Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Lady Behind Rescue Chocolate

Saturday may be Valentine's Day but next week is National Justice for Animals Week. In honor of that and to honor our readers who love both their pets and chocolate, I want to introduce you to the lady behind Rescue Chocolate, Sarah Gross.  Please do leave comments and questions for her at the of our interview.

Sarah, would you please tell our readers how you got started in the chocolate business before there was Rescue Chocolate?

I just followed my passion. I started out as a lay chocolate-eater. My business interests were elsewhere. In fact, I worked as a professional ballet dancer for 3 years during college. When I moved to New York City in 2007, I was pleasantly pleased to discover all the exotic chocolate bars available in various shops around town. I bought all the ones that looked intriguing, tasted them, saved the wrappers in a notebook, and wrote up my notes. I toyed with publishing my reviews online, but actually I am the only one who ever read them! That was the beginning of my serious interest in chocolate. To supplement my knowledge, I started reading about how dark chocolate bars are produced and what makes them special.

You worked with raw chocolate products in the past but Rescue Chocolate is not raw chocolate.  Why did you chose the more conventional process for the chocolate you make?

I did work at a raw chocolate factory in Queens to gain some hands-on experience. While there, I developed a best-selling flavor which stayed on their product rolls for quite some time after I left. But I am a vegan non-raw eater myself. And I appreciate the traditional non-raw Belgian technique of making dark chocolate. So that is the route I chose for Rescue Chocolate. The chef I work with to produce my products is actually French-trained, and superb!

Your chocolate is vegan, Kosher, fairly traded, organic, and B Corp certified . Is this important to you personally or/and was it prompted by social or political concerns?

All of those attributes are deeply important to me. I have been a vegan since junior high, and I can't imagine eating any other kind of food now. A vegan lifestyle means that I don't condone animal cruelty in any form. Later I learned that vegan food is also so much better for my health and for the environment, which are extra bonuses for me. The kosher and organic certifications mean that more people can enjoy my products. The fact that my ingredients are fairly traded means that no human beings (principally, the cacao farmers) are exploited either. And the B Corp certification is an independently verified seal of approval letting consumers know that all my claims are truthful. The auditors specifically looked into my mission of donating all profits to various animal rescue organizations. It was quite an involved process to obtain that certification, and I'm proud that Rescue Chocolate passed with flying colors.

Tell us a bit about Mocha, your inspiration.

Five years ago I was living in an apartment where residents were not encouraged to keep pets. I had grown up around dogs, so it was a strange situation for me. One day a friend of mine, who fosters homeless animals so that they will no be killed, posted the mug shot of a pit bull online. I think it was love at first sight. I made arrangements to meet the dog in person, but before I knew it I was riding home with her in a taxicab. She was scared and emaciated, and her ears had been cropped by her previous owners whom I presume were dogfighters. But she was also forgiving, affectionate, super intelligent, adorable... and now mine! I named her Mocha Bella. Soon we moved to a new apartment within walking distance of a wonderful park. It was when I was walking her in that park one day that I got the inspiration to combine my two loves--my rescued dog and chocolate--into Rescue Chocolate.

How long has Rescue Chocolate been in business?

The company was founded in January 2010.



Part of your mission to help various pet organizations. How do you decide which ones to support?

The very first beneficiary was a coalition of rescue groups working in Haiti where there had just been a disastrous earthquake. After awhile, the groups reached out to me. I would choose the ones that were not so small that they wouldn't be able to effectively use my donation, and not so large that my donation would get lost in an ocean of money. Now I have an annual beneficiary that gets all of my non-earmarked profits. For 2014 the beneficiary was the No Kill Advocacy Center. For 2015 it will be the Petfinder Foundation. But I work with hundreds of groups on an ongoing basis whenever they want to sell Rescue Chocolate at their fundraising events. I also have a "write-in" program where a group's supporters can purchase from me online and earmark the profits from their purchase to their own favorite rescue group.

You currently have eight varieties of chocolate bars listed on your website. Which of these was your first flavor?

Peanut Butter Pit Bull and Pick Me Pepper were both introduced at the same time.

Which flavor was the trickiest to create?

The Fakin' Bacon bar was surprisingly hard to get right. I wanted to climb aboard the bandwagon of sticking bacon in everything, but of course I wanted to keep it all vegan. We first used an imitation bacon product that had some unhealthful-sounding chemicals in it. Now our soy-based "bacon" is completely natural.

Of these eight flavors which is your favorite and which is your best seller?

My favorite alternates among all of them. At the moment I'd say it is the Forever Mocha, which contains coffee and hazelnuts. The best seller by far is Peanut Butter Pit Bull, which is why I also decided to put that out in the form of a mini bar as well.

Do you have a brick and mortar shop that folks could visit or is everything sold online?

Everything is sold online. But it is possible for people to visit brick-and-mortar stores for Rescue Chocolate because I have several retailers around the country who carry my product line; a list of those can be found on my website.

Sarah at Strutt Your Mutt 2013
Finally, is there anything else you'd like our readers to know about your company before our upcoming feature about your bars?

We've talked a lot about the chocolate, which is wonderful. But I'd also like everyone to know that the problem of homeless dogs and cats is huge, but also very fixable! It is vital that everyone be sure to spay and neuter their pets. Don't ever purchase a pet from a pet store or breeder; there are millions of perfectly spectacular animals waiting to be adopted from shelters. When you go that route, you save a life. If you cannot find room in your heart or your home for an animal long-term, then consider fostering a homeless dog or cat just for a little while--this frees up space in the shelters, allowing more of them to be saved. It's really very simple and easy to be compassionate.

Thank you, Sarah, for talking with us today.  Sisters and Brothers, have any of you ever tried Rescue Chocolate?  Do you think that their goals might mesh with your own? If so, go check them out, try them out, and please do leave comments or questions here.

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