If you think of Michigan and only imagine automobiles or the Great Lakes, it's time to satisfy your sweet tooth and take a bite of a lesser-known, yet equally delightful facet of the state – its chocolate scene. Today, we explore how Michigan is redefining the American chocolate scene.

How Michigan is Redefining the American Chocolate Scene

The History of Chocolate in Michigan

The tale of chocolate in Michigan begins at the turn of the 20th century when family-owned confectioneries started to arrive in Michigan. These shops were often small and humble, offering homemade sweets to locals. Among these was Sanders Chocolate, founded by Fred Sanders in Detroit in 1875, well-known for its signature hot fudge.

In the following decades, Michigan's chocolate industry evolved alongside the state's booming automobile industry. The economic prosperity that cars brought to the state allowed more luxury businesses, including chocolatiers, to flourish. Companies like Morley Candy Makers in Clinton Township, established in 1919, and Gilbert Chocolates in Jackson, established in 1900, built their reputation during this period, serving exquisite chocolate creations to an ever-growing clientele.

Fast forward to the post-World War II era, and you'll find that Michigan's chocolate scene started to reflect the diversity of the state itself. New types of chocolate and confectionery businesses began to sprout up, many of them influenced by the cultural backgrounds of their founders. For instance, Lebanese immigrant Riad Shatila founded Shatila Bakery in Dearborn in 1979, introducing Middle Eastern sweets and French pastries alongside traditional chocolate treats to Michiganders.

In the late 20th and early 21st century, the state's chocolate industry saw a significant shift. The focus moved from quantity to quality, from mass production to artisanal creation, resulting in the birth of Michigan's craft chocolate movement. Companies like Mindo Chocolate Makers, founded in 2009, have been at the forefront of this evolution. They emphasize ethical sourcing, bean-to-bar craftsmanship, and experimental flavors, redefining the way we perceive and consume chocolate.

Michigan's chocolate history is a rich tapestry of tradition, innovation, and cultural diversity, each phase of evolution bringing new flavors to the table. From humble family businesses to the pioneers of the craft chocolate movement, every chocolatier has played a part in shaping the state's reputation as a chocolate destination.


The Michigan Chocolate Revolution

Michigan's chocolate landscape has seen a remarkable transformation in recent years. This state has boldly stepped onto the stage of American gourmet chocolate, driven by a revolution that centers around artisanal chocolate making and innovative approaches to flavor.

The heart of this revolution beats in the 'bean-to-bar' movement. Michigan's chocolatiers are earning acclaim for their attention to each stage of the chocolate-making process. They select the finest cacao beans, oversee their careful roasting and grinding, and finally, skillfully refine the chocolate to enhance its inherent flavors. This artisanal approach elevates chocolate from just a sweet treat to an experience that narrates a story of the cacao's origin and the care taken in its crafting.

Four brands, Mindo Chocolate Makers, Crow & Moss, Harvest Chocolate Maker, and Great Lakes Chocolate, are at the forefront of the 'bean-to-bar' movement in Michigan, each contributing uniquely to the state's artisanal chocolate scene.

Mindo Chocolate Makers, based in Dexter, takes immense pride in their dedication to sustainable practices. They work directly with cacao farmers, crafting products that are as ethically impeccable as they are delectable. Every item, from their rustic truffles to dark chocolate bars, brilliantly showcases the complex flavors of meticulously curated cacao.

Crow & Moss, with its roots in Petoskey, has sculpted its own niche in Michigan's chocolate landscape through a blend of high-quality cacao and innovative flavor profiles. Their offerings, such as the Vanilla Smoke Dark Chocolate Bar, serve as a testament to the detail-oriented craftmanship inherent in artisanal chocolate making.

Not to be overlooked, Harvest Chocolate Maker, formed by former Michelin-star restaurant professionals, spotlights the importance of seasonality and ethical sourcing. They craft uniquely seasonal chocolate bars and snacking chocolates, echoing the narrative of the bean-to-bar journey in each bite.

Great Lakes Chocolate, based in Traverse City, equally emphasizes the meticulous transformation of single-origin, organic cacao beans into a spectrum of handcrafted chocolate bars, truffles, and specialty desserts. Their commitment to direct trade practices and personal craftsmanship embodies a significant aspect of Michigan's 'bean-to-bar' revolution.

Profiles of Noteworthy Michigan Chocolatiers

Michigan's chocolate scene is diverse and exciting, thanks to the distinct and innovative contributions of its dedicated chocolatiers. Each offers a unique approach to the age-old craft, giving the state's chocolate a range of flavors and stories as varied as Michigan itself.

Crow & Moss: Founder Mike Davies has meticulously built a brand that embodies the spirit of the Michigan chocolate revolution. From sourcing high-quality cacao beans directly from small farms to the thoughtful creation of each bar, Crow & Moss ensures an exceptional chocolate experience. If you're keen on tasting their exceptional offerings, you'll be pleased to know that we carry a variety of Crow & Moss bars on our website, ready to deliver the magic of Michigan chocolate right to your doorstep.

Bon Bon Bon
: Nestled in the heart of Detroit, Bon Bon Bon has garnered a dedicated following with its bite-sized bonbons. They bring together traditional French techniques and the boldness of Detroit, resulting in an inventive range of flavors. Each bonbon is a surprise, packed with unique fillings like locally sourced honey, lavender, or even potato chips.


Mindo Chocolate Makers: Founded in 2009, Mindo Chocolate Makers is a pioneer in the state's craft chocolate scene. Operating from Dexter, they are renowned for their bean-to-bar process, wherein they oversee every step of the chocolate making. Mindo prides itself on working directly with cacao farmers in Ecuador, ensuring a sustainable and high-quality product. Their dark chocolate bars and rustic truffles are a testament to the richness of cacao and the careful craftsmanship involved in their creation.


Sanders Chocolate: No list of Michigan chocolatiers would be complete without mentioning Sanders Chocolate. Originating from Detroit in 1875, Sanders is a historic icon in Michigan's chocolate industry. Their signature confections, particularly their hot fudge toppings and Bumpy Cakes, have remained beloved treats over the years. Sanders continues to balance tradition with innovation, preserving their classic favorites while introducing new delights for the next generation of chocolate lovers.


Harvest Chocolate MakerHarvest Chocolate is a dedicated bean-to-bar chocolate company based in Michigan, founded by former Michelin-star restaurant professionals Matt and Elizabeth. The couple leverages their culinary backgrounds to craft uniquely seasonal chocolate bars and snacking chocolates, using ethically sourced, fresh cacao and organic local fruits. Driven by their shared love for chocolate and fair-trade practices, Harvest Chocolate symbolizes their passion for the craft and their commitment to supporting local and international farmers.


Great Lakes ChocolateGreat Lakes Chocolate & Dessert Company is a Traverse City, Michigan-based bean-to-bar, craft chocolate maker, owned by culinary power couple Dave and Shana Sicotte. Drawing on their Culinary Institute of America training, they meticulously transform single-origin, organic cacao beans into artisan chocolate bars, hand-rolled truffles, and specialty desserts. Beyond their focus on using direct trade ingredients and hands-on craftsmanship, the Sicottes' venture stands as a testament to their love for the culinary arts, commitment to their community, and dedication to imparting a gourmet, small-batch chocolate experience to all.


The fascinating journey of Michigan's chocolate industry - from humble beginnings to a vibrant craft chocolate movement - demonstrates the innovative spirit and unwavering dedication of its chocolatiers. The state's diverse chocolate scene, led by artisans like Mindo Chocolate Makers, Crow & Moss, Bon Bon Bon, and emerging stars like Harvest Chocolate and Great Lakes Chocolate, embodies a love for the craft, an appreciation for sustainable sourcing, and an unwavering commitment to delivering an unparalleled chocolate experience. Whether it's through a rich dark chocolate bar from Mindo or an adventurous flavor from Crow & Moss, you can taste the story of Michigan in every bite. As the spotlight on Michigan's chocolate industry continues to grow, rest assured that it's not just a sweet treat you're enjoying but a piece of Michigan's delicious and evolving legacy.

July 18, 2023