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It’s not often that we can give back simply by doing our favorite things, but if Jean Thompson has her way, the world might soon be fed via eating chocolate. A former high-tech sales and marketing executive, Thompson helms jcoco, a Seattle-based chocolate company that’s putting the style in lifestyle with a delectable—and fashionable—line of couture chocolates.
Toward the end of her tech career, Thompson began working with the 23-year-old Seattle Chocolates to create a luxury truffles line for Nordstrom—until an earthquake destroyed the company’s West Coast facility. During the tumultuous rebuilding that followed, the CEO quit, the company was thrown into chaos, and Thompson stepped in. And she had some pretty specific ideas about what she wanted to do.
“Everyone was marketing chocolate the same way—wrapped in brown to signify Chocolate!” she says. “Why couldn’t we borrow from fashion and design and do something colorful?” She hit on the idea of high-end yet unpretentious chocolate bars tucked into vibrant “purses”—printed on 100% recycled paper—that would pop off the shelf. Jcoco was founded in 2013, and has been pushing the culinary edge with original flavor combinations—and fun surprises—ever since.
One of those fun surprises greets the consumer once he or she opens those colorful envelopes. Inside are three 1-ounce chocolate bars wrapped in different, vintage black-and-white photos from Getty Images of “women living large.” (That part of the process can’t be automated, hence the “couture” designation.) It’s a fresh, style-savvy take on an age-old sweet, and allows the jcoco team to get a little outrageous.
The flavors—all blended with 72% noble dark chocolate from Belgium or a rich, full-bodied milk chocolate from Vanuatu; manufacture and assembly happens right in jcoco’s Seattle backyard—are often been inspired by Thompson’s own gourmet experiences. After a memorable meal at a restaurant in Peru, for example, she came up with the idea of the Agave Quinoa Sesame bar. A salad at a Stateside restaurant became the basis for the Black Fig Pistachio bar. It takes several weeks for a new flavor to make it through the R&D process and then into production, and best-sellers stick around indefinitely.
Jcoco chocolates are all-natural, non-GMO, and kosher, and each year, the company sells a core line of 7 flavors, plus a limited-edition flavor or two around the holidays (this year’s is On Dasher! On Ginger!, an update on a classic gingerbread, with candied ginger bits and a hint of allspice). The bars retail for $7.50, while gift sets run $17.50.
Beyond jcoco’s beauty and palate appeal beats a philanthropic heart: for each jcoco bar sold, the company donates a serving of fresh, healthy food to a person in need, through partners like the Food Bank for New York City and Northwest Harvest. “I realized that chocolate is a food, and it’s one we share—it’s a uniquely social food,” Thompson comments. Because she felt that many companies were focusing on eliminating hunger overseas, she opted to concentrate her charitable efforts on U.S.-based organizations, and to date has donated more than 655,000 servings of fresh food.
With a goal of breaking the million-meal mark by the end of the holidays, jcoco has also started the “every chocolate gives” campaign, which not only provides those fresh meals to food banks with each in-store and online purchase, but also for the use of the #chocolategives hashtag on Twitter and Instagram.
Become part of the jcoco mission to eliminate hunger by sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.