Pana Barbounis founded Pana Chocolate in Melbourne three years ago. A child of Greek migrant parents who did not have a lot of money, he always believed if he was self employed, he would be more prosperous. Pana also decided, in his 30s, that in the next phase of his life, he would do things his way.
This desire – after many years working in food and catering – led to his discovery of raw chocolate. He developed his products and worked on them for six months, including training in the UK and visits to Belgium, where he worked with traditional chocolatiers. He learnt a lot about individual ingredients, before creating his range that dominates the raw food space; Pana Chocolate is vegan, organic and refined-sugar free. He started out in 2013 selling $600 worth of chocolate a month – and delivering it from the back of his scooter – but very quickly brought on a distributor. His chocolate is now sold by 3000 stockists around the world (1900 in Australia), plus he has stores in Richmond, Melbourne, and Alexandria, Sydney. The business’s turnover exceeds $5 million a year.
The chocolate is all made and packaged in his Richmond warehouse, behind the Melbourne shop on Church Street. To give a sense of overseas spread, Pana Chocolate is sold by 40 stores in Iceland, France was the company’s biggest international market in 2015, Wholefoods stock it in the UK, and it is sold on both the east and west coast of the US, too.
Pana’s ambition is for Pana Chocolate to be the number one raw chocolate company in the world by 2017.