Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Learn More about Sjaak's Organic Chocolates

Sjaak's Hearts of Cherry
Sisters and Brothers in CHocolate, on Sunday and Monday we shared some of the Vegan and Organic Valentine options from Sjaak's. Today I want to introduce you to Jessica Holten-Casper from Sjaak's Organic Chocolates to The Chocolate Cult today to answer some questions about the company she works with and her own relationship to chocolate.

Thank you for joining us, Jessica.

Hello.

Jessica, what is your position at Sjaak's?

We are a small family owned and operated business, therefore Jacques and I both wear many different hats. I have many positions, from sales and marketing to product development to customer service and packaging design to shipping assistant all the way to custodian. 

How long have you worked at Sjaak's?

Jacques and I began this business about 14 years ago. Jacques has been making chocolate for my entire life, in one way or another.  Jacques and I began this business about 14 years ago when we decided that organic chocolate was the next logical step, as it was in line with both of our priorities of trying to consume only organic foods. 

Jacques' Training in Europe
On the Sjaak's website there is a small amount of historical information about the company. We learn that Jacques, the owner and creator of Sjaak's, is from The Netherlands and that the brand logo refers to his roots. Could you tell us a bit more about him and when he created this brand?

Jacques was born and raised in Holland. The windmill in the logo was actually his family mill, his family were millers. Unfortunately the mill was destroyed by the Nazis in WW2. His family then went on with a mechanical mill. 

Jacques began culinary and confectionery trade school at the age of 12, which was the practice in Holland at that time. He went on to work in chocolate houses throughout Europe before coming to the US. 

When people ask how long I have been in the chocolate business, i laugh and say my entire life, as He has been making chocolate for as long as I can remember. He had a bakery at one point and then a brick and mortar chocolate shop, which i spent countless hours at as a child and then worked at as a teenager. 

Organic and vegan are important parts of Sjaak's chocolates. Has that been true from the foundation of the company?

Yes, we started this company to be in line with our priorities of sourcing all organic ingredients, which are not only better for us as consumers, but also better for the farm workers and the environment. 

Jacques has been lacto vegetarian since the early 70's, I was raised vegetarian. About 5 years ago we both transitioned to vegan and slowly transitioned the entire line to vegan as well. 

I notice that the individual hearts we got for Valentine's Day are part of a group of products on your website called "Melk Chocolate" but I'm unclear what that actually is. Would you explain what "melk" is?

Melk chocolate is our version of a milk chocolate. As all of our chocolates are vegan, we wanted to create the same creamy milky type chocolates that people love. therefore we offer melk chocolates. they are made with a variety of organic ingredients, such as almond milk, coconut oil, rice milk etc. 

Sjaak's also wants to be a socially responsible business. Could you give us one or two examples of how the company pursues that goal?

Like I mentioned above, we only source organic ingredients, as it is better for us all. We  source Rainforest Alliance or Fair Trade certified cocoa. This ensures there is no child or slave labor on the cocoa farms. 

In addition, for all of our Eli's Earth products, we donate 5 % of sales to non profits that benefit children. Eli's Earth candy bars were named after my son (Jacques' grandson). these were created with the vision of not only providing a delicious organic and vegan candy bar, but also in helping to create a better future for all of our children; "Celebrate life, Treasure children and always Dream Big!"

It has been years since we first featured Sjaak's products on The Chocolate, first sent to use by a retailer in 2009 and than directly from you in 2010. What has been the biggest change at Sjaak's since 2010?

We are a small business and have decided to grow more slowly and keep our priorities always in mind. I would say the biggest change is our outlook. Rather than chasing big accounts or big deals, we try and focus more on our loyal customers that we appreciate so much. 

Eli's Earth Dream Bars
This is the truly important question, Jessica. Are you a chocolate lover? If so, what is your favorite type?

I LOVE chocolate and eat it nearly every day. When people ask me that, I say it depends on the day, which it truly does. But I will say, I often go for the Eli's Earth Dream Big bar, it is so delicious!

I know that the chocolate business is highly competitive and new products are constantly being developed. Is there anything new in the works at Sjaak's that has you really excited that our readers should be on the lookout for?

We are constantly exploring new recipes and products.We try and launch new items pretty frequently, while keeping our customer favorites.

Thank you, Jessica Holten-Casper, for speaking with us here on The Chocolate Cult.

Readers, do you have any questions for Jessica about Sjaak's? If you do please leave a comment.

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