Hitting the sweet spot

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Bursting with great ideas and moxie, a Darling couple struck gold with their addictive treats.

When Frits van Ryneveld casually pitched the idea of making toffees to his partner Hentie van der Merwe in 2014, the pair had no idea what a booming success this venture would become.

They were dead set on using traditional methods to produce a range of high-quality, handcrafted toffees with zero artificial colourants, flavourings and preservatives. What’s more, the flavours had to resonate with their home town and surrounds, plus support local in terms of ingredients.

Scouring hundreds of recipes – from Kook en Geniet to Paris Boulangeries Pâtisserie and everything in between, the couple experimented night after night. Many attempts later, while scoffing toffees by the dozen (“And you should see my love handles darling,” quipped Frits), they finally hit the jackpot with Tannie Evita’s Classic Toffee.

They then started production with a bang: converting Frits’s 24 square metre antique shop into a kitchen and employing their first two staff members. Everything about the venture is just so: from the biodegradable packaging and compostable wrappers to the high-quality ingredients.

Frits said, “After four years of focusing purely on toffees, we then launched our soft caramel range, followed by toffee spreads. Today the toffee range has 10 singular flavours (Tannie Evita’s Classic, Honey & Salt, Chocolate, Orange & Cranberry, Coffee, Liquorice, Mint, Bird’s Eye Chilli, Rooibos Chai and Ginger Snap) and the soft caramels seven (Salted, Salted Liquorice, Summer Berry, Chocolate and Orange, Ginger and Cardamom, Mint and Mocha Java).” And boy, eating each and every flavour makes one thrillingly giddy and euphoric.

Following the success of what was supposed to be a sideline, Frits quit his day job as a medical rep. A few years later, artist, lecturer and trained chef Hentie followed suit by resigning from Stellenbosch University.

From small beginnings, Darling Sweet certainly has soared. The business now operates from an exquisite 500 square metres Edwardian building at 7a Long Street, employing 24 staff. They even won the National Productivity Award for Emerging Sectors in 2018. Meanwhile, their tasting room has become a must-do tourist destination.

But there’s no stopping the entrepreneurial drive of this dynamic duo. In August 2020 they took over the management of that other Darling institution, Evita se Perron. “We’ve already overhauled the menu and created a fabulous delicatessen,” said Frits. No doubt their indomitable will to succeed should propel this iconic spot to greater heights.

Mindful of giving back, the company supports The Darling Trust which empowers individuals to help themselves by participating in education, skills development and health. And animals also benefit: part of the soft caramel sales proceeds is donated to NPO Dell Cheetah Centre near Parys in the Free State.

Frits and Hentie simply love life in Darling and cosying up with their three cats and dogs. But when in the mood for some escapism, the bright lights of Cape Town and its big-city attractions call.

FAST FACTS
Our sport is walking and sometimes running
Favourite food is meat (Frits) and veggies (Hentie)
Our signature drink is a Shiraz
Best reads for Hentie are recipe books
On TV we’re committed Netflix series fans

All Darling Sweet products can be ordered online: www.evitaseperron.com.

CAPTION: Dynamos Hentie van der Merwe (left) and Frits van Ryneveld.