Why We Only Make Nut-Free Chocolate
One of our favorite things is when a child comes into one of our stores with his or her family—and it’s the first time they’ve ever been in a chocolate store.
Their eyes open wide, and they smile the brightest smile. They look in amazement at the truffles, caramels, and all the other confections lined up neatly in the cases. They are truly kids in a candy store, in the best possible way.
“Yes, you can have chocolate!” a parent says. “Pick out anything you want!”
How can it be, you might wonder, that a 10-year-old child has never stepped foot in a candy store or chocolate shop? Sadly, we see it all the time. Oftentimes, it’s because the child has a not-at-all-rare allergy to peanuts or tree nuts.
A Growing Problem
For those with nut allergies, going to a chocolate shop can result in a trip to the hospital. It can even be deadly. A nut allergy is that serious. Even breathing in airborne allergens can be dangerous. It’s a constant and very real fear for kids and their families, who must check every ingredient in a store, restaurant, or even at a birthday gathering.
According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, peanut allergies—the most common food allergy in children—has tripled in the past two decades. Nearly 3% of the pediatric population has been diagnosed with a peanut or tree nut allergy.
While research has shown no single direct link to account for this major increase, one theory is that children’s environments and diets have become so sanitized and over-processed that it’s affecting their immune system. A compromised immune system triggers the body to target certain foods, like peanuts and tree nuts, which then makes kids sick.
While nut allergies in kids and adults is an increasingly common condition, it’s rare to find a chocolate shop that can assure customers there are no nuts ever—in any product. Since our very first day, Dean’s Sweets has never used nuts or nut products in any of our chocolates.
Many customers are already familiar with this no-nut policy of ours. But they might not know the longer story behind it.
Why Dean’s Sweets is Nut-Free
Back in 2004, when Dean and I were just starting to think about opening a chocolate business in our home kitchen in Portland, Maine, we made our very first batch of rum truffles for a dear friend of ours, Judy.
Judy loved chocolate but hadn’t had good chocolate in many years because of a lifelong (and very severe) nut allergy. So we made our first batch of truffles without nuts, on a tempering machine that had never had any nuts used in it before. When Judy tasted the truffles, she was overjoyed—and so were we.
When it came time to expand our business from our home to a commercial location in 2008, we kept the practice of not using nuts—ever. Not in our products; not in our slowly growing facilities; and not in our machinery (a word that’s a bit of a misnomer, considering that we still hand-dip all our chocolate). We always want Judy to be able to enjoy our chocolate safely. And if Judy’s happy, we’re happy.
Over the years, we’ve discovered that there are so many people who both love and need nut-free chocolates. Today, our chocolate-making facilities and equipment continue to be free of all nuts and nut products. We don’t even allow ourselves or our employees to bring nuts into the store. What began as a gift to our dear friend Judy has turned into a calling—and a thriving business that provides safe products for anyone with nut allergies.
And when we see the smiles and bright eyes of those first-time chocolate visitors, knowing they can pick out anything they want, we cherish our small part in making that child—and their family—safe and happy.