Gotta hit them hard because this was bullshit. They were all sat. I showed them the first chart. “We’re getting raped out there.” There was a wince at that. Good. I looked at Graham who was shaking his head. “It’s true!” I continued but his eyes were going sideways, trying to throw my gaze across the table but why? Oh fuck, Paula. I looked across the table at Paula. That’s right, that’s why I’d thought of that terminology. “This is male on male rape, I’m talking about. It’s, erm, more like horseplay that got out of hand. Started off as wrestling.”
Did I deal with that okay? Doesn’t matter, fuck it, let the lawyers deal with it again. Push on. “Can somebody comfort her? Barry?” Barry is a homosexual and best suited to comforting. I let him pat her back for a while. “Now, you guys know that sales have fallen off a cliff.” I looked at the chart and back to the board members. “None of you have fallen off a cliff? Good. Yeah, it’s all gone wrong and we need to reverse it right now. I want to hear what our options are? Because this is becoming a Chococaust.”
“A what?” asked Abraham.
“A choco-” Fuck, before it came out I was certain I could merge chocolate and holocaust because of the shared letters but… “A chocolococaust.” No good. “A chocoholocaust.” That will have to do.
“What about…” began Stan. Stan was was my main man and sat literally at my right hand. “What about, and are you ready for this? What about Himalayan salt?”
“Is that a thing?”
“Really? Is there the sea in the Himalayas because my first reaction is…”
“No, the Himalayas are notoriously land-locked. That’s the beauty of it.”
“People expect salt to be from the sea. Where isn’t there any sea?”
“In a desert?”
“Yup, in a desert, or?”
“Up a mountain.”
“Yeah, I like that.”
“Red. Red Himalayan salt.”
“Fuck off, is this a thing?”
“Yup. they make it in a factory.” Stan threw his pen down.
“Okay, I like that. Nice one, Stan. And what goes with that?”
“Caramel?” Asked Rui.
“Caramel? Are you joking? I hope you’re joking.”
“I’m joking!” lied Rui.
“Orange?” It was Paula.
“What kind of orange?” I asked because she knew the rules.
“Himalayan red salt and Scottish oranges.” I mulled that over. “That’s not bad.” Yeah, that had a ring to it. “That’s not bad at all. What do we all think?” There were nods from all around the table. Apart from one head which wasn’t nodding. “What up?”
“I think it sounds okay but isn’t this what got us in the mess?”
“We’ve never done this before.”
“No, not this flavour, no. But didn’t the slide begin after we started sticking any old thing in the chocolate? I mean, I remember when I was a kid, not just a kid, even when I was an adult when you saw a new bar of chocolate you’d be excited. You’d want to try it.”
“There were shops in Ghana?”
“I’m from Stoke Newington.”
“Then who was…” I clicked my fingers.
“That was Kwaku, a fair-trade farmer we had over for that promo,” offered Stan. “Steve’s COO.”
“Good for you, Steve! But we are making new chocolate bars. To get people excited. I don’t understand what you’re getting at.”
“But when there’s a new bar every other week it’s just… Nobody cares any more. And the flavours. The outlandish flavours. It’s gone too far. It’s just noise.”
“Well that’s fine, Steve. Except what do you want us to do? Just lie down and take it? No offence, Paula. Barry, deal with that.”
“What about we just go back to our roots?”
“Ginger root and…”
“Beetroot!” shouted Rui.
“I like that!”
“No, I mean just bars of milk chocolate. And fruit and nut.”
“And popping candy?”
“No, no popping candy. Just go back to what this company was built on.”
“Stan, what do you make of this?”
“You know I think there might be something in it. I can kinda see it. Nostalgia. Back to 2012. Nice one Steve.”
“Steve, everybody!” I said and started clapping. The others joined in.
“We could use the old wrappers!” said Paula.
“Yeah. We could. Nice one Paula! We could use the old wrappers. Round of applause for Paula!”
“Although,” interrupted Stan. “What about Saharan mangoes and sriracha. Just throwing that out there.”
“Oo, sriracha is de rigueur at the moment,” I said and we all sat back down.