URI student runs award-winning chocolate company
First-year student, Ella Schnider with her product from Gansett Chocolate Company. PHOTO CREDIT: Nick Pierson | Contributing Photographer
In January 2021, a chocolate company called “Gansett Craft Chocolate” opened in Wakefield, Rhode Island, according to Ella Schneider, a first-year student studying entrepreneurship and innovation business at the University of Rhode Island and a co-founder of the company.
Ella Schneider said the company is the first “beans to bar” company in Wakefield, which means they make the chocolate themselves starting straight from the cacao bean.
According to Ella Schneider, the process starts with roasting the cocoa beans from Cusco, Peru and then separating the bean nibs from the house, or the outside coating. The beans are called cacao beans prior to being roasted, but after being roasted they are cocoa beans.
Steven Schneider, a co-founder of the company and Ella Schneider’s father, said the roasting temperature and time vary and are proprietary to their process.
“Usually the temperature for the coffee chocolate is 400-450 [degrees], but our temperature is lower, so around 250-300,” Steven Schneider said. “The time it takes for each chocolate flavor to roast varies as well.”
Ella Schneider added that after roasting, the beans are put into combo launchers.
“The combo launchers are stone grinders that refine the chocolate or put the nibs back into the chocolate,” Ella Schneider said.
Then, cocoa butter, which is sourced from Mbingu Village, Tanzania is added to the beans along with organic cane sugar from Brazil.
“What’s interesting about our chocolate is that we use the same amount of sugar within all of our different flavors of chocolate bars,” Ella Schneider said. “So the white chocolate to dark chocolate isn’t too sweet.”
According to Steven Schneider, the amount of cocoa butter used in the bars is secret and proprietary to their process. However, the amount of nibs and cocoa butter is different for each chocolate flavor: milk, dark and white.
“For 70% there are more nibs and cocoa butter than 30%, which have less nibs,” Steven Schneider said.
Ella Schneider said out of all the different flavors of chocolate, the company’s most popular is the “Rhode Island Coffee Milk,” because it’s a Rhode Island staple. It’s a creamy white chocolate, which surprises people, with a hint of coffee, and they fall in love with it, Ella Schneider said. Another favorite is “Lil Rhody Sea Salt.”
She also said two of the chocolates they sell are seasonal, a “Milk Chocolate Pumpkin Spice” for fall and “Peppermint Crunch” for winter.
Ella Schneider says she balances her business with school work by keeping Tuesdays and Thursdays open for work and the other days for school. On the weekends, she’s free, so both she and her father work together to make the chocolate.
“It’s like we both do part-time to make it a full-time job,” Ella Schneider said.
Ella Schneider said working with her dad is fun. She likes being one of the bosses and creating something from the ground up. It’s a 50/50 split between the work and effort, she said.
Steven Schneider said he and Ella work together pretty well. They have a process of their own, she does her thing and he does his, which works well for their company. For example, on Sunday, March 26, the company sold more than 300 milk chocolate bars.
“Also, she always wins employee of the month, which drives me nuts,” Steven Schneider said. “I don’t know why I don’t have it yet.”
Some of the awards the company has won were at the Northwest Chocolate Festival in Seattle, Washington. Out of 30 countries participating in the festival, the company won gold for their 50% milk chocolate, according to Ella Schneider.
Ella Schneider said they started the business by giving chocolate to their family and friends, teachers and other URI students.
“Everyone enjoyed it and the feedback we got made us want to make our business even more,” Ella Schneider said.
According to the company’s website, they are not open to the public because they don’t have a physical store at the moment. Instead, you can buy their chocolate online for $9.95 per bar. They ship on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays and the chocolate arrives in around two to five business days.
“Once we get into a max demand, we want to get our own separate space so we can actually sell retail and expand,” Ella Schneider said.