Although Slatkin couldn’t control the voice, he could control what he fed it — to a point. If his studies in food and human biology taught him anything, it’s that he should stick to organics whenever he craved a sweet. The only problem is, Slatkin doesn’t care for organic chocolate (“bitter,” he says), and the few organic hard candies on the market aren’t to his liking. “There wasn’t any I could find that was organic and delicious,” he says.
So Slatkin did what, ahem, anyone would do in such a situation: He started his own candy company. The way he talks about it, creating Torie & Howard Organic Hard Candy was just as difficult as designing million-dollar palatial spaces for the rich and famous in France, America and elsewhere. (Just think about that for a second . . . and about how touchy it must be to tell such clients that their taste needs, um, refinement.)
It took Slatkin and his business partner, Torie Burke, nearly two years to confront and overcome the complications of entering the U.S Department of Agriculture certified organic market, from things you might expect (documentation) to things you might not (food coloring). Their candies finally debuted in January at the Winter Fancy Food Show in San Francisco and will make a return trip to the country’s premier showcase of specialty products at the Summer Fancy Food Show, to be held Sunday through Tuesday at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in the District. (The show, alas, is not open to the public.)
But let’s back up: To start Torie & Howard Organic Hard Candy, Burke and Slatkin had to essentially put their other careers in deep freeze. The two had designed spaces together for 20 years — he as designer, she as color consultant with a separate firm — and had accumulated enough cash to start their business with added investments from friends and relatives. They figured it would take a year to launch.
As a founder of Slatkin & Co., Slatkin already understood what it took to bring fragrance products to market. Why should candy be any harder? But, as he notes, “a food product is a whole different world,” especially one that wants to slap a USDA “organic” label on its packaging. The organic certification process, Slatkin says, is “rigorous, expensive and time-consuming.”
“People in the food industry would tell us, ‘You don’t have to be so strict’ ” about the organic designation, Slatkin adds. “But that was non-negotiable.”