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Moulding a niche market

Duffy Sheardown and I have been friends and colleagues multiple times since 1991. We have been involved in countless adventures and misadventures connected to Motor Racing. Duffy even saved my life one grim day in Missouri when in the midst of a blizzard he dragged me to hospital, delirious and dangerously close to succumbing to pneumonia. Duffy has enjoyed a glorious variation of employers in motor racing, been associated with some of the most successful and least successful teams in top flight categories, yet never shy’d from the challenge of the seemingly impossible. In short, if you want to get things done, Duffy is one of those people you want on your team….. don’t ask him for his job description, he cant give you one, think of him as a “facilitator” much like Mr Wolfe in Pulp Fiction, although slightly less handsome than Harvey Keitel and thoroughly less macabre.


Duffy is seen here in headset as part of the
JCB Diesel speed record team at Bonneville.

Much like me, Duffy has recently taken cause to cut back on travel and the rigours of international motor sports. His new productive output is making niche chocolate under the Red Star Chocolate banner.

Duffy has always been a nutter about Italy, when I first met him, he had a derelict cottage in Oxfordshire and a tiny apartment somewhere in Italy,  just in case he got another job with an Italian F1 team (which he did, but that is another story….) So his affliction with Chocolate and the whimsy of the chocolate expo in Perugia are completely congruous with the Duffy I know.

When I was in the UK recently I had dinner with Duffy and he gave me 3 bars of his new hand made chocolate to sample. Authentic hand made wrappers, the whole bit, edible craft. The chocolate was wonderful, perhaps the first time I have ever noticed that a piece of chocolate can actually have intriguing, lingering flavors, much like a decent glass of wine. Thanks to Duffy I have now developed a chocolate snobbery that makes me investigate for the lasting flavor of every chocolate I taste….. thanks Duff!

Just as WEVO has been operating in a carefully identified niche market over the past 15 years, I can see that Duffy has that same adventure ahead of him as he steers his Red Star Chocolate brand towards it’s niche destination on the global chocolate map.

Duffy has no shortage of those who are in “need” of chocolate samples, plus he still has some technical hurdles related to the machinery that is used to make chocolate before he can make it in viable small batches. Coupled with this, Duffy has a real sense of “off-the-grid” that he hopes to marry with chocolate making. So when he commented that a vintage windmill (the giant Dutch style) might be a good idea – he may not be joking.

Duffy Sheardown, tags: off-the-grid, fair trade, motor racing, chocolate, Italy, travel, motor cycles, curry, Dub, etc. etc. What a great friend to have!!

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