Ghirardelli Chocolate Company
|Founded||San Francisco, United States of America (1852)|
|Founder||Domenico (Domingo) Ghirardelli|
|Headquarters||San Leandro, California, United States of America|
|Parent||Lindt & Sprüngli|
The Ghirardelli Chocolate Company is a United States division of Swiss confectioner Lindt & Sprüngli. The company was founded by and is named after Italian chocolatier Domenico Ghirardelli, who, after working in South America, moved to California. The Ghirardelli Chocolate Company was incorporated in 1852, and is the third-oldest chocolate company in the United States, after Baker's Chocolate and Whitman's.
In 1817, Domenico Ghirardelli was born in Rapallo, Italy, to an "exotic foods importer" and his wife. Domenico received his first education in the chocolate trade when he was apprenticed to a local candymaker as a child. By the time he was 20, Ghirardelli sailed to Uruguay with his wife to work in a chocolate and coffee business. A year later, Ghirardelli moved to Lima, Peru, and opened a confectionery store. In 1847, nine years later, James Lick (Ghirardelli's nephew) moved to San Francisco with 600 pounds of Ghirardelli's chocolate. Ghirardelli remained and continued to operate his store in Peru.
The move to California
In 1849, Ghirardelli received news of the gold strike at Sutter’s Mill and sailed to California. After doing some prospecting, Ghirardelli opened a general store in Stockton, California, offering supplies and confections to fellow miners in town. Ghirardelli's tent-based store was one of the first shops set up in the area.
Early history in San Francisco
A fire on May 3, 1851 destroyed Ghirardelli's San Francisco business, and a few days later, his Stockton store also burned down. However, in September of the same year, Ghirardelli used his remaining assets to open the Cairo Coffee House in San Francisco. This business venture proved unsuccessful, and Ghirardelli opened a new store, named "Ghirardely & Girard", on the corner of Washington and Kearny Streets in San Francisco. Soon afterward, Ghirardelli was making enough money to send for his family, who were still living in Peru. He changed the company's name to "D. Ghirardelli & Co." and, in 1852, imported 200 pounds of cocoa beans. The company was incorporated in 1852 and has been in continuous operation since.
The next year, in 1853, the business relocated to the corner of Jackson and Mason Streets. By 1855, a larger manufacturing facility was needed, and so the factory was moved to the corner of Greenwich and Powell Streets, while the office remained at the previous location. During this time, the company sold liquor, but dropped their line of alcoholic products sometime after 1871. By 1866, the company was importing 1000 pounds of cocoa seeds a year. By that time, the company not only sold chocolate, but also coffee and spices to the United States, China, Japan, and Mexico. In 1885, the company imported 450,000 pounds of cocoa seeds.
By 1900, Ghirardelli's company was selling only chocolate and mustard, having sold its coffee and spices businesses. Further expansion over the years into different buildings allowed the company to expand into new markets and grow financially. In 1965, San Francisco declared Ghirardelli Square (where many of the Ghirardelli buildings were constructed) an official city landmark. Two years later, production facilities moved to San Leandro, California.
The Ghirardelli Chocolate Company was bought by the Golden Grain Macaroni Company, maker of Rice-A-Roni, in 1963. Later, in 1986, Quaker Oats bought Golden Grain, and thus Ghirardelli. In 1992, Quaker Oats sold the Ghirardelli Chocolate division to a private investment group. John J. Anton, from that group, became the president and CEO of the newly independent Ghirardelli Chocolate Company. Lindt and Sprüngli, from Switzerland, acquired Ghirardelli Chocolate Company in 1998 as a wholly owned subsidiary of its holding company.
Ghirardelli is one of the few chocolate companies in the United States to control every aspect of its chocolate manufacturing process, rejecting up to 40% of the cocoa seeds shipped in order to select what the company calls the "highest quality" seeds. The company then roasts the cocoa seeds in-house by removing the outer shell on the seed and roasting the inside of the seed, or the nibs. The chocolate is then ground and refined until the flakes are 19 micrometers in size.
Ghirardelli produces several flavors of chocolate. The chocolate is sold in bar version or is cut up into squares and individually packaged. Chocolate varieties include:
- Milk chocolate
- Milk chocolate with caramel filling
- Milk chocolate with caramelized almonds
- Milk chocolate with salt and almonds
- 32% cacao milk chocolate (Creamy Devotion)
- 60% cacao dark chocolate (Evening Dream)
- 60% cacao dark chocolate with caramel filling
- 60% cacao dark chocolate with espresso
- 72% cacao (Twilight Delight)
- 80% cacao dark chocolate
- 86% cacao (Midnight Reverie)
- 100% cacao premium baking bar
- Dark chocolate with sea salt and almonds
- Dark chocolate with caramel filling
- Dark chocolate with mint filling
- Dark chocolate with raspberry filling
- Dark chocolate with strawberry filling
- White chocolate with vanilla bean
- Cinnamon Crunch, layered white and milk chocolate with cinnamon sugar
- Peppermint bark, layered white and milk chocolate with candy cane pieces (holiday exclusive)
- Peppermint bark with Dark Chocolate, same as above except dark chocolate replaces milk chocolate (holiday exclusive)
- Cinnamon-spiced almond (holiday exclusive)
- Egg nog (holiday exclusive)
- Pecan pie (holiday exclusive)
- Milk chocolate with pumpkin spice caramel filling (holiday exclusive)
- Sublime White [Cookies Jubilee], Rich layers of chocolate with crunchy cookie bits.
- Cabernet Matinee Dark Chocolate infused with a hint of natural Blackberry and grape flavor
Ghirardelli also sells food service items, like chocolate beverages and flavored sauces, to other retailers.
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- Langley, Henry G., The San Francisco Directory, D. Hicks & Co., 1871. Advertisement pp. 19.
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