We sat down with Drew Zandonella-Stannard at Theo Chocolate to learn the story behind building the country's first fair trade and organic certified chocolate factory and brand. You can find their scrumptious (organic and ethically sourced!) limited edition spring chocolate bars in our Mother's Day Gift Box.
How did Theo Chocolate get its start, and what makes your way of doing business unique?
In 2006, our founder Joe Whinney combined his passion for chocolate, sustainability and economic justice to found Theo Chocolate. Theo is the first Organic, Fair Trade certified bean-to-bar chocolate maker in North America. We are committed to making the highest quality chocolate from the world’s best cocoa beans, grown in the most sustainable ways possible. This year we’re celebrating a decade of setting new standards for sustainable business and making truly delicious chocolate.
Any funny stories to share from your early startup days?
I won’t spill any beans here (no pun intended) but there are definitely a few fun tales of hijinks from the early days of Theo. Co-founder and CMO Deb Music often tells me about the time she woke up in the middle of the night after forgetting to turn on a warming tank and wound up driving back to the factory at 3am in her pajamas.
What's one fun fact about you personally that we might not know?
In addition to my work at Theo, I am a writer. My essays on food and family have appeared in Eater, Marie Claire, Good Housekeeping, Saveur Magazine, and elsewhere on the Internet. Chocolate definitely fuels my passion for storytelling!
What's your personal self-care routine?
There is never a shortage of items on my to-do list, but I make time to read for pleasure every day, take little breaks from screen time, drink a ton of water (usually in the form of seltzer), pay regular visits to an acupuncturist, and stick to a nourishing skin care routine. I’m a beauty product fiend, so I’m always trying out new multitasking moisturizers and serums.
Tell us a bit about the Almond Coconut Dark Chocolate bars from your spring collection that you're including in our Mother's Day Box and what makes them a perfect gift for mom?
We just launched our Spring chocolate bar line this year and the flavors have quickly become factory favorites here at Theo. The Almond Coconut bar features crunchy almonds and hand-toasted coconut in smooth, rich 65% dark chocolate. The bright flavor and springy floral packaging make it an ideal gift for all the moms in your life.
What do you love most about your job?
I love being able to share Theo’s mission with the world. Education is a cornerstone of our brand, and it’s absolutely rewarding to help consumers understand where their food comes from and why it matters. Chocolate is the perfect teaching tool. I always say, “lead with chocolate and friends will follow” and it’s totally true. I have a lot of friends.
What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?
Know your story, stay positive, and learn when to say no. There are very few shortcuts in this world!
What's the next big thing for Theo Chocolate?
At Theo, we love sharing chocolate that is as wholesome as it is delicious. Theo continues to innovate in the world of healthy chocolate and we’re excited to share the true benefits of cocoa with our fans.