By Becky Billingsley
Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2011, Myrtle Beach - It is said that the best inventions are born of necessity, and that was the case when Gary Easton and Michelle Leroux found inspiration for Fudge Buckets, a new Myrtle Beach company with a novel packaging system that prevents fudge from drying out.
"We went on vacation," Easton said on Nov. 14 at I See Pastries in the Carolina Forest section of Myrtle Beach, where he and Leroux use the kitchen to make their product, "and we bought some fudge. We put it in the car, and when we went to get it, it had dried out. We thought, 'What if we put the fudge in a container?'"
The couple had been trying for 10 years to think of a product that almost anyone would want - but not necessarily need - that would get repeat sales. When the idea to put fudge in small resealable containers came to them, they looked at each other and said, "Here it is."
Easton and Leroux (mostly Leroux, Easton stresses), researched all the licenses and permits they'd need to manufacture and sell food and secured all the documentation. They made fudge at home using a "secret Nantucket recipe" and played around with creating different flavors, getting the recipe to just the right creaminess.
They launched the business in August, and already sales are necessitating them making 144-pound batches four nights per week.
"And right now, with the sales we're doing for the holidays, we could be in here every night making fudge," Easton said.
They bought a used commercial-grade fudge kettle from a North Carolina confectionary that went out of business, and Irvin Pereira at I See Pastries in Carolina Forest agreed to let them put it in his kitchen and make fudge there at night, after his pastry shop is closed. After having a logo created and finding the right lidded containers to hold four ounces of fudge, they set up a Web site, booked booths at area festivals and started selling.
Their fudge, which is priced individually at $4 each per 4-ounce container, is packaged with small plastic spoons so consumers can have a taste or two, put the lid back on and know they can go back to the treat days later and have it still taste fresh. The shelf life, unrefrigerated, is six months to one year.
Flavors include chocolate, chocolate walnut, maple walnut, pumpkin, pumpkin walnut, peanut butter, chocolate peanut butter, apple pie, candy cane, orange cream, sugar-free chocolate and sugar-free chocolate walnut.
I sampled chocolate, maple walnut, pumpkin, candy cane and sugar-free chocolate, and they were all delicious. Normally I don't care for pumpkin-flavored foods, but this fudge has a subtle flavor with spices that is extremely appealing. My favorite is candy cane; it has a creamily mellow mint flavor.
There are also fudge pies, which contain 2 1/2 pounds of fudge in a graham cracker crust for $28; and fudge gift buckets - acrylic buckets with the 4-ounce containers stacked in them - for $20-$35. All of the items are available at the Fudge Bucket Web site.
Right now Easton is at Shadrack's Christmas Wonderland that's set up through Jan. 6 at the Myrtle Beach Pelicans ball field at the corner of Robert M. Grissom Parkway and 21st Avenue North. They also plan to have booths at the Springmaid Winter Festival, the St. Nicholas Festival in Conway and the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce Christmas Towne. Special holiday Fudge Buckets are packaged so the containers can be hung on Christmas trees.
Already Easton and Leroux have met the goals of their initial one-year business plan. Now they're working on a five-year plan, which includes getting Fudge Buckets into retail stores regionally, and then nationally.
"It's lucrative, but it takes lots and lots of hours," Easton said. "It consumes us, the excitement never ends. We wake up at 3 a.m. with ideas. I guess you could say we're making a consuming consummable."