Four years ago, the then-33-year-old Diana Lovett launched the Mamaroneck-based Cissé Cocoa Company, which uses organic fair-trade cocoa sourced from the Dominican Republic, aiding small growers of cocoa to earn living wages.
Having previously worked in the medical humanitarian field, Lovett, a Yale undergraduate with a Masters from the University of Cambridge in England, wanted to find another way to continue her passion of sustainable development.
She came up with the idea to start Cissé because it combines her love of chocolate and passion for desserts with her dedication to social responsibility. She believes that the fair-trade business model stimulates international economic growth, paying above market premium for ingredients so growers can complete critical infrastructure and well-being projects. Through some personal connections in the natural food sector, Lovett enlisted Gigi Lee Chang, founder of Plum Organics Baby Food who is also devoted to sustainability and organic ingredients, to help build the brand to have it sold in major retailers.
Ranging from $4.99 to $7.99, Cissé products are sold locally at select DeCicco and Balducci’s stores plus nationwide in Whole Foods, Stop & Shop, Kroger, and Costco. The lineup includes four varieties of hot cocoa mixes (Signature Semisweet, Dark Chocolate Cinnamon, Milk Chocolate Vanilla Bean, and Roasted Hazelnut) and four different baking mixes (Milk Chocolate Chip Brownie, Dark Chocolate Cake, Double Chocolate Chip Cookie, and Dark Chocolate Chip Muffin).
Last year, in 2015, Cissé introduced Super Thins. These bite-sized brownie crackers also come in four flavors: Double Chocolate, Cranberry Pepita, Coconut Cashew, and Cherry and Sea Salt.
Expect to see some additional Super Thins flavors in early 2017, along with a complete overhaul of packaging and possibly some new product launches. Most recently, Cissé Cocoa Company received a $25,000 grant to participate in the first-ever Chobani Food Incubator, gaining support from the Greek yogurt maker’s top executives and experts, as well as access to Chobani’s plants, R&D, sales offices, and a dedicated incubator space based in the Chobani SoHo office in New York City.