on TikTok, where his invention exploded in popularity. A day after the launch of his chocolatey invention, Eric posted a “sold-out” sign on TikTok and tried to figure out how he would fulfill $6,000 worth of orders for a product he created just hours earlier. Production operations began in Eric’s kitchen and eventually migrated to a shared-use commercial kitchen in his hometown of Blackfoot, Idaho, where family members could help with all facets of production, packaging, and shipping.
As the demand for Cocoa Bombs boomed, Eric reached out to Dr. Kent Neupert, Chair of the Management Department at the Boise State College of Business and Economics, who helped him address a myriad of startup issues. Dr. Neupert also referred Eric to TechHelp, a member of the MEP National Network™ for manufacturing assistance.
Producing a food product requires strict adherence to modern food safety regulations and processes. Eric achieved food safety certification by attending TechHelp’s Food Safety and Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) course with Dr. Janna Hamlett of TechHelp and the University of Idaho. Dr. Hamlett became another link in Eric’s chain of knowledgeable mentors.
Continued growth forced Eric to look beyond the shared-use kitchen in Blackfoot and led him to design and build a manufacturing facility in Blackfoot in the fall of 2021.
Thanks to his business education at Boise State, Eric had the knowledge and expertise to address many challenges related to starting a new business. However, Eric knew he would need a team to help with all aspects of creating a business, including marketing, website design, production issues, factory design, food safety, packaging, supply chain, and more.
Listed below are some of the players in the Cocoa Bombs story.
- Cocoa Bombs
- studio/Blu Family
- Dr. Janna Hamlett – Food Manufacturing Specialist at TechHelp and the University of Idaho who provided food safety training and consultation. Janna shared her vast knowledge of food safety, food production, and food plant specifications.
- Professor Kent Neupert – Chair of the management department at Boise State, mentored Eric and guided him on startup issues.
- Dave Wagers, AKA “The Candyman,” – President of the Idaho Candy Company who mentors Eric and shares his vast knowledge of candy production.
“Dave helped us figure out how to produce and package our product, as well as navigate the business aspects of running a candy business and dealing with distributors and wholesalers,” said Torres-Garcia.
- Kristin Dwyer – Came to the project via the Boise State WorkU Program and stayed on with TechHelp & studio\Blu as a Student Employee Graphic Designer. Kristin did a lot of the initial work on the Cocoa Bombs site before she earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Arts and landed a job with Black Hills Information Security.
- Hannah Anderson – Boise State Student Employee and Graphic Designer who worked her magic on the Cocoa Bombs Website. Hannah graduated with a degree in Graphic Design and stayed at Boise State and TechHelp as a Graduate Assistant as she earns her MBA.
- Preston Pfau – Boise State Student Employee and Writer who cleaned up copy for the Cocoa Bombs site.
- Bill Mullane – Marketing Manager of TechHelp who helped connect Eric with TechHelp/studio\Blu resources and oversaw project management.
- Grey Beaudry – Manager of the New Product Development Lab at Boise State who worked with Vessel to help Eric with packaging issues.
- Nic Kawaguchi – COO and Co-Founder of Vessel, worked with Grey to address Eric’s packaging and supply chain issues.
The Rest of the Story
- Eric is producing Cocoa Bombs in his new 6,000-square-foot facility in Blackfoot, Idaho.
- Cocoa Bombs is bringing in over six figures in revenue and continues to grow with new products, markets, and distribution channels.
- Eric was featured in The Washington Post and is releasing a cookbook through a major publisher to teach people how to make various Cocoa Bomb recipes.
- In addition to direct sales through his website, Eric sells to distributors, private labels, and wholesale. He signed a deal with Kroger, the second largest grocery chain in America, to place Cocoa Bombs on the shelves at Fred Meyer.