When life handed her lemons, Jeanette Macko of Planet Cocoa made chocolate.

When life handed her lemons, Jeanette Macko of Planet Cocoa made chocolate.

Jeanette Macko of Planet Cocoa started 2020 as a pastry chef, but the global pandemic had other plans. After a total industry shut-down Jeanette was left with the uncertainty many of us have faced thanks to coronavirus. But with that uncertainty came an opportunity to pursue a dream she’d been sitting on for two years—her own ethical and vegan chocolate brand. We spoke to Jeanette about her new venture called Planet Cocoa and her vision for a totally ethical chocolate industry in the not-so-distant future.

What made you start Planet Cocoa?
The idea was just a seed for the past 2 years working full time (which means a minimum of 50 hours) as a head pastry chef but of course with limited time, never found the energy or motivation to launch. I dove head first into it once Covid shut down the whole hospitality industry, including the place I had been working for 6 years and launched Planet Cocoa for Mothers Day this year. Once I had left the place I had invested the last 6 years into, I grew to realise there was no better time to invest in myself instead of a big corporation. I had learned the hard way the time, passion and creativity I had invested there didn’t count for anything when I needed them the most. Being eco-friendly was always at the forefront, as I didn’t want to create something impacting the planet I love and the vegan aspect just made sense to me.

Do you have a morning routine? If so what is it you do to set yourself up for the day ahead?
Wake up and always check my phone – usually to see if there were any online orders that came through I can quickly pack before the courier comes haha! A double shot almond latte and sitting in the sun for at least an hour (sometimes longer…) has been my routine for the past 6 months with being in isolation in Victoria. I prioritise reading or checking in with a friend via phone call in the morning time, as it seems it’s the most intentional time of day for me, the rest of the day swarming with distractions.

What’s the biggest barrier you’ve found to succeeding as a socially conscious business?
Honestly, the first barrier I had to break was resigning from my previous workplace to launch Planet Cocoa, as we unfortunately clashed with a difference of ethics. If environmental consciousness counts for social consciousness, it has taken longer (not to mention more expensive) to find local packaging manufacturers, ethical ingredients but hope this becomes a norm and more expected of manufacturers and producers.

Within the ethical fashion community, there’s a big question that we ask which is ‘who made my clothes?’. In the scope of Planet Cocoa, who made the things you sell? Can you tell us a bit about them?
Great question! It reminds me of when I decided to pop in handwritten cards in with every online order, someone told me I should just get them printed but I was adamant I wanted people to get a spark of consciousness that someone’s hands, somebody was behind that order. As for the ingredients we get to play with, some stand outs that immediately come to mind is our 64% cacao dark chocolate. This chocolate contains Vietnamese sourced cacao from Vietcacao, an organization that works closely with planter families in the Mekong Delta – selecting, fermenting, drying the cacao beans. Vietcacao employs disabled youth and facilitates connections between planters to aid the development of the Vietnamese cacao bean industry and recieves higher than Vietnamese average trade pricing for their produce.

Why did you pick the ingredients you have chosen to work with?
I chose to be mindful with the ingredients I use in hope it sparks awareness with consumers, much like our eco-friendly packaging. We hope it’s a small drop in a ripple effect!

Best piece of advice you have ever received?
“Don’t be afraid to look outside of your postcode” – Given to me by a former boss in Adelaide, South Australia when I told her I was having trouble finding a full time pastry chef position in SA. What she said really encouraged me to go outside of my comfort zone, find a job in Melbourne, Victoria and move here 6 years ago.

What’s next for you and Planet Cocoa?
Currently developing a line of vegan white chocolate, which today I second guessed why I chose to make this brand vegan because it’s proving to be harder than I thought but then I reminded myself I also did this to challenge myself. Stay tuned for that as a new flavour line!

One book and/or documentary everyone should read/watch? Why?
Watch The Biggest Little Farm if you haven’t yet, a documentary about a little farm that I definitely shed a few tears in because it’s so beautiful seeing how nature has an answer for everything, but here we are spraying pesticides as an easy way out. Also loved the series War on Waste, but things like that need a rerun of broadcasting – people forget so easily.

Are there any other Movers & Shakers out there in your world that you think people should know about?
Botany Florist – Plastic free florist in Melbourne who are driven to only purchase locally grown, no plastic sleeves in sight and deliver without packaging. I love that as half of the bouquet you get normally is the paper!
I follow so many great people on social media that keep me motivated to be green for this planet’s benefit so it’s hard choosing one but that one is local to me 🙂

When life handed her lemons, Jeanette Macko of Planet Cocoa made chocolate.

Want to support small businesses dreaming up a better world? Us too. Head on over to Planet Cocoa to taste our idea of heaven. You’re welcome.

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