Dubbed the “Chocolate Girl,” holistic health counselor Vanessa Barg is the queen of the raw chocolate castle. Her company, Gnosis Chocolate, has grown exponentially since she first began creating chocolate treats in her own kitchen at age 23. Nearly five years later, Chocolate Girl and her team hand-make 22 different chocolate bars as well as spreads, trail mix, and truffles for more than 300 stores worldwide.
Gnosis Chocolate procures raw, organic, fair-trade cacao from Bali, Ecuador, Grenada, Madagascar, and Peru, and infuses it with all kinds of superfoods and exotic medicinal herbs to create exquisite chocolate combinations jam packed with antioxidants and medicinal nutrients. Raw chocolate is not a processed food, and in order to preserve the nutrients it cannot be heated above 118 degrees. And without the sugar, dairy, soy, gluten, or emulsifiers, this chocolate is actually good for you. Seriously!
HoneyColony recently caught up with Vanessa:
HoneyColony: How did your love of chocolate begin?
Vanessa Barg: When I was a health counselor, I began making chocolates for my clients. A lot of my clients would come in forgetting to take their supplements, or finding some reason why they couldn’t take them. So, I began infusing prescribed nutrients into my chocolate bars so they didn’t have excuses. Let’s just say, after that no one ever forgot! And through word of mouth, the business boomed. At the time, mine was the only raw chocolate east of San Francisco. I’ve always enjoyed making food. I’m Italian, and, to us, food equals love.
HC: Can you talk about some of the healing properties of chocolate?
VB: There are so many! Chocolate affects all parts of body, mind, and heart. Since 1100 BCE, chocolate has been revered and known as the “food of the gods.” A lot of people still see chocolate as candy, but we get in touch with the roots of cacao. By not heating the cacao beans you maintain the nutrients. It’s like eating a piece of fresh fruit versus fruit in a can.
Cacao is nature’s No. 1 source of magnesium. Lack of magnesium leads to heart disease and heart attacks, so raw cacao is very healing physically, but also on a deeper level. Cacao has neurotransmitters that aren’t normally found in foods, serotonin and dopamine — the same chemicals produced when you are happy and in love.
Raw chocolate also contains healthy fat. The fat in chocolate is the same fat found in walnuts, avocado, and coconut, the fats our body needs. I eat four to five bars a day!
And, when you’re eating something decadent and delicious but also nourishing to your body, there’s a healing process. If we can consume foods that taste good and make us feel good, we don’t have to feel guilty. Without the guilty feelings about your diet, it’s a much more pleasurable experience to nourish and take care of yourself.
HC: How has chocolate transformed you personally?
VB: When I was a kid I ate ridiculous amounts of chocolate — and not the good kind. Since consuming good chocolate, I’ve found that my creativity has sky-rocketed and my attention and focus are much more clear.
On a business level, I am able to use chocolate as a medium for expressing myself in the world and as a platform for launching certain ideas and ways of empowering people. When people ask me to come speak, it’s not just about chocolate. I also get to talk about social responsibility, good business practices, and empowering people to step into their own businesses.
HC: What’s your favorite product that you make?
VB: This is like asking, if I had kids, which one was my favorite! But, if I had to pick, I would say our SuperChoc Bar. But don’t tell any other bars that I said so! It’s our signature recipe and was the first flavor. I also really like The Immune Boost for this time of year. That one comes as a bar, trail mix, or hot chocolate.
Oh, and the truffles! Right now we have our Vitality Truffles available. They’re fruity and flowery, with herbs for cleansing and detox like dandelion and milk thistle.
HC: Can you tell us a little about what’s new with Gnosis?
VB: A lot! In March 2013 Gnosis will have been up and running for five years. The company has gone 100 percent unfunded without investors, loans, or even my parent’s money. Being able to start a grassroots business that is purely community supported without going into debt is so exciting. But I don’t sleep much! I like to call it sweat equity. Consumer demand has put our products in stores, and 100 percent of our revenue goes toward building a strong team and great products.
We are now starting to work with distributors because the company is getting too big to handle all of that ourselves. We are going to be in a lot more stores in the next six months. We just got our first order from Japan, so very soon we’ll be all over that country. We’re also bringing on a distributor in Northern California and hopefully Southern California very soon.
HC: We know you are a health role model extraordinaire, but do you have any guilty pleasures? Food or otherwise?
VB: Absolutely not. I don’t think guilty pleasure is a good thing. We should be proud of everything that we indulge in. Guilt means there’s something you want to change. And at that point it is something to examine, to figure out why this behavior is present and how you can change it.
We should all be able to shout at the top of the lungs what makes us happy! Because that is how we fill our true potential in the world.
HoneyColony offers Gnosis Chocolates for a sweet price. Discover cacao and get in the Gno!