The Untold Truth Of Ghirardelli Chocolate

With a focus on high product quality, Ghirardelli Chocolate Company has solidified its position as one of the most venerable and leading chocolate manufacturers in the United States, according to Reference for Business.  Who among us hasn't enjoyed one of Ghirardelli's delectable squares filled with caramel, mint, or raspberry filling, Ghirardelli Chocolate Company has solidified its position as one of the most venerable and leading chocolate manufacturers in the United States, according to Reference for Business. Who among us hasn't enjoyed one of Ghirardelli's delectable squares filled with caramel, mint, or raspberry filling

Founded in 1852, Ghirardelli is the second-oldest chocolate maker in the country, just five years younger than Whitman's. The famous Hershey Company wasn't be established until 42 years after Ghirardelli, in 1894, according to  Luxury Lifestyle Magazine. Today, the company is a world-recognized brand with a successful retail and wholesale business, selling bagged candy squares and chocolate bars in retail stores, as well as Ghirardelli brand baking chocolate and cocoa. The company also operates ice cream and chocolate boutiques in tourist areas, according to Reference for Business.

With its Italian name, one would assume Ghirardelli has roots in "the boot." However, while its founder was born in Italy, Ghirardelli Chocolates found its way to the U.S. via South America. Domenico Ghirardelli was born in Rapallo, Italy in 1817. According to Candy Hall of Fame, an apprenticeship in his teen years introduced Domenico to the confectionery business, and after emigrating to Uruguay at 20, Ghirardelli found work at a store selling chocolate and coffee. After moving to Lima, Peru a year later, Ghirardelli opened his first chocolate shop.

It has roots in 19th century Peru

According to the company's history, in 1847, Domenico changed his first name to the Spanish "Domingo." The next year, a neighboring businessman, an American cabinet maker named James Lick, returned to California, taking with him 600 pounds of Ghirardelli's chocolate, which he quickly sold (via Missions California). With the chocolate's popularity, Lick encouraged Ghirardelli to come to California and set up a chocolate business. Instead, Ghirardelli sailed to San Francisco in 1849 with dreams of striking it rich in the Gold Rush (via Missions California).

Ghirardelli was a less successful prospector than he was a chocolatier, however, so in 1852, according to company history, he opened a general store in the town of Stockton, and sold supplies and confections to miners. Domingo soon opened a second store in San Francisco.

According to the Candy Hall of Fame, both of Ghirardelli's stores were destroyed by fires in 1851. Salvaging what he could, Domingo opened Cairo Coffee House later that year. Though that business failed, he formed the more English-friendly Ghirardely & Girard (via Mommy Nearest) on the corner of Kearny and Washington streets. This business would eventually become Ghirardelli Chocolate Co. (The official pronunciation is "gear uh deli", via Inside Guide to San Francisco.) The company originally sold not just chocolate candies and cocoa powder, but also coffee and spices. In 1865, according to the company, Ghirardelli invented the "Broma" process, which produces more intense chocolate flavor than other chocolate-making techniques.

They're a San Francisco Landmark

By 1884, the company was exporting its chocolate to Japan, Mexico, and China. In 1893, according to Mission California, after decades of chocolate-selling success, Ghirardelli and his sons purchased an entire city block along what is today's Fisherman's Wharf. The headquarters would later become the centerpiece of the iconic Ghirardelli Square that is still one of San Francisco's top tourist attractions (via Inside Guide to San Francisco). Here, you can still watch chocolate being made with the company's original chocolate machine beneath the complex's recognizable Ghirardelli clock tower. You can also enjoy one of the company's famous ice cream sundaes made, of course, with Ghirardelli chocolate.

The famous giant "Ghirardelli" sign was erected in 1923 (via Curbed San Francisco) and originally spelled out the Ghirardelli name on both the bay side and the back, residential-facing side of the building. Residents, however, complained that the lights were just too bright, so the company removed the sign facing the neighborhood, says Inside Guide. To this day, the bay-facing Ghirardelli sign is a landmark for boats coming in and out of the Golden Gate Strait.

According to the company, in 1906, the Ghirardelli plant survived the Great San Francisco Earthquake and the ensuing fires that followed. They resumed operations just 10 days after the historic disaster.

The company has been sold several times

In 1963 the Ghirardelli family sold the Ghirardelli Chocolate Co. to another iconic San Francisco Brand, The Golden Grain Macaroni Co., maker of Rice-A-Roni (via the Orange County Register). Having outgrown its space with worldwide demand for its retail and wholesale chocolate products, Ghirardelli production moved from Ghirardelli Square to a manufacturing facility in San Leandro, Calif. in 1967.

In 1982, Ghirardelli Square earned its place on the National Historic Register, preserving it for future generations. In 1986, The Quaker Oats Co. acquired Golden Grain and Ghirardelli Chocolate. In 1992, Quaker Oats sold Ghirardelli Chocolate to a private investment group. Throughout the 1990s, Ghirardelli opened several retail stores, beginning with Monterrey, Calif. In 1993. Finally, in 1998: Lindt and Sprungli Chocolate of Switzerland purchased Ghirardelli Chocolate Co., and production and retail sales grew rapidly (via the Orange County Register). In 1999, the company introduced its popular "squares" candies.