Guittard Chocolate Co. has cause for celebration.
The family-owned company will celebrate its 150th anniversary this year with pop-up events, collaborations and the unveiling of a limited-edition chocolate blend for chefs.
In addition to honoring the farmers, workers, retailers and chefs who have supported Guittard throughout the years, Guittard will host a series of consumer events and introduce historical society and restaurant partnerships.
Furthermore, the special Eureka Works 62% chocolate blend will be launched this spring as a tribute to Guittard's roots. It’s made with beans sourced from Brazil, Ecuador, Indonesia and Hawaii, the same locations available to founder Etienne Guittard. The resulting chocolate — with notes of pineapple, dark cherry, slightly under-ripe banana and hints of citrus — demonstrates a West Coast flavor profile and reflects sourcing along Pacific trade routes that impacted the evolution of California-made chocolate.
Guittard’s 150 years reflects California food and commerce history from the company’s start as a manufacturer and merchant during the Gold Rush to its position today as a chocolate industry leader and innovator.
Etienne Guittard founded Guittard Chocolate Co. in 1868, selling provisions such as chocolate, coffee, tea and spices. The business quickly grew to become an integral part of San Francisco’s burgeoning manufacturing community. Later, his son Horace C. Guittard rebuilt the company after the Great Quake of 1906 destroyed the factory and much of San Francisco.
During the mid-1950s, the third generation, led by Horace A. Guittard, moved the company south of San Francisco to Burlingame to make way for the Embarcadero Freeway. He led the growth of the Guittard over the next decades, balancing automation with artisanship to produce chocolate for a growing number of industrial and consumer retail customers.
The fourth generation of the Guittard family, brothers Jay and Gary, joined their father in the 1970s. Jay succeeded Horace A. as president in the mid-1980s. In 1989, due to the deaths of Horace A. and Jay, Gary became ceo and chocolate-maker.
Under Gary’s leadership, and with the steadfast support of long-time employees, Guittard thrived, working in partnership with loyal customers and developing new products for industry, professional chefs and the home baker. In the late ‘90s, he recognized Scharffen Berger Chocolate Maker’s success, as well as customers’ shifting taste preferences and interest in the production process. Seizing this opportunity, Gary introduced in 2000 the Collection Etienne line of eating and baking chocolate made with fine flavor beans and vintage methods originally employed by Etienne.
Gary and his team at Guittard advocate for preserving and elevating the quality of chocolate through their work with the World Cocoa Foundation and Heirloom Cacao Preservation Initiative. He sounded the alarm in 2007 with a grassroots group and petition called, “Don’t Mess with Our Chocolate,” when it became apparent that industrial confectioners were lobbying the FDA to replace cocoa butter with cheaper fats and still call the resulting product, “chocolate.” The petition made international news, rallied opposing forces and succeeded in its mission. The FDA now states that only chocolate made with cocoa butter and no other fats may be labeled “chocolate.”
Today, Guittard is an industry leader in its sourcing and sustainability efforts -- from sourcing Fair Trade and organic cacao, to transitioning from soy to non-GMO sunflower lecithin and eliminating artificial and synthetic colors to satisfy consumer demand.
The Cultivate Better program, introduced by Guittard in 2016, defines the company’s commitment to honorable sourcing. Cultivate Better aims to improve farmers’ livelihoods and build relationships that foster better business. Guittard brings that commitment to markets around the world, distributing throughout the U.K., EU, Asia, South Asia and the Middle East.
Next month, Guittard will expand chocolate production at its facility in Fairfield. Recognizing the Bay Area’s technology and biotechnology sectors would challenge his company’s ability to grow near its headquarters in Burlingame, Gary selected the Fairfield site in 1998 and built a 300,000- sq.-ft. facility in 2001. Currently used for warehousing and high-speed packaging, the site will now produce chocolate with custom-designed equipment.
Guittard Chocolate, under the fourth and fifth generation of family management, continues to grow with the same innovative spirit and commitment to sustainability that has made it one of the world’s most respected makers of premium chocolate over the past 150 years.