Fall 2006
Chocolate Decadence By Bernadette Starzee

Projected Retail Sales of Gourmet Chocolate

2005-2010 (in $ billion)

Year | Sales | Change
2010 | $1.77 | 6%
2009 | $1.67 | 6.2%
2008 | $1.57 | 6.4%
2007 | $1.48 | 6.6%
2006 | $1.39 | 6.8%
2005 | $1.3

Source: Packaged Facts

No Artificial Anything

It is three o’clock in the morning, and Nancy Kemble is exhausted. She has been making chocolates for the past 14 hours, but she keeps working.

For the past 16 years, Kemble has been operating The Squirrel’s Nest, a shop where people can find all-natural candies and chocolate made without chemical additives or preservatives. Her shop is located in Middletown, DE, and her popularity has been increasing ever since she opened her doors.

Many years ago when Kemble’s oldest son Jason was two, he was diagnosed as being allergic to artificial flavors and preservatives. She then chanced upon the Feingold program, which eliminates artificial products from all prepared foods. So that Jason could enjoy all-natural candies and chocolate, she started making them in small batches with the help of her Pennsylvania Dutch mother-in-law, who shared some of her recipes. “I quickly discovered that I needed lots of patience as I began experimenting with my own chocolate treats, including butter creams, coconut creams and peanut butter creams,” Kemble says.

What started out as a way to provide her family natural treats, soon expanded as Kemble started to mail order her chocolates to members of the Feingold Association. The association is a nonprofit organization based in New York that helps people implement the Feingold program. The Feingold Program eliminates chemical additives and preservatives in two stages. The more aggressive Stage 1 takes away all chemical ingredients including natural foods containing salicylates, a group of chemicals related to aspirin. Almonds, apples, peaches, tea, among others have naturally occurring salicylates.

After four to six weeks on Stage 1, the natural salicylates are slowly re-introduced. If no adverse reaction is found, then Stage 2, which eliminates only chemical additives and preservatives, is adopted. The products sold at Squirrel’s Nest now include offerings from other manufacturers as well. When relevant they are identified as Feingold Stage 1 or Stage 2 compliant.

Kemble has seen her customer base expand as the years go by. Thanks to a website, she has customers all across the United States, and in Canada, Mexico and Germany.

The holidays are her busiest times of the year, and it is not unusual for her to produce over 3,000 pounds of all-natural chocolate then. “When you cover all natural vanilla wafers, pretzels, nuts and other goodies with chocolate, it (the numbers) adds up fast,” she says. Kemble receives cards and emails from many of her customers, who are delighted to enjoy her all natural chocolates and other treats. Despite the ready availability of candies and chocolate, The Squirrel’s Nest has built a loyal customer base by filling a niche and providing excellent customer service. For example, orders are filled the same day they are received, and each person gets a personalized thank you note.

Sadly just before Jason turned 16, he passed away after battling cancer. Kemble continues to operate the shop in his memory. She still believes that people should feed their bodies with foods that contain all-natural ingredients, and promises to keep providing delicious chocolates and other treats to people around the world.

Bernadette Starzee

Starzee frequently writes about business, sports and lifestyle topics. She can be reached at b.starzee@att.net.

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