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The Key To Creating A Regenerative Food Company

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After traveling through the jungles of Mexico, Michael Sacco fell in love. The object of his affection, though, was chocolate. 

“I crossed the bridge, the intercultural bridge back [from Mexico] to Ontario, Canada, with a suitcase full of cacao,” says Michael

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Michael and his team at ChocoSol source raw cacao beans from Oaxaca and Chiapas, Mexico, before they bring them back to Ontario, where they roast, winnow, and grind them into delicious boutique chocolate bars.

Michael Sacco, the founder of ChocoSol, holding the cacao bean
A project in Mexico for his masters in environmental studies brought Michael to Mexico, where he was inspired to start his own chocolate business, ChocoSol. ChocoSol

They use volcanic stone wheels to grind the beans, and a loring smart roaster to roast them, creating a chocolate bar that tastes good, and has minimal harmful effects on the planet. 

ChocoSol operates under the motto, “reduce, reuse, refill, rethink, recycle, and bicycle,” Michael says. 

The brand rewards its customers with an extra eco-warrior bonus of $2 worth of chocolate or coffee each time they use their refillable bag. 

“[We] keep on re-evolving and reinvesting, making the most ecological, most delicious and nutritious chocolate,” Michael shares. 

Michael Sacco, the founder of ChocoSol, holding their complete products.
ChocoSol’s retail space helped to generate more public interest for its products through events and café offerings. ChocoSol

“In the fall of 2006, we started our first little chocolate bar café, and people just fell in love with it,” recalls Michael. “The thing that they seemed to really fall in love with was the Chocolate [tasting events], which was a night of drinking and eating chocolate and dancing and playing music. It was like a coffee house, but on chocolate.”

Michael explains, “I was able to bring the cacao to those markets and really see if there was an appetite.” 

His dedication to interacting with the community, coupled with his strong connections to local retailers, has continued to contribute to ChocoSol’s growth.

At the start of the global pandemic ChocoSol turned its in-person interactions into online sales, and began investing its marketing dollars in Facebook ads and search engine optimization. 

Now, ChocoSol surpasses $2 million in annual sales, and continues to grow by 20% each year.

The Cacao bean in the fermentation process.
The Cacao bean in the fermentation process before becoming a savory treat. ChocoSol

“[We] created a whole efficient roasting system that basically allowed us to scale up our production in a very, very systematic way using a computerized profile,” Michael says.

When ChocoSol pivoted its efforts to online, it saw a major increase in sales. 

“Our customers who were finding us in local markets found us online, and we went from $5,000 to $100,000 in monthly online sales almost overnight,” Michael says. 

ChocoSol was able to minimize its already sustainable packaging by offering larger quantities through its Shopify storefront, and increase revenue in the process. Its sustainable packaging is printed with soy inks and is designed by artists in local communities. 

Tune in to the full Shopify Masters episode to hear how Michael Sacco brought the incredible Mexican tradition of stone ground chocolate to Canada, and learn the best ways you can turn your own community into loyal customers. 

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This originally appeared on Shopify and is made available here to cast a wider net of discovery.

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