Famed Ghirardelli chocolate company celebrates 150 years

The Associated Press
Monday June 10, 2002

SAN FRANCISCO – The Ghirardelli Chocolate Company is celebrating its 150th anniversary, and now has plans to expand its chocolate empire. 

Founded in 1852 by Domenico Ghirardelli, an Italian immigrant, the chocolate company is one of the country’s oldest chocolate manufacturers. 

Ghirardelli started to make the chocolate that is now a household name after he failed to make it as a gold prospector during California’s Gold Rush. 

The company’s store at the waterfront has been a magnet for tourists visiting the city’s Fisherman’s Wharf for 60 years. 

The company was bought by the Golden Grain Macaroni Co. in 1963, and then by the Quaker Oats Co. in 1986. Since 1998, it has been owned by Lindt & Sprungli, a global high-end chocolate company based in Switzerland. 

Ghirardelli’s management says it want a bigger share of the country’s $1 billion premium chocolate market, and CEO Kamillo Kitzmantel said the company plans to double the its domestic business in five years. 

The company wants to convince Americans that they don’t eat enough chocolate — about 12 pounds a year compared with Central Europeans’ consumption of about 25 pounds a year, Kitzmantel said. 

The company plans to add to its soda fountains and chocolate shops, develop more premium products and increase advertising.