What if you could savor a decadent chocolate bar and know your purchase would go towards animal-rescue organizations? Sarah Gross Feoli made this a reality in 2010 when she combined her passion for gourmet chocolate and love of dogs to create Rescue Chocolate. It’s the first and only artisan chocolate company that donates 100 percent of net proceeds to animal rescue. Consensus reached out to Feoli to ask about the company and its mission.
“In the mid 2000s I had moved to New York City where there were suddenly endless choices of fine dark chocolates to sample,” said Feoli. “One morning when I was walking my dog in Prospect Park in Brooklyn, I got the idea to combine my two greatest loves, and Rescue Chocolate was born.” Feoli, who had never run a business prior to Rescue Chocolate, said that her work experience up to that point was dancing ballet and teaching pilates. She founded Brooklyn-based Rescue Chocolate after adopting a homeless pitbull named Mocha.
The company partners with animal rescue organizations across the U.S. and invites them to participate in two programs: a write-in campaign and a wholesale resale initiative, Feoli notes. For the write-in campaign, the organization encourages its supporters to purchase Rescue Chocolate and write the name of their group in the Note field. Feoli then donates back $1 per bar purchased. Feoli describes the second program as “more like a Girl Scout cookie” campaign. Organizations can purchase chocolate at below-wholesale prices and resell it at the retail rate. According to Feoli, “they clear about $2-3 profit per bar that way.”
Initially, Feoli chose a different rescue group each month to supply the remaining profits to, but now has moved to an “annual beneficiary model,” she explained. “That allows me to spotlight, on a deeper level, the good work the group is doing on behalf of the animals, and to forward them a more significant donation. In choosing the annual groups, I walk a fine line between having it be not so small that they don’t have the people to utilize the funds effectively and not so large that my dollars get lost in the shuffle.”
Feoli receives hundreds of inquiries per year, and tries to accommodate them all. She also notes that all customer service and accounting is handled by volunteers. “The operation is as lean as I can make it, so that every spare penny goes to the animals,” said Feoli.
Each Rescue Chocolate bar is wrapped in packaging which highlights animal rescue issues. For example, Feoli explained that its Mission Feral Fig bar “references the humane management of feral cat colonies,” and the Peanut Butter Pit Bull bar “urges people not to be hoodwinked by the bad reputation of that wonderful breed of dog.” Mission Feral Fig is dark chocolate with a mixture of dried cranberries, dried figs, almonds and spice blend. Peanut Butter Pit Bull is one of the company’s best-sellers and combines dark chocolate with crispy peanut butter.
Feoli has also made sustainability and social responsibility integral to the company. Each Rescue Chocolate bar is organic, vegan, and fairly traded, she says. This means customers can rest-assured knowing that no animals were harmed and no food production workers were exploited.
The company’s vegan chocolate flavors are curated by Feoli herself alongside a classically trained French chef named Jean Francois Bonnet, and are made at a co-packer in New Jersey.
“I keep my palate open for delicious new taste trends, and then he converts my desires into actual spectacular chocolate bars. The chocolate is produced at a co-packer in Rahway, New Jersey. The volume there is small enough that many of the manufacturing elements (pouring into molds, wrapping, etc.) can be done carefully by hand rather than machines.” Feoli also says that “many of the factory workers have come from a program called Strive, a nonprofit group that offers job counseling and placement services to ex-convicts, the homeless and victims of domestic violence.”
Feoli’s ultimate ultimate goal for Rescue Chocolate is to continue to do even more good.
“I’d love to take on new retailers around the country, and partner with more animal rescue groups, and provide even more consumers with a great-tasting chocolate experience,” she said. On a literal level, the chocolate keeps me going! Eating it gives me energy and a feeling of well-being. On another level, the idea that I am saving even one life keeps me going.”