Food Heroes: Lavinia Davolio, Lavolio Boutique Confectionery
From high-flying investment banker to fully-fledged foodpreneur, Yumbles maker Lavinia Davolio has a fascinating story to share. Read on to find out how she started unique boutique confectionery brand Lavolio…and why she’ll never eat another marshmallow again!
How did Lavolio get started?
“I moved to London eleven years ago from Italy, to work at an investment bank on the trading floor. When my company suddenly laid-off 4,500 staff overnight, I knew this was my opportunity to escape the corporate finance world. Food has always been my passion, like all Italians I learned to cook from my grandmother as a little girl. So I went and did a cookery course at Ashburton Cookery School. I absolutely loved it, but by the end of the course I knew I didn’t want to become a chef or open a restaurant. But I still didn’t know what I wanted to do next!”
“I spent some more time travelling and speaking to people in the food world then thought – why don’t I create a product? At the beginning of 2013 I began looking into trends in gourmet food, and started making marshmallows at home. My friends loved all the free marshmallows, but I couldn’t stand the smell of gelatine! It totally took over my home. This got me thinking about the concept of vegetarian sweets made without animal gelatine. I headed over to Italy and started a long process of meeting artisan makers, tasting and experimenting. I put on 3kg in weight from eating so much sugar!
Eventually, a confectioner introduced me to a traditional artisan technique used in Italy for making sugared almonds. It’s quite complicated but they blow hot air into huge pans which are slowly rotated, and this creates layers around the sweets. I thought to myself – there’s more we can do with this technique. To cut a long story short – we launched Lavolio in August 2013 and that traditional Italian technique is at the heart of every Lavolio sweet we make.”
What makes Lavolio sweets so special?
“Lavolio really is a completely new concept in confectionery, and the total opposite of cheap, mass produced sweets. All our sweets are handmade in Italy, very slowly. Every batch takes up to five days to create. We start with the heart of the sweet – this could be a whole nut, a piece of caramelised fruit or a coffee bean. We then add the layers using the traditional artisan technique I described above. Depending on the sweet, these layers can include chocolate, spices, essential oils or our unique apple jelly. Each sweet is then finished with a thin sugar shell.
We use really innovative flavour combinations – one of my favourites is the Decadent Spiced collection, which includes combinations such as pistachio and chilli, orange zest and saffron, and coffee beans coated with sugar and aniseed. We use real ingredients, absolutely nothing artificial….and of course no gelatine or animal ingredients! Then of course there’s our amazing designer tins – we say Lavolio are so much more than a box of chocolates, and it’s true.”
What does a typical day involve for you?
“I’m the Growth Captain here. I spend a lot of time with mentors, clients, other entrepreneurs – people who I can learn from and who inspire me to keep growing my business. So I really couldn’t survive without having a wonderful team around me who keep everything running smoothly while I’m out and about. We spend a lot of time tasting, sampling and talking to stockists – we have 45 around the world now, including Fortnum and Mason and even a shop in Kuwait. We all really love seeing people’s reactions when they try Lavolio for the first time – it’s a totally new experience and they’re always thrilled.”
Any exciting plans for the future you can tell us about?
“We’ve just launched a really special new product for Christmas – Marrons Glaces. They’re giant caramelised chestnuts from Montemarano in Italy, slowly caramelised then coated in a sugar glaze, before being carefully encased in one of our signature designer tins. A really gorgeous gift or something special to enjoy over Christmas with family and friends.”
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