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World Peace and Chocolate: sweetriot creates morsels of goodness

What if you could promote peace, foster a multicultural world, support local artists, help underdeveloped countries thrive and save the planet just by eating deliciously rich and organic chocolate candies? 

Well, thanks to Sarah Endline, the creative genius and cacao bean extraordinaire behind sweetriot, you can.  Oh, and did I mention that the chocolate candies are actually good for you, and rich in health benefits?  I know it seems to good to be true, but Behind the Burner gave me the amazing chance to speak with Sarah who shows us how a sweet tooth and a passion for change can make anything possible.

You learned about the cacao bean along your travels to more than 50 countries.  What was the biggest attraction?  Have you spent time studying its rich history?

I grew up in a small farm-town and my grandparents were farmers. I also believe in “trade not aid” between developed and developing countries, so from the very beginning, I was also really intrigued by the opportunity to work with the farmers and produce the product end to end in the cacao belt, which runs through Latin America.   See the cacao countries here: http://sweetriot.com/cacaofun/cacao_map.php

When did you first begin experimenting with chocolate?  What was that defining moment when you realized that this was what you wanted to do with your life?

I started first with the idea of creating a socially responsible company as amazing as The Body Shop.  I started with my love of sweets and my memories of great, old, classic candy. I wanted to bring that same excitement to consumers — but with something that was healthy, indulgent, and guilt free!.  When I discovered cacao, I just knew I had to create a product pertaining to the true, natural chocolate bean.   The attraction was that chocolate is really a fruit, and it’s natural, delicious, and actually good for the body.  Plus, I really fell in love with the history of cacao!  I want to bring back the magic and purity of chocolate.
 
What are some of the health benefits of cacao? 

Cacao is packed with antioxidants — more than green tea or blueberries –- thus, it reduces the risk of heart disease and cancer.  The mineral properties of cacao include copper, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, and calcium. Of these, magnesium is reportedly the most deficient mineral of the modern diet. Along with seeds, nuts and seaweeds, cacao is a major source for this much-needed mineral.  Cacao also releases the ‘bliss chemical’ which gives you the feeling of being in love and is a natural mood stimulant!  And there is so much more, too.  It’s even an appetitite suppressant and natural aphrodisiac.

Your goal is to change the world through what you’ve affectionately termed “peaces.”  What is your driving force?  What impact do you hope your candies will have, and what changes have you inspired to date?

sweetriot is creating a sweet movement to fix the world, and we are doing that through sourcing and producing in Latin American, using recyclable, reusable tins that feature emerging artists, and providing a healthy, all natural product that is only 1-2 calories per ‘peace.’  However the best part about a riot is that it never happens alone, and we hope to inspire others to create their own sweet movement to promote or bring attention to a cause they believe in — whether that be socially responsible business, living ‘green,’ or promoting a healthy lifestyle.

Have you always been committed to social change and cause-related activities?  What causes are important to you?

I have been participating in social change and cause-related activities from a very young age.  By college, I committed my whole career to “social good” business.  I always knew that businesses had the power to promote change and function in a socially responsible way, with values at the forefront, without sacrificing revenue and innovation.  sweetriot’s causes are definitely mine at my core –- values-based business, direct trade with the developing world, and celebrating culture and diversity. 
 
You’re actively involved in several non-profits as well.  Tell us a little more about those.

My whole life I have I believed in giving back.   The more you give, the more you will receive.   I serve on non-profit boards of organizations which have given me tremendous experiences over the years.  One of my key commitments is AIESEC which is the largest student run organization in the world.  AIESEC sets up cultural education programs in over 90 different countries and has an amazing impact on young people.  AIESEC is also the place I first learned about social entrepreneurship and corporate social responsibility in the early 90s.   I’m also active in EO which is the Global Entrepreneurs Organization.  Entrepreneurship is a unique and special experience, and I love to support others in pursuing it.

What is the core mission of the sweetriot?  What is the one key message you’d like everyone to take away from your sweetriot efforts?
 
sweetriot is creating a sweet movement to fix the world!  A sweetriot is a joyful celebration of culture, diversity, and understanding — it is the opposite of a civil riot, which is dangerous, violent, and oppressing. 

Do you live a green lifestyle?  Do you have any environmental initiatives planned as part of sweetriot, too?

Absolutely! From the beginning, we have promoted reusable, recyclable packaging.   We also partnered with CarbonFund to offset our emissions.   We have green efforts in our office, too –- a recycling program, reuse of all bags, a water cooler to phase out plastic water bottles, and 3 out of the 5 NYC FT rioters walk to work while the others take public transport.   You can find ideas to reuse your sweetriot tins here: http://sweetriot.com/about/rin_tin_tin.php
 
I love the art on your candy tins.  Can you share some more details about the artists you feature?  Why did you decide to highlight emerging artists?

Supporting artists has always been important to me, and I really wanted to incorporate that into the soul of sweetriot.  We are currently on Artist # 9, Rita Patel, and just finished the voting process for Artist # 10, Callie Hirsch, who is a local artist.  The neat thing about the tin art program is we encourage artists to submit their work.  We receive hundreds of submissions from all over the world.  We narrow the artist pool to two artists, and take the vote live.  So you as a consumer decide who the next sweetriot artist will be.  Their name is featured on every tin, and they are also highlighted on our website.  It’s about building community around our product, and supporting others.   By the way, if you or any of the readers know any artists, please send them here:  http://sweetriot.com/about/artist.php

Do you cook with cacao in addition to making the candies?  What are some of your specialties?  How would you recommend that people incorporate cacao into their own cooking?

I must admit my mom is a fantastic cook but more than anything, I’m truly a fantastic consumer of food!  I am really excited because we recently launched baking ‘peaces’ which is exclusively sold at sweetriot.com The baking ‘peaces’ make AMAZING chocolate chip cookies.  The cacao has this great rich, nutty taste, and the ‘peace’s’ are so yummy and intense! Cacao is also great for brownies, in molten chocolate cake, sprinkled over ice cream, or mixed in with granola.

Do you seek to impart of the history of cacao as part of the sweetriot?  Is education a part of the process in getting people to embrace the highly spiritual aspects of the bean?

Definitely.  I think the history of cacao is really interesting and an important part of the sweetriot story.  We are so proud to be working with our Latin amigos on an array of yummy, all natural healthy products.  Cacao is key because this magical fruit lends itself to really lovely, divine treats for everyone to enjoy.  We’ve tried to fill our website with all sorts of cacao facts

How would you describe how the candies taste to our readers who have never tried them?  Are there different flavor combinations to choose from?

sweetriot features ‘peaces’ of the chocolate bean (100% dark chocolate/cacao nibs) dunked in different percentages of dark chocolate.  They are rich, bite-sized, crunchy, and soooo delicious!  Flavor 50 is our sweet dark.   Perfect for milk chocolate lovers. Flavor 65 is our classic dark.  This is a great flavor to introduce to someone who has never tried the product before. Flavor 70 is our mocha dark.  It’s our darkest flavor with a hint of espresso.

Is the candy organic, vegetarian and vegan as well?

sweetriot is all natural and pesticide free plus  we are in the organic certification process. sweetriot is dairy-free, gluten-free, low in sugar, and kosher too!
 
Do you find that green consumers are your primary audience or has it become more mainstream?  Is it your hope that people who try your candies and learn about your mission will lead a more socially responsible and eco-focused lifestyle?

The rioting community is very broad.  People enjoy our product for so many of the attributes. I worked really hard to create product that would be adopted by an array of consumers whether it be for the health aspects, the green packaging, or the mission/value-based company.  I do believe that many of our early consumers were the same green consumers that shop at great stores like Whole Foods.
 
How can people get involved in helping your efforts other than just buying the candy?

As mentioned before, a riot never happens alone (especially a great rumbling one!).  Since we are a mighty team of 6 full-time, we really depend on our rioting community to spread the word about sweetriot and create a sweet movement among their peers.  Oh, and if anyone knows Oprah, we would love to be on her favorite list in 2009 (wink wink)!

What’s next for the sweetriot?  Where do you see the cacao bean leading you next?

In fact, we are excited to be launching another innovative, yummy product in the market – The unBar, and yes it’s affectionately known as the “unofficial bar of the world”!    This is our first major product launch since the company started in 2005.  The unBar is available in two flavors:  unBar 65 – 65% dark chocolate with crunchy cacao ‘peaces,’ and unBar 70 – 70% dark chocolate with crunchy cacao ‘peaces’ and plump golden raisins. This unofficial bar is all natural, gluten-free, dairy-free and only 45-50 calories per ‘mega peace.’ Oh, and course, just like our original line of lovable recyclable, reusable tins, there is a surprise inside!   Beyond this, our hope is to continue to meet the needs of today’s chocolate/sweetriot-loving consumer with more delicious, all natural products!   Yaaaay!!!!!!!!!!!!   

With an infectious energy and an unstoppable spirit, Sarah Endline shows the world how to live and eat responsibly — and good for the soul.  You can also learn more about Sarah and some of her other cacao secrets at Behind the Burner, your source for the tips and tricks from culinary masters and food experts.  And by signing up with code: EatDrinkBetter, you’ll receive special deals and membership privileges reserved exclusively for chefs and Behind the Burner members. Also enjoy 15% off your purchase of sweetriot candies with code: btbriot, compliments of Behind the Burner.

Next week, keep your New Year’s Resolutions on track with a sneak peek into the world of nutrition with Jodi Greebel, author of the Little Black Apron, and check back weekly for more behind the scenes interviews with some of today’s hottest chefs and foodpreneurs brought to you by Behind the Burner.