Sarah Gross grew up in Shreveport, La. It was in middle school that she began volunteering at her local animal control facility, walking the dogs and socializing the cats. During that time, she also became a vegetarian and then a vegan. After moving to New York City in 2007, Gross was thrilled to discover another passion of hers, namely dark chocolate. And, as one would expect, there were plenty of choices dotting the Big Apple landscape.
So, Gross started on a mission to sample as many varieties as she could, and kept a chocolate notebook filled with wrappers and ratings. She also went to work for a raw chocolate company, Gnosis in Queens, where she developed a best-selling flavor. Meanwhile, despite the fact that Gross lived in a Brooklyn brownstone where no pets were allowed, she fell in love with (and ultimately adopted) a pit bull, which she would ultimately name Mocha.
While walking Mocha in the park one day, Gross got the inspiration to start her own chocolate company and donate all the profits to animal rescue organizations. Rescue Chocolate was founded in January 2010. As the company’s tag line says, it’s “the sweetest way to save a life!”
Currently, the product line features seven flavors of bars, a truffle collection, and several holiday specialty items. The packaging of each vegan flavor of Rescue Chocolate sheds light on a different aspect of the current pet “overpopulation” epidemic. For example, Pick Me! Pepper (sweet ’n spicy dark chocolate with peppers) highlights the advantages of choosing pets from animal shelters instead of breeders or pet stores.
Gross currently works with executive chef Jean Francois Bonnet at the Tumbador chocolate factory in Brooklyn, N.Y. Rescue Chocolate is carried by a number of retail outlets in New York, San Diego, Chicago, and elsewhere, and it is also sold online.
If you were stranded on a deserted island with only one kind of candy, what would it be?
Of course, it would have to be a Rescue Chocolate bar. My favorite (along with everyone else’s) is the Peanut Butter Pit Bull bar.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
From the time I was 2 and still in diapers, I wanted to be a ballerina. I took lessons forever, and I actually danced in three different professional ballet companies during my college years.
What issues concern you most about the confectionery industry and why?
Organic and fair-trade products are huge. More and more consumers are demanding these certifications, and yet the cost to provide them makes the products prohibitive for many people.
What’s the last book you read?
The Night Circusby Erin Morgenstern.
What is your pet peeve?
The breeding of dogs and cats in this country while 4 million healthy dogs and cats have to be put to death every year because adoptive homes cannot be found for them. That makes no sense!
If given the chance to choose anyone, whom would you like to collaborate with?
I’d love to partner with Wayne Pacelle, the ceo and president of the Humane Society within the United States.
What excites you most about your job?
The most fun is dreaming up a new chocolate flavor combination and then selecting the animal welfare issue to pair it with. Just this month we’ve come out with Don’t Passover Me chocolate-cashew clusters, which are kosher for Passover. We’ve also got some mini chocolate figurines called Easter Babies, which is highlighting the plight of motherless puppies and kittens who need volunteers willing to bottle-feed them.