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Dagoba chocolate founder Frederick Schilling

October 18, 2005

Organic chocolate comes to

Palates of cacao beans shipped from organic, shaded farms in the Caribbean and Latin America crowd the floor space in the Dagoba Organic Chocolate storeroom.

— — — Dagoba employee Margarita Saucedo tends to the &

mojo&

— machine, which is used to cool the chocolate.

Dagoba founder Frederick Shilling notes the origin of each &

farms and cooperatives in Peru, Ecuador and Costa Rica &

while apologizing for the seemingly messy surroundings.

&

We&

re having a hard time keeping up,&

Shilling, 34, confesses.

The organic chocolate company moved to Ashland in January, increasing their production and warehouse space from 3,000 square feet at the old site in Central Point to almost 40,000. They added new machinery and employees. In the coming months, Dagoba will introduce several new chocolate products.

While proud of the company&

s growth, Shilling prefers to talk about the benefits his chocolate offers to the farmers the cacao is purchased from.

Dagoba has established direct partnerships with small growers and purchases cacao beans on equitable terms, helping to ensure those farmers can support their families and preserve the land. The company received the Socially Responsible Business Award and the Spirit of Organic Award at the Natural Products Expo East in September for championing sustainable practices.

The Socially Responsible Business Award recognizes companies demonstrating exceptional practices in nine areas defined by the Social Venture Network. The Spirit of Organic Awards singled out the next generation of organic leaders.

&

The more that we grow, the more it benefits the farmers down south,&

said Shilling, whose company was the first major U.S. chocolate maker to offer Fair Trade Certified products.

Dagoba&

s story began four years ago in Boulder, Colo., where Shilling &

a chef and songwriter who&

d left Ohio Wesleyan University for the ski slopes &

quit his day job and started creating unique chocolate flavors in his kitchen. With the help of friends and family, Shilling had established the small, family-owned company. He hand-poured the chocolate into molds and wrapped the bars himself for the first two years.

The company grew and, in the summer of 2002, moved from Colorado to a small site in Central Point. Shilling remembers when producing 2,000 pounds of chocolate was a big deal. Now Dagoba generates more than 700,000 pounds of chocolate annually. Machines, including &

the Mojo&

as one employee calls it, accelerate the production time at the new factory and the staff has increased from three employees to 30.

— — sorts — cocoa beans that will go into the company&

s confections.

Right now, the company is shipping 30 palates &

about 10,000 chocolate bars &

a week.

Still, the chocolate &

organic bars with wrappers that tout the percentage of pure cacao used and, on some, note the region where the cacao beans were grown &

has garnered a lot of local and national attention already.

&

When I started the company, I really wanted to be an example for the chocolate industry,&

Shilling said. &

I think we&

re just kind of in the right place at the right time.&

Three cheeses produced by the Rogue Creamery in Central Point include Dagoba cocoa powder or chocolate syrup.

At Larks, the restaurant at the Ashland Springs Hotel, the chef adds Dagoba products to desserts, and mochas are made with the chocolate.

&

That&

s the best chocolate from South America,&

said Karolina Wysznyska, who established the Oregon Chocolate Festival at the hotel in March and likes the high-quality ingredients that go into Dagoba chocolate. &

We just really like working with them.&

Dana Cowin, the editor-in-chief of Food and Wine magazine, mentioned Dagoba&

s single-origin chocolate bars on the Aug. 23 &

The Early Show,&

noting that high-end products have a higher percentage of cacao.

— — Recent Awards

&

GOLD Award- Best Overall, Best PackagingUK Healthy Product Awards, 2005&

Outstanding Confection Finalist &

150; XocolatlNASFT, 2005&

Best Dark ChocolateOrganic Style, 2005San Francisco Chronicle, 2004&

Best Flavored Organic ChocolateTIME Magazine, 2005&

Tops the List

Money Magazine, 2004&

...World&

s Best Chocolate...CNN/MONEY, 2003&

Outstanding Confection FinalistNASFT, 2003&

Best Organic Hot ChocolateAmerican Culinary Institute, 2003&

HALL OF FAMESan Francisco Chronicle, 2003&

Best of Show, Expo East 2003Body Soul Magazine&

Best Organic Milk ChocolateSan Francisco Chronicle, 2002&

Best Natural ConfectionHealing Retreats and Spas, 2002&

Best Organic BarsFood Wine, 2001

— — —

&

What you&

ll also see and hear about high-end chocolates this year is similar to what you hear about good wine,&

she said. &

High-end chocolate makers believe in &

145;terroir&

&

the idea of that certain land areas provide the best chocolate. Certain high-end chocolate makers are now using the terms &

145;single vintage&

to indicate that certain origins result in better-tasting chocolates as well.&

A fourth single-origin chocolate bar, truffles and new drinking chocolates will be released after the holidays. Dagoba&

s single-origin line already includes Pacuare in Costa Rica, Conacado from the Dominica Republic and Los Rios from Ecuador. Milagros, made with cacao grown in Peru, will debut next.

&

It&

s always growing,&

Shilling said. &

I&

m always coming up with more.&

Staff writer can be reached at 482-3456 x 3019 or jsquires@dailytidings.com.