Deep within the coastal lowlands of Ecuador, Dave Owens recently discovered just the right beans for his next unique Bissinger’s confection. As chief chocolatier, Owens helps keep the renowned St. Louis-based company's roots in the past, with an eye toward the future.
This holiday season, Bissinger's, which originated in 17th-century France, is celebrating its 85th anniversary in St. Louis. And the history of Bissinger’s is as rich as the chocolate itself, notes company president Ken Kellerhals. “We are grateful to be here carrying on the legacy that started in Paris centuries ago,” he says. “Bissinger’s remains committed to the high standards, heritage and the passionate attention to detail that goes into every piece we craft.”
While Bissinger’s continues to offer its hand-crafted classics, such as nut balls and milk chocolate bear claws; and traditional holiday favorites, including 3-pound chocolate Santa centerpieces, premium peppermint bark and chocolate-covered, hand-decorated Christmas cookies, it also has created a record number of new sweet treats during the past year, according to Owens.
A chef of 30 years who also has spent time at the helm of Cardwell’s at the Plaza, Owens has a deep understanding of all things Bissinger’s—from its celebrated legacy and loyal lifelong customers to its acclaimed confections. You can’t buy a legacy, or create a nationwide audience overnight, he notes. “We’re still always working toward being the best European-style chocolate company in the country,” he says, adding that Bissinger’s is part of family traditions across the nation.
While it has three shop locations—two in St. Louis and one in Edina, Minn.—Bissinger’s can be found across the country in specialty and upscale grocers like Straub’s and Whole Foods Market, as well as high-end retailers such as Neiman Marcus. And Owens boasts that Oprah Winfrey, Emeril Lagasse and Lauren Bacall are fans. “Wherever you are, without fail, you will meet a loyal Bissinger’s customer. Whether they grew up with it or received it as a holiday gift, they will always enjoy it.”
Bissinger's creative chocolate-making takes place in the company's St. Louis kitchen. Confection centers like caramel and toffee are enrobed in chocolate. Finally, the handcrafted creations are packaged into those classic signature Bissinger’s boxes. And while Bissinger’s European-style chocolate (sourced from the Ivory Coast) remains the same, Owens is experimenting with beans he recently found in Ecuador to extend one of the company’s unique new lines—Rainforest Alliance Bars—which are currently available in coconut caramel, coffee toffee, and assorted milk and dark chocolates. “We are incorporating a lot of contemporary flavors without forgetting our rich chocolate-making history,” Owens notes. And as far as new confection creations go, Owens says the sky is the limit. “We are constantly exploring unique and innovative flavor combinations. There’s always something in the pipeline.”
As Bissinger’s celebrates its 85th anniversary, the nationally popular St. Louis-based handmade chocolatier remains true to its confection roots while still making new creations for the future. For more information, call 534-2401 or visit bissingers.com.