The Story of Ghirardelli Chocolate
Ghirardelli is a name that is familiar to many American chocolate lovers. The company behind this dessert was born about 160 years ago in San Francisco during the Gold Rush and still continues to thrive today keeping up with modern chocolate trends and twists.
Ghirardelli was founded in 1852 by Domenico Ghirardelli, who was an Italian immigrant chocolate maker. The company is currently the longest continuously running chocolate factory in the U.S.
Domenico practiced chocolate making in Italy all his youth. He then moved to Uruguay to immerse himself in coffee and chocolate business and learn the secrets of the trade. His path led him to Peru, where he opened his first store. In 1849 Domenico became interested in Gold Rush possibilities and moved to California, where in Stockton he opened a chocolate store. Business was good thanks to all the men moving to California for gold, and Ghirardelli was able to open another storefront in San Francisco. Unfortunately both locations burned in 1851 fires.
After the fires, success seemed to turn away from Domenico for a while as his new coffee shop in San Francisco wasn’t doing that well. Finally, in 1852 he opened Ghirardelli Chocolate Co. and saw it grow, become popular, and have a lasting legacy for 160 years and counting.
The success and popularity was due to Domenico’s experience and to his desire to always stay ahead of his time and technology. He always advocated innovation and was not afraid to experiment with tastes and flavors. He experimented not just with chocolate, but also coffee, spices, and even condiments and alcoholic beverages until 1871. Innovation and new technology was ingrained in the company and eventually, in 1867 a new flavor-enhancing technique was discover by an employee and was so well received that it became a staple for the entire chocolate industry.
Ghirardelli joined the ranks of the few companies who started advertising their products early on and understood the power of marketing. The chocolatier also pioneered including cacao content on the labels to help consumers select their preferred chocolate taste.
1900s saw Ghirardelli grow exponentially and become one of the most influential chocolate companies in this country. The company’s headquarters are now located in San Leandro, but the old ones are a populate tourists destination in the heart of San Francisco, Ghirardelli Square. Besides a few chocolate shops there are other stores in the square with an old factory as an official city landmark. The square and the company host many events every year, including the Chocolate Festival, which attracts thousands of visitors.