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This Chocolate Helps Protect Wildlife

Endangered Species Chocolate donates 10 percent of its annual net profit to organizations that help protect animals and their habitats.

As the saying goes, you can’t have your cake and eat it too. But with Endangered Species’ chocolate, you can have your chocolate and protect wildlife at the same time. The Indianapolis-based company was founded in 1993 by Jon Stocking – an entrepreneur with a passion for conservation and curating high-quality chocolate. Today, Stocking’s passion remains at the heart of the company.

You’ve probably seen Endangered Species’ Chocolate bars in the candy aisle. Each of the chocolate maker’s 15-plus bars is wrapped in eye-popping packaging that looks as good as it tastes. The wrappers feature wildlife-inspired designs curated by artists to incorporate the chocolate’s ingredients, explained Endangered Species Chocolate Director of Marketing and Innovation Whitney Bembenick during a phone interview with Consensus. One example is its Bumble Bee bar – a bright yellow-wrapped chocolate with flowers made out of almonds and oats and bumblebees constructed with chocolate bits sprinkled with sea salt. Its Zebra bar is another example with zebra print packaging consisting of dark chocolate and oat milk swirl–an ode to its main ingredients.

Bumble Bee, Zebra and Gorilla patterned bars / 📷 Credit: Endangered Species Chocolate

“Our creative designers are actually artists,” said Bembenick. “They sit down, and they draw their ideas before they even get in front of a computer, which is very unique in today’s creative packaging design world. They came up with this beautiful way of blending the two,” she said, referencing the artist’s use of the ingredients in their designs.

Director of Marketing and Innovation Whitney Bembenick, 📷 Credit: Endangered Species Chocolate)

And while the designs are stunning, the biggest surprise comes when you take a closer look. Each reads: “Ten percent of net profits to save our wildlife.” This reflects Endangered Species Chocolate’s commitment to donating ten percent of its net profits to organizations dedicated to wildlife conservation. According to Bembenick, the promise was made by Stocking when he founded the company out of his garage. It was around 15 years ago when Endangered Species was purchased, and its operations were moved to Indianapolis, where the company currently crafts its chocolate. Today, their chocolate bars are sold at retailers like Target, Whole Foods, and Publix.

With its expansion, the company has set an ambitious goal of donating $1 million annually to its GiveBack Partners, which it hopes to reach by 2027, said Bembenick. The business is currently supporting The National Forest Foundation and The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund. The National Forest Foundation is a U.S. non-profit established by Congress in 1992 to unite people around restoring America’s forests and grasslands. The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund was founded in 1967 by renowned zoologist Dian Fossey who spent years of her life researching the endangered mountain gorillas. It’s “the world’s largest and longest-running organization dedicated entirely to gorilla conservation,” and protects and studies endangered gorillas in Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

According to Bembenick, Endangered Species Chocolate will donate more than $500,000 to its current GiveBack Partners by the end of the year. Additionally, she says that the company has extended its two-year partnership with the organizations to three years due to the Coronavirus pandemic and the recent devastating wildfires that have impacted The National Forest Foundation. The company has donated nearly $4 million to its GiveBack Partners since 2010, according to Bembenick. And while the current partners get the majority of the funds, Bembenick says the company also continues to donate a portion of the funds back to its Alumni Partners.

“The way that we work in the alumni is that we recognize that these funds are starting to get bigger and grander, and they’re only going to grow as we get more support from consumers to help give that impact back,” Bembenick noted. “We want to make sure that we’re consistently spreading those dollars amongst our partners–not just the ones who get the bulk of the funds but also the ones that we’ve worked with in the past who’ve really done some amazing things.”

And the company’s practices and ingredients are just as wholesome as its cause. Endangered Species Chocolate operates under three principles: exceptional taste, high-quality ingredients, and fair trade and sourcing.

“We’re always pushing to find sustainable options and ways to go to the market,” said Bembenick. “Our paper wrapper uses post-consumer waste, and then it itself is recyclable.”

All of the company’s chocolate is made with 100 percent Non-GMO Project verified cane sugar, and its (majority) vegan products are also Non-GMO Project verified. Endangered Species Chocolate is made with cocoa that can be traced back to West African fairtrade farms. The chocolate maker sources its cocoa from Côte d’Ivoire through Fairtrade America and requires a Fairtrade America certification on all cocoa beans. According to the company’s 2019 Impact Report, nearly $295,000 in Fairtrade premiums Endangered Species Chocolate paid went toward supporting farmers in Côte d’Ivoire as well as their families and the community.

“At the end of the day, our ingredients are real,” Bembenick said. “We are authentic, we are intentional about how we source them, and oftentimes it’s easier for us to say ‘it’s what’s not in our chocolate bar that makes us different.’”