For many years I have had the amazing opportunity to be able to travel to a small town in Southern Italy near Benevento called San Marco dei Cavoti. Steeped in history, this town captivated my heart and soul. It happens to be the town where my Mother-in-Law was born and raised, where my husband spent his early years before coming to the US and the namesake of my son Marco. Since the day I stepped foot in San Marco, I was also captivated by the famous chocolate, hazelnut and almond confection called Croccantino. The flavor is something in between Nutella, honey and a Heath bar. You can eat a lot of them since they are only 2 bites, so be careful, it can be dangerous! They are beloved by everyone in the town and everyone who I bring a box back to in New York. My Dad ate an entire box in one sitting (about 20 bars) the first time I brought them back to the US. Of course we always bring an empty bag to ensure that we can stock up!
The first producers of Croccantino started over 150 years ago, they are mostly family run and produce in small batches. This is why it intrigued me to find out that there was someone new on the scene.
About 3 years ago, I stumbled upon Autore online. The owner Antonio Autore grew up in San Marco dei Cavoti. He left for a while to study and work in international business throughout Europe, but returned home to, as he says, rewrite the tradition. He has done an amazing job balancing the tradition of Croccantino while bringing the 150 year old recipe into the 21st century. What first caught my attention was the beautiful packaging and the multiple flavors. With flavors like Sicilian Pistachio, Coconut, Honey & Fig and Giundia, Autore extends the idea of traditional Croccantino. This great YouTube video highlights the production process and gives you more insight into the world of Autore.
The brightly colored packaging is eye catching and makes a great in-store display. After six years in business, Autore has started to ship to the US. If you are in NYC you can find his product at Buon Italia in Chelsea Market. He also will ship directly to customers through his website.
Recently, I had the opportunity to do a quick interview with Antonio, here are a few highlights from our conversation:
When did you get the idea to start Autore and what was your inspiration?
I grew up in San Marco dei Cavoti the world capital of Croccantino, this famous crunchy bar of nuts laced with sugar and covered with dark chocolate. I left after high-school for my college studies and then worked abroad for a few years but always brought with me a box of Croccantino. Well wherever I travelled everybody loved the product and the idea of starting my own production started working in my head.So six years ago I returned to San Marco started the Autore chocolate. I created a catalogue adding new chocolate recipes to classic Croccantino and I built up a range of different flavors.
How many countries are you selling your product in now?
We are selling our products in 15 countries (most of the European countries, but also Japan, US and others).
What has been your biggest challenge?
To sell a traditional product with a more dynamic and modern approach, infact our motto is "rewrite the tradition" . We use a intriguing design and innovative packaging solutions that is very much liked by consumers
What is the most popular product?
The classic Croccantino is still the best selling product, but it is followed by Croccantino honey and raisin, Croccantino honey and figs and Pistachio
What is next for Autore? (US distribution, new products/categories)
We have just released the new Winter Catalogue 2016-2017 with quite a few new products: Minuto Ribes (white chocolate and red currant), a range of four spread creams and a few new gift boxes. The spreads have crunchy bites of croccantino mixed with cream and the feedback from the market is very positive. All our products (except for the Panettone and the chocolate beer) are gluten free. Marketwise we are putting efforts to sell more in the US market through gourmet chains .