Green Business Case Study: Kakao Chocolate
Kakao Chocolate


Owner Brian Pelletier has been sustainably producing all-natural, hand-made chocolate confections since 2008. Now operating from two urban locations, this small business has earned a broad-based measure of sweet success, built on strong Green values.

Green Measures at Work in this Business:
  • Rehabbed a century-old urban storefront with energy efficient lighting in first location
    • Took advantage of Ameren Missouri incentives to offset much of lighting upgrade costs
    • The lighting retrofit cut Kakao’s electric bill by 10–15 percent
  • Included energy efficiency measures when leasing a second location
    • High efficiency lighting is in use throughout the facility, except for front display windows
    • Installed a high-efficiency second air conditioning unit to augment/somewhat replace an existing inefficient unit
      • The older unit ran 24/7 but couldn’t effectively cool the building
      • The new unit cycles on and off, conserving power while maintaining comfort
      • Even with two AC units still in use, the efficiency of the dominant newer unit cools the building using 25 percent less energy than the older unit alone consumed
    • Staff “recycles everything we can” and shares composting services with neighboring Schlafly Brewery
      • Cups and spoons used to serve ice cream are compostable
      • Although Pelletier says “we can do a lot more with waste reduction,” Kakao’s current practices have cut their trash output by over 50 percent
  • All chocolate used in Kakao confections is sustainably harvested and produced
    • Sustainable harvesting and fair trade practices protect cocoa bean growing environments and support growers with living wages and safe working conditions
  • Confection ingredients are sourced locally as much as possible—including honey, lavender, fruits and vegetables (yes, vegetables can enhance chocolate!)
  • Organic ingredients are used as much as possible, including cinnamon and vanilla beans
  • Established this business in old buildings, in up-and-coming parts of town with strong character
    • Saved as much of the architecture and materials as possible, in Jefferson Avenue store
    • Store still has original tin ceiling, original wood floors

This Business Has More Green Plans:
  • In process of switching to compostable “plastic” packaging, switching from poly to cellophane
    • New packaging will include information encouraging customers to compost it
  • Would like to install solar power system on one or both stores.
  • Planning to earn certification from St. Louis Green Dining Alliance.
  • Continuing to increase recycling and composting.

Kakao Owner Brian Pelletier Says:

What we’ve tried to do from the beginning is to reduce our overall footprint as much as we can. Our product comes from thousands of miles away—that’s a given. So everything else we do is an effort to minimize our environmental impacts and maximize our benefits to the local economy.

Green Ideas Your Business Can Use:
  • Connect with Green-thinking partners and customers to help promote your product and your sustainability values.
    • Kakao contributes through sales and sampling events to the work of Missouri Botanical Garden’s EarthWays Center and Best of Missouri Market, and to events like St. Louis Earth Day and corporate Green fair.
    • Kakao sponsored the 2012 Sustainable Backyard Tour, produced by another Green-thinking local business, Home Eco.
    • Kakao has supported hundreds of local charities’ fund-raisers through product donations.
  • Carefully evaluate building energy systems—and use a professional energy auditor and improvement consultant to make the most efficient upgrade choices.

Kakao Chocolate is a member of the Maplewood Chamber of Commerce.

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