Issue Fall 14
From being named a Confectioner of the Court by France’s King Louis XIV in 1668 to the St. Louis establishment it is today, the Bissinger name has retained a proud history as an internationally renowned chocolatier. In fact, Bissinger’s has become a landmark in chocolate-making history. All one has to do is listen to the many stories of those who work there.
“One time a couple walked into the corporate headquarters and asked to buy a Molasses Caramel Lollipop, but we don’t sell chocolate from the manufacturing facility so we redirected them to a store,” COO Tim Petron says, recalling the event. “That’s when we found out they walked two miles just to get there so we drove them over to the nearest store. When we asked them why they walked two miles just to visit Bissinger’s, they said, ‘Our grandmother said if you ever go to St. Louis, don’t go to the museums, go to Bissinger’s and have a Molasses Caramel Lollipop.’”
On a Mission
Bissinger’s one-of-a-kind creations have a long history and far reach – connecting across generations and geography to carry out its mission of “Celebrating Life through the Power of Chocolate.” Today, the company is celebrating 350 years in the chocolate world, 150 years operating in the United States and 87 years as a St. Louis-based company. Dave Owens, Bissinger’s chief chocolatier, has a background in food science and was a former chef at two well-known St. Louis restaurants. He says the confectioner has the ability to marry history and innovation.
“Bissinger’s has been crafting fine confections for the last 350 years. We have a history of knowing what people look for in chocolate indulgence,” Owens says. “Our goal is to keep our customers for life and consistency of our product is very important. We have a number of pieces that we’ve been making for decades and we continue to create new items.”
The public has shown strong appreciation for Bissinger’s products both old and new. Its solid chocolate bar continues to be an international favorite, while newcomers, such as its Apple Ghost Chili Salt Caramels, have gained recognition in the food community. The daring product impressed the judges of the 2014 Specialty Outstanding Food Innovation Awards who named it a finalist.
“It is the ultimate of bridging the gap between sweet and heat,” Owens explains. “At first bite you taste the smooth warmth of the chili, then the juicy tart green apple rushes forward, and finally the creaminess of the caramel and chocolate culminates – transporting all the flavors in harmonious balance. It’s all about enjoyment, slowing down and really savoring the experience.”
Owens says bold flavors are in higher demand than in years past. The palate of today’s consumers has created a fresh playing ground for Bissinger’s to push the limits on flavor and quality. The company is working on three separate bars that it hopes will be as well received as its recent award finalist: The Fig Balsamic Truffle Bar made with 60 percent dark chocolate, dried figs and extra virgin olive oil; the Spicy Catalunya Bar, made with 75 percent dark chocolate, takes its flavor cues from southeast Spain; and the Peanut Butter Maple Oat Crunch Bar, which is made with all of the above and 60 percent dark chocolate.
Although the company has embraced a wide array of ingredients – blue cheese wine grapes and maple bacon salt caramels to name a few – Petron stresses that the chocolate is the backbone of every confection. It’s the ingredient that shines above the rest while simultaneously drawing out and melding together the others.
Bissinger’s places emphasis on all-natural ingredients and sources Rainforest Alliance Certified ™ cocoa. It forgoes using paraffin, waxes or GMO ingredients. It uses cocoa butter rather than cheaper replacements such as palm oil. In other words, “the chocolate is truly chocolate,” Owens says.