Vegan fudge? Down to “my man, the biggest stirrer in Yorkshire, and the strong arm in the kitchen” says Mailene Fortune, explaining the role of sweet potato and coconut in one of Yorkshire’s artisan sweet makers’ newest fudges. A regular at farmers markets over the past few years, Por Favour started off as the twinkle in the eye of a six year old who left the Philippines decades ago. Mailene had made sweets as a child and later for her family in England. With the help of her husband, she experimented with chocolate and flavours for fun, relying on feedback from him and her enthusiastic NHS workmate tasters.
It wasn’t until 2017 that she left the NHS to try her hand at selling her fudge at a Harrogate market. That, according to husband Dave, would be the ultimate test – would people say they loved it, if they had to pay for it? Always a stirrer, in all senses of the word, he got stuck in and stirred kilos of fudge to meet Mailene’s exacting requirements and ever-more smooth and silky (and unusual) recipes.
Based on an old family recipe, the vegan fudge elicits a Marmite-esque love-it-or-hate-it response, but Mailene’s early efforts were quickly recognised as quality when Por Favour was shortlisted in the Best Confectionary category in the Deliciously Yorkshire Taste Awards.
But tastes and preferences vary across the county. Cappuccino and mint was an early favourite in many places and the strawberry and champagne fudge bathed in best white Belgian chocolate has proved a big hit at weddings. Mailene loves making special batches for wedding favours and is busy with new recipes to sell when the lockdown restrictions permit.
That could be late summer or winter. Mailene and Dave have stood at stalls on such cold, windy days when they have lost the feeling in their fingers and toes and warmed themselves remembering the hot summer days fretting over whether the heat would melt the fudge. Dave’s strong arms were needed on more than one occasion when high winds nearly lifted the gazebo, despite the weights.
After the British weather, the next challenge for the couple is Brexit. Mailene has had to plan the supply chain carefully, as her fudge is based on the finest Belgium white Chocolate. “Without that we have nothing”. More worryingly she adds: “A complete lack of information or at best uncertainty is the new norm. We’ve had to invest in ensuring we had good stock levels and keep them topped up until the transition situation becomes much clearer.”
Pre-covid, and with a watchful eye on Brexit, Mailene continued to develop and sell at more Yorkshire farmers markets, attending food and music festivals, and Christmas markets. They have also ventured further afield in the UK, though Dave points out that, obviously, they checked visa requirements before travelling to Marlow, Tunbridge Wells and Ascot!
New displays were bought in readiness for 2020 as the year ahead looked excitingly full. But Covid-19 emptied the diary as quickly as Mailene had filled it. Cancelled events and markets in the wake of lockdown encouraged Mailene to focus on the small online shop she had just started as an adjunct to sales promotions at regular events. She donated her stock to NHS key workers at a local hospital and regrouped.
Active promotions on Facebook and Instagram have helped keep Por Favour ticking over. Meanwhile Mailene practises new flavours, new packaging, and new merchandising to help make life after lockdown a “little bit sweeter”.