Dagoba Chocolate Partners With Hershey’s

For those of you whose interest has been picqued by my interview with Frederick Schilling of Dagoba chocolate, Frederick sent me the scoop on his new partnership with Artisan Confections, a division of Hershey’s chocolate.
Here’s an except from that message:

“So, what’s in store for Dagoba now? Well, for the most part, nothing is going to change. Dagoba will remain in Ashland doing what we’ve always done. All the employees, as long as they want to stay, will still be there. We’ll still be able to wear whatever we want to wear to work. I’ll still be in charge of sourcing the cacao and formulating new products. We’ll still be using 100% recycled New Leaf Paper for our wrappers. We’ll still be using renewable energy for our factory. We’ll still be able to do the tradeshows as we want, when we want. We will have manufacturing support from a company that has been making chocolate for almost 100 years, which will be very nice! For those of you who do your own manufacturing, you know that it’s not always the easiest thing. Yet it’s fun to walk back there and see all this equipment and hear the noises… I love it!…”

“…(the) bottom line with the above statements, to answer your question of how we’re going to change-I really don’t foresee you’ll notice anything. I still want us to do what we’ve always done with each other. I’ve told Hershey’s straight up about our inter-industry relationships and they are sacred to me. They support it. They support what we’re doing… what we’re all doing together. And quite honestly, they want to learn from us; and I’m not going to turn away people who want to learn. Our passion and knowledge must be shared and passed on. Isn’t this what we want?”

“I ask that you all continue to keep an open heart for us. I feel this was the right move to continue to make the impact I want to make. And I still see all of us as being…the pioneers in what we do. We are leading the way. We will continue to lead the way. All of our paths will continue to bring us where it brings us and I want you all to know you have my support in all your directions. I’m not going anywhere. I’m still here, doing what I do.”

17 comments

  • I love his packaging and I hope it never changes. The combination of papers and choice of the shape of the bar is just gorgeous. Thank you for this update.

  • Sure, nothing’s different. Except for the fact that the organic chocolate maker is now “afiliated’ with one of the least organic companies in the world.

    If there’s so little different, why partner? That’s always the question when someone like Dagoba or Ben and Jerry “sell out” to larger corporate moneies.

    Of COURSE it’s nice to have that big machinery in the back. That’s the hook used by big business to corrupt and change the smaller companies.

    Hersey wants to learn from them? Really? They’ve been doing this for 100 years (as Schilling points out) and they never knew they could make chocolate without exploiting the locals who produce it and using organic materials??

  • David,
    “Well, for the most part, nothing is going to change. Dagoba will remain in Ashland doing what we’ve always done.”

    Schilling has obviously never been through a corporate acquisition before. Things will remain the same for at most 2 years — but probably not that long.

  • Does “partnership” mean that Hershey’s owns them now? Since that’s what it sounds like, I personally find it pretty disappointing. Best luck to them with the idea that “nothing is going to change”.

  • Too bad another small business swallowed up!

  • run. hide. hershey taking over the entire chocolate world. why would you want to say “i’m owned by hershey?” where’s the appeal? lame.

  • Wow, I have to say that I too am a bit disappointed in the direction that Dagoba is going. I’d like to imagine the best, that “Artisan Confections” aka Hershey sincerely wants to learn about the environmental/social ramifications of their business. It just seems like a convenient way to cash in on Dagoba’s growing popularity in the organic chocolate world. Best luck to them in this change.

  • Well this is the same division of Hershey’s that took over Scharffenberger and I’ve yet to see it affect the quality (or maybe I’m not eating enough of their awesome mocha bars to notice). I live about five blocks from the SB factory in Berkeley and things are still the same.

    If you think of it from a business stand point it’s the best move for Hershey’s for sure. They’d never build up the reputation that Dagoba and Scharffenberger have by simply producing their own line of top chocolates. For D and SB it means access to cash flow, resources, specialist…and whatever else they might want.

    It’s kinda of a bummer, but reality is that all businesses change over time. Even if Dagoba passed on this deal who knows where they would be in five or ten years. Running a specialty foods company is a rocky road to travel.

  • This may explain Nestle’s entrance into the game with their “Chocolatier” line. I haven’t tried it as yet, it’s $5.00 USD per bar. Buena suerte to Dagoba, I hope this works out for them.

  • Katz: That’s a good point that hasn’t been raised: it’s tough running a small business. It’s hard, I think for small food concerns to charge enough to be able to recoup their costs, especially when competing with things made overseas in countries with a cheap labor force. Plus we’re somewhat of a culture that is used to buying things at bargain prices, like $1.99 bottles of olive oil at Trader Joe’s that tastes like nothing…although I can’t complain, since I passed on the small bottle of smoked salt I saw last week that I thought was too expensive at 8 euros…(but maybe I’m redeemed since I also passed on the leather jacket that made me look totally fine for 250 euros.)

    Christine: If it’s the Nestle’s European line, that chocolate is pretty good. It’s available in Europe, for about 2 euros a bar (which I think is 200gr or 8 oz). I think they’re just trying to offer consumers another premium baking chocolate.

    Kevin: Maybe now that Frederick might have more free time on his hands, he’ll take you up on that!

    To all: The history of Hershey’s is actually quite interesting, since Milton Hershey had rather philanthropic goals of supporting the orpahange in Hershey, Pa. I didn’t reprint all of Frederick’s letter since it was long and involved, but he did have great difficulty making the decision to sell, which was not something he did without a lot of thought and introspection.

    I think the best thing people can do, in my opinion, is to ‘eat local’ and ‘shop local’ as best we can. I don’t eat fast food, but I have been known to buy towels at Target and occasionally covet leather jackets from Italy.

    And I’m kicking myself for not buying that smoked salt, too.

  • I like your new photo!

  • I wish them the best but it’s a bit heartbreaking…

  • well..green and blacks were taken over by cadburys, iirc. but cadburys ethics is entirely different from hershey’s as they are quaker owned. why should anyone expect hersheys to be honourable? it is afterall a corporate entity…

  • I don’t think it’s fair to be so negative about this development. Before manking any judgements, it would be interesting to see the actual agreement that was reached between Dagoba and Hersheys. Often with these partnerships, a lot of the divisional decision making remains in the hands of people like M.Schilling in ordre to preserve the product’s individuality and uniqueness that first attracted the larger company.
    I too agree with Katz: if those of you who are disappointed really like Dagoba, I would think it would be even more disappointing if Dagoba went belly-up next year. I would be happy to see Dagoba grow, and be more available to consumers, which is an eventuality since it will now be able to take advantage of Hershey’s distribution networks. I’ve only ever seen their products in one, maybe two stores in my city (Montreal, but we have lots of other good things to eat*, so don’t worry).
    In the end, i feel that a lot of the negativity stems from an almost instinctively irrational fear of large corporations (a lot do bad, very bad, but a lot do good too) and and equally romantic understanding of smaller artisanal businesses. Are the latter always better? Better how? I think M. Schilling is right to say that he may be able to make a greater impact. More production may mean buying more beans at higher prices from farmers in countries where the economy depends on crop exports. And since Dagoba doesn’t buy from large hacienda type farms, you know the poorest will benefit from Dagoba’s increased production.

    * David, you should come.

  • Soo:

    *I have come! Montreal is a great, great food city. (Except I’m not wild about those salt-free bagels…) The only problem is everytime I’ve gone to Canada, I’ve been hassled mercilessly at the airport by customs/immigration. Once I was going just for one afternoon to tape a tv show, and they detained me for 3 hours for questioning.

    I don’t know if many people are aware of this, but the Hershey Trust was originally started to support an orphanage. The history is pretty interesting, and folks can read a bit more about it here.

  • On a related note, Laura Chenel is selling her famous chevre company to a French corporation:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2006/10/18/dining/18chenel.html?ref=dining

    It clearly wasn’t an easy decision for Laura Chenel or Dagoba, so maybe we could all be supportive instead of pointing out the evils of corporate acquisition? I hope that their quality remains the same, and that the transition is smooth for everyone involved.

  • Like Dagoba we’re a small “mission-driven” provider of organic (& all Fair Trade Certified™) chocolate, and as such we were really sorry to see them sell. Let me give just one reason.

    As you probably know the cocoa industry has not come close to grappling with the problem of exploited child labor in West Africa – despite some claims to the contrary. (If if you’re not up-to-date on this issue I strongly recommend the brand new book Bitter Chocolate by Canadian journalist Carole Off).

    Therefore it is that much more important for companies like Equal Exchange and Dagoba to use our unique position from within the industry to speak out. This also goes for other issues ranging from the need for organic farming methods to shunning cheap ingredients like cocoa-butter substitutes.

    However, I can’t imagine that Dagoba (and Scharffenberger, et al) can or will use the new resources that they receive from Hershey’s to, in effect, explain all that is wrong with the typical operations of the Hershey’s corporation (and with the Mars Corporation, and Cadbury, and ADM, and Cargill, etc.)

    In short, a potential voice for progressive practices and high standards has been lost, even if the chocolate operation remains.