Frequently Asked Questions
Shawn here: It’s my last name; so it came from my parents. It was originally “Ashkenazi” but my grandfather had it changed for him to Askinosie when he came to the U.S.A. It is pronounced ask-i-no-see.
What is California Proposition 65?
Proposition 65 is a law passed in California in 1986. Officially named the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act, it requires businesses to provide warnings to Californians when their products can expose consumers to chemicals above certain maximum levels specified in the Act.
Why is Askinosie providing this warning?
Askinosie Chocolate is providing the warning because some of the cocoa beans used to make our chocolate contain levels of cadmium and lead that exceed the exceedingly cautious maximum levels specified in Proposition 65. In effect, if lead or cadmium can be detected in our products at all, we have to provide a Proposition 65 warning.
How are these metals getting into the cocoa?
Cadmium and lead are two elements that can be found in cacao trees and pods, mainly via absorption of these elements through the roots from the soil. Lead and cadmium both occur naturally in some soils. However, lead and cadmium can also be released into the air as pollution, through processes such as burning fossil fuels and smelting, and settle into the soil. Plants then uptake small amounts of the metals allowing them to enter the food chain (Smolders 2001; Pourrut et al. 2011; “Learn About Lead”, 2019).
Askinosie does not introduce cadmium or lead into our chocolate in our production process. We comply with good manufacturing practices and we comply with requirements to identify and control any food hazards for which there is any foreseeable risk. Any cadmium or lead in our final product is the result of natural processes at our cocoa bean origins.
Are you doing anything about this?
Askinosie works directly with farmers throughout the world because we want to make the best tasting direct trade chocolate in the world. We have invested in equipment and education with our partners to improve bean quality. We have maintained and enforced exacting packing and shipping specifications for the beans we import. And, most recently, we have begun to research the relationship between cadmium, lead, and cocoa. If there is anything our small team can do to improve the beans we use in our chocolate, we’re going to do it for the sake of everyone. This includes our farmer partners, all of whom stand to gain from great chocolate.
What we’re not going to do is take hasty action. We’re not going to needlessly harm family farmers who have grown premium cacao for generations. We are testing our beans and chocolate to establish baseline levels of cadmium and lead in cacao from various regions. We are researching to understand this relationship – right down to the role that the earth’s magma plays in contributing metals to plant life. And we are investigating feasible ways to mitigate against the presence of cadmium in cocoa. As we learn more about these topics we’ll work with our farmer partners to take well-founded, deliberate steps to improve the quality of our product.
Finally, we’re working with other companies in the craft chocolate industry. There are a lot of us and we’re all invested in making chocolate the right way. It’s why we’re in business. We’ve discussed the matter of cadmium and lead in cocoa, and we’ve discussed ways to act collectively to address this and many other aspects of this issue. We are grateful to be part of a group of such committed and dedicated artisans.
Is the chocolate safe?
Our chocolate is safe -- at least as much so as the hundreds of other foods that contain levels of naturally occurring cadmium or lead above Proposition 65 standards such as avocadoes, leafy greens, potatoes, root vegetables, and meats. According to a 2007 study performed by the United States Food and Drug Administration, many common foods contain well over the amount of cadmium allowed by Proposition 65, some foods over 10-20 times the Proposition 65 amount (“Total Diet Study Statistics on Element Results”, 2007). In 2018, a study was performed to assess the risk of cadmium intake from cocoa powder in chocolate drinks in Brazil. The maximum levels of cadmium were approximately double those allowed by Proposition 65. The results of the study showed that the exposure of cadmium through chocolate drinks made from cocoa powder do not present any potential risk to human health (Peixoto & Cadore 2018).
If it’s safe, then why are you posting the warning?
Good question. The short answer is that we’re providing this warning to avoid unnecessary litigation with private parties in California who bring lawsuits against chocolate companies in the name of Proposition 65. These lawsuits began almost a decade ago against large chocolate companies, and they have recently begun again against much smaller bean-to-bar chocolate companies without the resources to litigate. We hope these warnings do not create confusion about the essential safety of our products.
Learn about Lead. (2019). Retrieved from https://www.epa.gov/lead/learn-about-lead.
Peixoto R, Cadore A. (2018) Risk assessment of cadmium and chromium from chocolate powder. Food Additives & Contaminants: Part B, 11:4, 256-263, doi: 10.1080/19393210.2018.1499676
Pourrut B, Shahid M, Dumat C, Winterton P, Pinelli E. (2011) Lead Uptake and Detoxification in Plants. Reviews of Environmental Contamination and Toxicity, 213:113-36. doi: 10.1007/978-1-4419-9860-6_4
Smoulders E. (2001) Cadmium Uptake by Plants. International Journal of Occupational Medicine and Environmental Health, 14(2):177-83.
Total Diet Study Statistics on Element Results. (2007) Retrieved from http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/~comm/tds-res.html
Special thanks to our Director of Science & Technology, Scott Askinosie, M.S. in Biomedical Sciences & PhD in Cellular Molecular Biology, for his research and contribution to this FAQ.
All nutritional, allergen, and ingredient information can be found under the specific page for each and every product we make. Note that each product is processed in a facility that also processes milk, goat's milk, peanuts, tree nuts and wheat. You can also find Nutrition Information here, and Allergen/Special Dietary Information for all of our products, here. Don't hesitate to contact us at email@example.com with any questions or concerns you may have.
The majority of our products are Kosher Certified, view a list of our Allergen/Special Dietary Information for all of our products, here. The certification varies by product, but details on each product’s specific Kosher certification can be found on the product pages. Our certifying partner is Vaad HaKashruth in Kansas City, MO.
We do not have sugar free or sugar substitute chocolate bars. Our chocolate contains three (two, really, since the cocoa butter comes from the same cocoa beans) ingredients: cocoa beans, organic sugar, and cocoa butter (that comes from the cocoa beans). We make the cocoa butter ourselves and we are the first small batch chocolate maker in the US to do this. We do, however, have Roasted Cocoa Nibs, which do not contain sugar.
Everything we make is gluten-free except for our seasonal Limited Edition S'more Bark, Dark Chocolate + Malted Milk CollaBARation™ Bar and Chocolate Covered Malt Balls. Our signature dark chocolates contain only two ingredients: cocoa beans and organic sugar. We don’t use lecithin, vanilla, or any other additives.
Yes—we use nuts in some of our chocolate. This means that all of our chocolate is made on equipment that may have been in contact with nuts. Therefore, our other chocolate products may contain traces of peanuts and/or tree nuts. We are a very small factory and unfortunately, we do not have the ability to have a separate production line for a totally nut-free environment.
Please check specific product pages for details on which products contain nuts and pertinent allergen warnings. You can also check our packaging; the ingredients and allergen warnings are listed on the nutrition panel, on the back or bottom of the product.
Our dark chocolate is made from two ingredients: cocoa beans and certified organic sugar. Our cocoa butter, which we uniquely press in-house, is made from the same cocoa beans that we use to make our chocolate. Our chocolate is unofficially organic. We go to great lengths to make sure the farmers do not use chemicals and pesticides; not only do they sign a contract, but we also visit these farms yearly and can personally verify their practices. We also make sure that our beans are shade grown and that the cocoa trees are intercropped with other trees and crops. Our cocoa beans are not certified, however, in part for the same reason we aren’t Fair Trade certified—the certification process for the beans is very expensive and our farmers can’t afford it. Though we are not certified organic, our beans can be traced completely back to their origin. We have the name of every farmer who contributed to each crop. On our packaging and our website, we state the bean origin, the bean variety, the percentage of cocoa content, the process (bean to bar), and on most of our chocolate bars, the name, and story of the farmers from whom we sourced the cocoa beans for the bar inside. For specific product information regarding ingredients and nutrition information, visit that product's landing page. If you have any additional questions, please feel free to contact us.
The big deal is—we are the first small batch chocolate maker in the U.S. to press our own cocoa butter AND the first makers of natural cocoa powder. Our Natural Cocoa Powder is made right in our factory using the same beans we use to make our dark chocolate. We have a custom press in our factory that we use to make the cocoa press cake from cocoa liquor that we create with beans from our various origins. The press cake is then milled into a powder that is easy to bake with, make hot cocoa or ice cream and so many other things. It is an authentic single origin powder that is unsweetened and non-alkalized. The true flavor of the beans translates into a rich dark cocoa powder great for baking.
Our cocoa butter is also pressed in our factory using the same custom press as the natural cocoa powder and we are the only small-batch chocolate maker to do this. The Wine Spectator featured our cocoa butter-making in their July 2013 issue “Like Butter for Chocolate,” in which we are praised for being one of the few makers in the world who press our own cocoa butter.
These strings come from the bags of cocoa beans delivered to our factory. They are biodegradable, but we reuse them.
Shawn here: “1-2-3” is something that my wife and I have been writing in cards and notes to each other for nearly 30 years. Nobody but us knows what it means and this was my little tribute to her on the package. Our daughter says that we need to put the meaning in our will or safe deposit box so they can know what it means someday. As for “toot-toot,” when my daughter, Lawren, was little and we tucked her in at night, we would leave her room and say “night night” and she responded “toot-toot” for some inexplicable reason. This phrase has carried on with us now for years. Putting “toot-toot” on the package was my way of remembering her in those days long ago.
In a word: yes. He attended Sophia University in Tokyo and his roommates at Wakei-juku dorm convinced him it was a good idea. His name was “Shooting Shawn Springfield.” Even though he is not a large man, Shawn was big in Japan.
We love the Fair Trade idea. We believe, however, that we have to be vigilant that Fair Trade does not become a marketing gimmick or reduced to a bumper sticker. The Fair Trade movement has been important environmentally, socially, and economically. In many ways, though it has become ubiquitous. We must ask the questions and dig deeper to find out how companies treat people: their suppliers, their employees, their community, etc. Fair Trade has been scrutinized because some question if the money ever finds its way to the farmer in the field and not coop bureaucrats. Our chocolate is not “certified” Fair Trade mainly because the farmers we work with cannot afford the certification but also because we don’t think it’s necessary. We’d like to think that our chocolate is beyond Fair Trade because it’s Direct Trade. Not only do we pay above Fair Trade prices for the beans we buy, we profit share with our farmer partners. Learn more about our work with farmers, profit sharing, and Direct Trade practices here.
Shipping is not a profit center for us. In fact, we lose money on it. We have received suggestions in the past to use USPS for all of our shipping. The reason we don’t, however, is lack of tracking. We are a small factory with only 15 full-time employees and need to use one shipping company with tracking, and the best option for us is FedEx. We wish that the entire shipping situation was different and not so expensive. We offer free shipping for orders that exceed $50 in some cases (check our Shipping page for more details). This way you are able to get a lot more chocolate and spend a lot less on shipping!
Yes. If for any reason you are not satisfied with your purchase, we are happy to exchange it for another item. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call us at (417) 862-9900. We are available Monday through Thursday 9:00 am - 5:00 pm and Friday 9:00 - 5:00 pm CST.
At Askinosie Chocolate, we greatly value the opportunity to give to our local community and to share in our successes as we grow as a business. For our company, this is demonstrated through our commitment to two Springfield organizations that are especially important to us: Chocolate University and Lost & Found Grief Center.
Chocolate University was established by Askinosie Chocolate to provide a unique learning opportunity for the students who attend Boyd Elementary, Pipkin Middle, and Springfield area High Schools. This cooperative learning program offers students a chance to learn through the lens of artisan chocolate making and directly connects them with the regions from which we source cocoa beans. Learn more about Chocolate University.
Lost & Found Grief Center was co-founded by our founder, Shawn Askinosie, to provide grief support and education to individuals and families in the Southwest Missouri area at no cost.
Finally, although it’s not a charity, we’re sustainably feeding many students every day in Tanzania and the Philippines through our A Product of Change™ program.
In the past, we have made the effort to meet each of the donation requests we have received in the Springfield area and beyond. Recently we have decided to laser focus our giving efforts to the organizations and projects mentioned above in order to serve with even greater depth. We do make exceptions to this policy for projects that relate directly to our neighborhood.
We are currently directly sourcing from three countries on three continents; we are the only small batch American chocolate makers who do this. We are always on the lookout for new origins. We are not looking for additional sources inside the countries where we are already sourcing beans. We will not be adding a fourth origin for at least a year or more. It takes us about two years to bring on a new origin because we have to check the bean quality, travel to the location and meet with farmers, determine if the group is amenable to profit sharing… the list is long. We are always happy to receive cocoa bean samples but we do not guarantee a reply due to time constraints. If you want to send bean samples unsolicited it is fine by us but please do not send roasted beans; only fermented and dried. Additionally, please indicate exactly where the beans come from and the number of days fermented and dried.
Shawn is often traveling to origin and rarely has time to accept speaking requests. However, he is a sought-after speaker and tries to make time to tell our story. He does charge a speaking fee in most instances, as this is a way we raise money for Chocolate University. If you’re interested in learning more details email us at email@example.com or visit this page on our site. It is possible that another member of our leadership team could speak to your group if the event is local. We’re such a small company that it’s “all hands on deck” most of the time.
Technically the answer is no. Brad is also from Springfield and the two are often confused but they are not related. Shawn did meet Brad once and said that he is a very down to earth guy. Brad’s brother Doug is a friend of Shawn’s, but they are not related either. Doug is a Chocolate University supporter and his counsel comes in very handy as the Tanzanian Goodwill Ambassador to the United States.
We go to great lengths to ensure that our chocolate arrives safely during the warmer months. Due to the heat-sensitive nature of chocolate, we limit transit times, avoid shipping over weekends and ship in insulated boxes to ensure your chocolate arrives safely in the warmer months.
We've worked hard to find an earth-friendly solution to traditional styrofoam and are proud to insulate our retail shipping boxes with Green Cell Plus Foam. Green Cell is a corn-based alternative to traditional styrofoam that is recyclable, biodegradable, and backyard compostable. To dispose of the insulation, cut or tear open the green outer film and add to your #4 PE recyclables. Then, dissolve the foam panels in the sink; it is safe for pipes, septic, and waste treatment facilities. Questions? Check out this quick video and learn more about the many earth-friendly ways to dispose of your Green Cell Foam here.