Two Edmonton entrepreneurs, Tammy and Alysia Lok, set out with the modest goal of creating their own European-style caramels. Thanks to word of mouth, and a consistent presence in local markets, their company Caramia Caramels is preparing for growth.
“It really does deserve more attention than it currently has because it’s such a versatile candy, and it’s delicious,” says Tammy Lok.
The venture was initially inspired by caramels that Tammy Lok brought home from her honeymoon in Europe. The two enjoyed the unique flavours so much that they searched around Edmonton for a similar caramel experience. Alas, they couldn’t find anything.
With Tammy Lok’s marketing background and her sister-in-law Alysia Lok’s nutrition education, they set out to create their own brand of caramels.
The next step was formulating a recipe. The Lok sisters experimented with hundreds of batches, honing in on a unique taste. Long nights of trial and error eventually led them to the recipe they’re using today.
“It took us at least a few months, pretty much cooking everyday. We went off a base recipe, but it was a North American version that was very sweet and sticky,” Alysia Lok says. “We wanted to get away from that and get it to a more European style with a buttery finish. We kept on tweaking it as we got closer, until we were both happy.”
The next step was getting their product out for the masses to taste. Their first expedition was at City Market downtown.
“Seeing the reactions on the people’s faces when they tried our caramels for the first time, it really struck a chord in us. I think from the first market, this is what I wanted to do,” Tammy Lok says.
Caramia Caramels has little to no advertising budget, besides social media. And of course their presence at various markets. To expand production they needed a boost in funding, and they decided to start a Kickstarter campaign with a goal of $13,000. The Loks have already exceeded their goal, and are using the money to increase their caramel volume.
Currently, the caramels are made in small batches but thanks to the donations, they have researched and tested new machines that will increase volume.
“We really wanted to be able to pick up production,” Tammy Lok says. “One way to do so was to purchase a cooker that was designated for making caramels. With the new machine we’re able to produce three times more caramels.”
Cooking caramel is a precise art, with any variance of temperature affecting the viscosity of each batch.
“It’s very difficult to find a thermometer that is very, very accurate. So a couple degrees difference in how you cook your caramels will either make it too soft or too hard,” Alysia Lok says. “In order achieve the consistency that we want, it’s really important to make sure you’re cooking at the same temperature every single time.”
The sisters are hoping to launch an online service across North America in the new year. Until then, you can catch them every weekend selling their product at various markets around the city.
Tammy Lok believes this is just a taste of what’s to come.
“Alysia has the ability to create any flavour that comes into her imagination, so there’s no limit to the possibilities.”