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Alumni in Action

The Business of Chocolate: Alumni Craft Sweet Paths to Success

By Sadie Schernikau

May 20, 2021

For many, consuming chocolate is an experience, one that is carefully crafted around a variety of factors. And successful chocolate businesses know exactly how to cater to that experience—understanding what they make, why they make it, and how to stick to those fundamental principles for every product. Whether it is ensuring ethically sourced ingredients or maintaining a select menu for the highest quality experience, unwavering commitment to brand, values, and relationships heed the finest results in the chocolate-making industry.

“Our consumers love us because we are a sustainable chocolate company. We’re taking care of the farmer, and they know the packaging is good and the product is tasty and clean. So, we try to stick to that as much as we can,” said Mike Forbes (BBA ’99) during a conversation as part of The Business of Chocolate, a virtual event hosted by the Wisconsin School of Business.

During the event, WSB’s Natalie Singer connected with two Badger alumni who work in the chocolate industry to chat about their unique perspectives on all things chocolate. The panel included:

  • Amy Jo (Valenza) Pedone (BBA ’96), master chocolatier and owner of Valenza Chocolatier, Inc.
  • Mike Forbes (BBA ’99), chief executive officer of Alter Eco Foods

The panel covered a range of topics like how the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the industry and best practices for ensuring ethically responsible and sustainable cacao farming and chocolate making. In addition to sharing their own memorable chocolate experiences, the speakers emphasized that the end product is only as good as the sources you use to make it.

“The success of my product is based off the chocolate I’m sourcing,” said Pedone. “I’m willing to pay more to establish a direct relationship with my sources to certify quality.”

Watch the full conversation above or on the Wisconsin School of Business YouTube page.