Meet Lawrence: Co-founder of OT

Co-founder Lawrence with customers at a trade show.
Co-founder Lawrence with customers at a trade show.

Organic Times is a business dedicated to providing us with high-quality organic ingredients for all our baking needs, as well as a delicious range of cookies and chocolates. We spoke to co-founder Lawrence Chang about the importance of organic sweets and the ins and outs of organic certification.

Can you tell us a little about yourself and about Organic Times?

Being born and bred in Melbourne, I love all things relating to good food and sport. When I’m not working long hours in the factory, I’m out enjoying a meal with family, watching my beloved North Melbourne Football Club or playing golf or indoor cricket with friends. Organic Times represents all my passions in one. It’s all about enjoying life, being ethical and honest and offering delicious premium products that are grown and produced naturally, and without depleting our planet. My partner Kate also adds her flare and passion to the business with her talents in graphic design – she is responsible for all our eye-catching packaging. We use recycled cardboard for all our boxes, which are made and printed locally in Melbourne.

What inspired you to create a brand of organic chocolate, pantry items and cookies?

My cousin, KC, and I started Organic Times 17 years ago, back in a time when organic products were really only sought after by the health conscious consumer. Our brilliant plan was to venture out on our own and create a trusted household brand known for making organic products for everyday people just like us – for foodies who are mindful of the environment and good health, but also see food as one of life’s greatest pleasure, so taste and flavour cannot be compromised.

What are some of your personal favourite Organic Times products?

Personally I’m a big fan of our organic butter, which is made using cream from 100 per cent grass fed cows. I’m pretty happy with the rocky road bars too. I love sharing them because we always get such great feedback. We love watching their faces light up when they realise just how amazing organic products are.

Why do you believe organics are important, even in products that don’t necessarily fall under the ‘health food’ category?

Well, one of my favourite anecdotes about organic food is, ‘Try organic food. Or, as your grandparents used to call it, food.’ In my opinion, all food should be grown and produced sustainably without harmful chemicals, GMOs and artificial preservatives and additives. All food should be produced ethically with consideration for animal welfare, good working conditions and without depleting lands and destroying natural habitats. It’s a shame, in a way, that unless you see that a product is certified organic, you can’t expect this. I’m thinking you should be offered this in any food you eat, not just health food.

Can you give us an idea of the process involved in getting products such as rocky road and cookies?

For example, when we decided to make an organic rocky road, we already had our certified organic fair trade chocolate, the fresh Australian organic almonds and the organic desiccated coconut, but we needed to find organic raspberry jellies and organic marshmallows. As you can imagine, our search for the right ingredients goes worldwide as there are many limitations in availability, quality and shipment to Australia. And, other than each ingredient needing organic certification, it also needs to meet our team of taste testers. In our rocky roads we have five certified organic ingredients, three of which are also made up of other certified organic ingredients. Every ingredient and every step has been required to comply with strict guidelines in order to qualify as organic. It’s pretty clear to see the vast difference between organic and non-organic. Being in the organic industry is rewarding but far from easy.

Do you enjoy making sweets and desserts? If so, what do you like to make?

In the kitchen, I’m more of a savoury cook. I use our butter and Rapadura sugar daily. I’ve also gotten pretty good at making organic cookies after years of R&D in our boutique bakery! I leave the tricky sweets and desserts to my family and others on the team.