LOM x PANA ORGANIC: A BAG FULL OF GOODNESS
In the lead up to the most chocolatey weekend of the year in April, LOM Australia is joining forces with our favourite vegan, organic chocolate brand Pana Organic to give away a LOM bag full of chocolatey goodness. To give you more of an insight into this incredible brand, we interviewed founder, Pana Barbounis.
What inspired you to start Pana Organic?
I have had a great relationship with food since the day I was born. Particularly organic foods, for me, food is for nourishing the soul. Growing up in a household with migrant parents was always full of love and wholesome meals, which evolved for me personally into a love for artisan, slow and organic foods. So, it was really a natural progression born from a love of sharing delicious, nourishing, artisan foods into a brand with the same values – Pana Organic.
Tell us how it all began.
In the early 2000s, I experienced raw chocolate for the first time, and the second I tasted it, everything changed. The experience was overwhelmingly delicious and one I wanted to share. I knew that handmade, vegan chocolate was what I needed to do next.
I began researching, crafting, and hand wrapping vegan chocolates, delivering them on my Vespa to local, independent grocers in Melbourne. What started as a side-hustle scaled quickly into a thriving business. We grew quickly, but our approach to artisanal quality has never wavered.
Why plant-based artisan chocolate?
I have been vegan for nearly 10 years. I believe it is the healthier choice for both myself and the planet. I choose a plant-based diet because I consider myself equal to, and no worthier than, any other sentient being. The artisan factor came from my passion for all things food. I saw a gap in the market for premium, artisan chocolate that I knew people would love and feel good about sharing and eating.
At the time I started Pana Chocolate, it was a niche category, not many brands were vegan, so we felt like a progressive brand at the time. It has been so satisfying to see our community grow and watch the world come on board with healthier, more sustainable lifestyle choices.
What is the process behind creating and perfecting the recipes for your ?
Firstly, it’s about sourcing the finest organic ingredients we can; cacao powder, cacao butter, coconut milk. This is a must. Then it’s a matter of finding the perfect marriage of ingredients for a balance of flavour. If one ingredient is too overpowering, it changes the whole experience. Keeping the recipes simple and balanced allows the individual flavours to shine. I often compare it to a fine dining experience where the meals are built around one key ingredient, the other ingredients provide the perfect accompaniment. Creating new flavours is an artform. We love it.
We love that you manufacture locally in Melbourne, what have been the challenges with local manufacturing, and would you ever look at offshore?
We love manufacturing in Melbourne. Pana Organic was born here, and we have very strong ties to our local community. The main challenge we have faced is sourcing the infrastructure and equipment to create our new products and ranges. However, Melbourne is home, and we aren’t going anywhere at this stage.
What sustainable practices do you have in play at Pana Organic?
Our chocolate boxes are made from 100% post-consumer waste cardboard and printed with vegetable inks. Most of our packaging is recyclable, and all our ingredients are certified organic. We’ve installed solar panels on our factory roof, supplying some of the energy required for production. And we plant a lot of trees, over 55,000 and counting.
What would you like to improve on?
There are always improvements to be made. Working with food in Australia is highly regulated, so in some instances it has been challenging to balance food safety with sustainable packaging, but our team continues to work with our incredible suppliers to find more sustainable packaging options. We’re always looking for ways to make the Pana Organic experience better for you, and better for the earth.
Your philosophy is “Love your insides. Love the earth.” What does this mean to you and how does Pana Organic give back to the earth?
We plant trees. Over 55,000 trees and counting. It has been one of the most important and rewarding aspects of the Pana Organic journey so far, offsetting our impact and contributing to our beautiful planet.
Every decision we make centers around creating delicious, nourishing, organic products whilst respecting our planet. We are certified vegan, organic, and endorsed by Coeliac Australia, so all our ingredients are carefully considered to meet the highest quality controls and ensure that our customers are enjoying healthy, wholesome foods. Our packaging is also constantly evolving to ensure we choose products with the least impact.
Who is the team behind the scenes?
We have an incredible team at Pana Organic including key stakeholders, head of new product development Zak Bennett, strategic advisor Michael Saba, and social media expert Elaine So.
Our extended Pana Organic family consists of a talented team of passionate operations, sales, marketing, innovation and distribution experts. We work collaboratively to create unique products and are constantly searching for new ways to spread the Pana Organic love.
Pana Organic has been offering plant-based chocolate goodness since 2012. What’s next for the brand?
The team at Pana Organic are superstars and never short of bold ideas. We will continue to grow, innovate and update within the existing ranges. The most exciting news to come will be our new ‘top secret’ product ranges, so follow us for news and updates.
For more information on Pana Organic