Chocolita has received Innovator/Silver Sustainable Business Certification
Dark chocolate has a long reputation as a healthy food, and Chocolita, LLC takes it a step further by adding medicinal herbs. Sarah Ann Lesslie discovered the potential of chocolate during her move to Sedona. After working with ChocolaTree (another certified business) to learn the craft of chocolate making, she incorporated Chocolita in 2010 and now operates out of Synergy Lounge & Kitchen, also a certified business. All the chocolate sold at Synergy is from Chocolita, plus she sells online and through select grocery stores.
Sustainability is central to Lesslie’s approach. “My introduction to business was studying sustainability at ASU, so it’s how I think about every decision for Chocolita.”
There are many complexities in the chocolate supply chain, and Lesslie works hard to make the most sustainable purchasing choices she can. She buys shade-grown chocolate, which helps reduce deforestation, and her suppliers use fair trade practices with chocolate growers. All Chocolita products are certified USDA Organic, and she recently converted all her packaging to recycled paper.
Lesslie produces her chocolate efficiently. Instead of a stove, she uses a dedicated chocolate melter to make truffles and other specialty items. This enables her to precisely control the melting process, conserving both energy and chocolate. All of her bars are made by a high-volume producer known as a co-packer, following Lesslie’s specifications. This model allows Chocolita to grow the business without building a separate production facility. She recently purchased two new refrigerators to store chocolate so she can take larger, less frequent deliveries from the co-packer.
Many businesses can learn from her green cleaning and pest control regime. “All of our cleaners and hand soaps are non-toxic,” Lesslie explains. “We need that to maintain the organic certification, but would have done it anyway.” Concentrated cleaners from Seventh Generation reduce packaging. Pests are not typically a problem, but occasionally there are ants they control with diatomaceous earth. They also use EarthKind pest strips where needed.
Long term, Lesslie is concerned about climate change. “Chocolate is one of the crops most affected by climate change because it only grows near the equator. In the future, chocolate is likely to become more expensive and scarce. So I try to make the most sustainable choices I can to help to protect the supply.”
Having grown up in a diverse Philadelphia suburb, Lesslie is passionate about inclusion and tends to attract a diverse community around herself in Sedona. “I’m very intentional about hiring,” she explains. “I try to cultivate a feeling of being free and accepted for who you are.” This value also shows up in her marketing. She organized a photo shoot of culturally varied faces for marketing materials; “I want everyone to see themselves in Chocolita,” Lesslie said. See who else is certified.