Published: 12:13, 19 November 2020
| Updated: 11:04, 20 November 2020
A master chocolatier and self-confessed sweetie lover's incredible career spanning six decades shows no sign of slowing down after helping create a new product.
Derek Shaw, who grew up in Kent but known as Dundee's Willy Wonka, has helped Scottish family-run company Mackie's launch its first new chocolate bar in six years.
The firm's Chocolate Orange Honeycomb bar is due to hit the shelves imminently and is the brainwave of Derek's second-to-none imagination when it comes to confectionary as he celebrates 60 years in the business.
The 73-year-old, originally from Gravesend and a former trader in the borough market, gained his nickname thanks to his wealth of experience in the chocolate and sweets industry starting out when he was just 13.
After learning his trade he opened and ran his own sweet shop and factory, Shaw's of Dundee, from 1989 until 2002 when he took on the much-envied role as a chocolate consultant. He now works advising some of the world's biggest chocolate makers on their products.
It's a far cry from the hustle of the stalls at Gravesend Borough Market in the 1950s where he started out and rowing with his dad about whether to sell KitKats or not.
He owes more to the market, chocolate and sweets than just his first job as it's where he met wife Gloria, who worked there running the tea stall.
Sweet treats runs in the couple's blood – Gloria's family ran the Margerum's shop in Canterbury and she lived above the store before moving to Gravesend and her family set up another shop in Chatham.
Derek started working for Gloria's dad at the company's chocolate factory in Stratford in east London before moving back to Gravesend to start their family.
The couple moved north of the border in 1981 to Dundee where Derek took a job at the famous Keiller's factory and opening his own shop in 1989.
It was on a visit to the Mackie's site where the idea for the company's newest product was born and taking on techniques Derek mastered when he was a teenager in his first job.
He was asked to help the brand increase its honeycomb production and during one visit was inspired by Victorian methods of preserving the flavour of citrus fruits infusing zest and oils into the golden sugary chunks.
Derek suggested the company should infuse the honeycomb dust – leftovers from the pieces used in Mackie's ice cream and chocolate – with the natural oils from oranges.
He said: “When I was a boy at my first job we developed a knack for flavouring honeycomb, which was rare then and even more so now as it is really tricky to get right.
"The tiny fragments that Mackie’s produces is absolutely perfect for taking on the intense orange flavour from the natural oils.
“The idea just hit me when I was up there on a visit – and the Mackie family were really up for trying it out.
“Natural oils always work best and after some trial and error we used an oil from vibrant Jaffa oranges. Unlike most orange-flavoured chocolate, it tastes incredibly natural, just like the real thing. It takes three days to fully infuse, but it’s well worth it.
“Mackie’s has done an amazing job of keeping the quality into full production – the samples I’ve tasted have been absolutely top-quality.
"We’ve taken a Victorian process and fully modernised it to create something unlike anything else on the market.”
The product has been tested for the past two years including final trials taking place early in the first lockdown in the spring with Mackie's staff working from home joining the taste test by being sent a "survival pack" from the factory.
The company hopes their Chocolate Orange Honeycomb will delight all ages.
Kirstin Mackie, development director for Mackie's of Scotland, said: “We’ve worked with Derek for many years now and he helped us to develop our own honeycomb, which is similar to cinder toffee and puff candy – and is the flavour ingredient in our most popular flavour after our original traditional flavour.
“He has an amazing mix of creativity, passion and an unmatched experience in confectionery. It’s a real honour to work with him.
“We’re thrilled with the new flavour and can’t wait for it to hit shop shelves in the coming weeks.”
The fourth generation of the Mackie's family still runs the farm and business in Westertown, north east Scotland and produces all the milk and cream for their ice cream from their dairy herd.
Four wind turbines, a 10-acre solar farm and a biomass energy plant provides the majority of all the company's power. It is set to install a new £4.5 million low carbon refrigeration system, the first of its kind in Scotland and one of the most efficient in Europe.