/ Doug's Chocolate Republic /
Review: Endangered Species Dark Chocolate Espresso
Endangered Species Dark
Posted: 20 October 2014
By premium chocolate standards, Endangered Species is an ancient company. It was never one of my favorites, but it delivers. Other coffee bars, like Heidi's, are too sweet
and deserve a place in your trash bin. Endangered Species' 72% bittersweet chocolate is rightly balanced for the amount of roasted coffee contained within. I'd happily buy this espresso bar again if
I saw it, but if it were a more typical bar I was in the market for (a milk chocolate, a standard dark bar), I'd probably seek out the next big thing.
price/gram: USD 0.034
Cocoa %: 72
By premium chocolate
standards, Endangered Species is an ancient company. I
remember seeing their bars on the shelves of Whole Foods in
the early 2000's and it looks like they're still going
A little history goes a long
way with Endangered Species. Today, this is certainly
not your typical all-natural chocolate manufacturing
company. Endangered Species was originally founded by
Jon Stocking in 1993 in Talent, Oregon, population 6,200.
According to Talent's
own web site, Talent is "a great place to live and raise
a family. The quality of life offered here is second
to none" and obviously prefect for starting sustainable
For over a decade, Endangered
Species remained an endangered species, a small
boutique operator with an environmental mission. Stocking
had tried to put himself through culinary school in the
1980's and eventually trained in Europe. While working on a fishing boat, he was aghast
that the nets trapped not just the fish sought, but also
sharks, turtles, swordfish, and dolphins. Stocking
wanted to help the planet. When he started Endangered
Species, he committed to donating 10% of
the company's net profits to environmental groups helping protect endangered animals. Stocking drew a picture of
some endangered animal on every wrapper and explained the
cause on the wrapper.
This all changed in 2004.
Exact details remain murky, depending upon which side you
believe. The Chocolate Republic is savvy enough to
follow the money trail and surmise what really went down.
Endangered Species was doing decent business for its size,
about $5m in revenues, but longed to grow bigger. Along come
some philanthropists from Indianapolis, Wayne Zink and Randy
Deer, promising Stocking they adore his vision. With their business resources, they
can push Endanger Species chocolates into the Midwest and
East Coast markets and make everyone involved megabillionaires while they save the world's endangered
species and make the planet a grew place to live on.
Stocking's tongue was left hanging out like a panting dog
and he sold 51% of his operation to Zink's and Deer's DZ
Handshakes were offered,
contracts were signed, and you can probably predict what
happens next. No, Endangered Species did not start
adding hydrogenated oils and artificial flavors to their
chocolates. That would have killed the brand.
They started marginalizing Stocking from the company he
founded. Bye bye, Talent. In 2005, the
company's manufacturing was moved to Indianapolis.
Stocking was supposed to stay on for five years as
President. He claims -- and filed a lawsuit for $18m
that year saying as much -- that he was fired three months
later. By 2006, this suit was settled for an
undisclosed sum we can assume was less than $18m. I would wager Zink and Deer
probably violated their agreement with Stocking on purpose
so that they could oust him from
operations completely for the cost of a later settlement.
It doesn't look blike uying Stocking out completely was an option
initially. Tellingly, if
Zink could prove that terminating Stocking was fair, he could buy out Stocking's 49% shares for book
value. Therefore, this was probably Zink and Deer's intention right from the start.
Endangered Species was always
a reliable pick in the early 2000's for a tasty all-natural
chocolate bar, and even with Deer and Zink at the helm
from Indiana, they still buy their cacao beans from either
organic or sustainable farms in Ecuador or the Ivory Coast.
In 2012, they said they intended to make all their
chocolates non-GMO. In 2014, Endangered Species
launched a new line of dairy free, creme-filled bars.
But Endangered was never one
of my favorites. I rarely picked it up. Sinking
my teeth into this Dark Chocolate Espresso bar, my first
Endangered Species bar in probably a decade, was like trying
the brand for the first time.
It delivers. Other
coffee bars, like
Heidi's, are too sweet and deserve a proper place in
your trash bin. Endangered Species' 72%
bittersweet chocolate is rightly balanced for the amount of
roasted coffee contained within.
The bar didn't remain an edible bar for long.
Even though ownership has
shifted and Endangered Species is now owned by businessmen instead of a
die-hard conservationist, Endangered Species' core values
remain intact. It's not Fair Trade cacao anymore; it's
Rainforest Alliance Certified. And a chocolate bar that in
prior days in Oregon may have been labeled as vegan now says
"produced on equipment that also processes product
containing milk." These are not huge talking points.
I'd happily buy this espresso
bar again if I saw it, but if it were a more typical bar I was
in the market for (a milk chocolate, a standard dark bar),
I'd probably seek out the next big thing. Endangered Species
Chocolate remains reliable, not orgasmic.