Robin Weins is always looking for the next idea to move the needle. But this Christmas was a little more urgent.
The Crazy About Cupcakes owner needed something to drive sales as the COVID-19 pandemic put a dent in revenue for a shop that has been on Main Street in Mitchell for nearly a decade. Foot traffic had been slow and only recently did Weins return tables for in-person dining after months of curbside and $5 in-town deliveries.
As she was perusing the internet for inspiration in early November, Weins came across an idea that had gone viral: cocoa bombs.
A hollow chocolate sphere is packed with marshmallows and hot cocoa mix, dunked into a mug of hot milk and is transformed into hot chocolate in a matter of minutes.
It did not take long for the cocoa bombs to explode in Mitchell. Weins estimated selling 100 during the first week and 6,000 through Dec. 31. As Crazy About Cupcakes produced 125-200 per day, they became so popular that Weins limited them to six per customer.
“Our special orders with cakes and cupcakes have really helped us through, but I knew we needed something new for Christmas,” Weins said. “When I saw this, I just thought it would be a good income. During (COVID-19), you worry about having to close down and what your employees are going to do. I had no idea how (cocoa bombs) were going to take off.”
Weins first saw the concoction — developed in 2019 by Boise, Idaho, native Eric Torres Garcia — on TikTok, which has become a frequent market to release new and popular foods in 2020. But cocoa bombs have been viral on all social media platforms. More than 10,000 people used #CocoaBombs and 27,000 used #HotChocolateBombs on Facebook. On Instagram, more than 45,000 posts using #CocoaBombs and nearly 150,000 posts using #HotChocolateBombs.
It is common for Weins to converse with fellow bakers online, looking for a new idea that she can spice up with a personal touch. Several bakers in her Facebook group pooled together to purchase special molds, which allow five bombs to be made at a time. Although cocoa bombs had become popular across the country, the market was wide open in Mitchell and Weins took advantage.
Aside from cupcakes, cocoa bombs were the top seller for Crazy About Cupcakes during Christmastime, with orders being shipped around the country. The cocoa bombs became so popular that people began attempting to make their own, which limited the supply of ingredients.
“We like to come up with our things, but it’s so fun to see different things from all over the United States,” Weins said. “I belong to that bakery group and we just go to that page and we help each other out. We try to inspire each other. If somebody in California posts their big thing, why not try to bring that here?”
Cocoa bombs are made in a variety of sizes at Crazy About Cupcakes, with a milk chocolate or white chocolate exterior, ranging from $3 to $8.25.
During the Christmas time, the bombs were sold with gift sets that featured reindeer, elves and unicorns. With Valentine’s Day approaching, there are now small cocoa bombs shaped like Teddy bears. Weins is also planning to produce flavors in strawberry, toffee and salted caramel, along with different items to place inside the sphere for Valentine’s Day.
“You just have to find what works for your community,” Weins said. “Our community loves these things. Now I’m trying to come up with different ideas — we’re going to come up with different shapes rather than the round balls to make it more fun. … Now that we’ve done it, you have to step it up and come up with the next thing.”