Guittard Chocolate's Gold Rush Origins

If you are a baker, candy maker, or chocolatier — amateur or otherwise — you know that the choices of chocolate brands on the market are vast. From supermarket house brands to small-batch makers, and from fair-trade to international companies, chocolate is a world unto itself. And then there are the notorious brand names, the ones you can pretty much find anywhere like Toll House, Baker's, and Ghirardelli. Dessert makers in the know also put Guittard into this category, even though you might not find the brand quite as widespread as some other chocolate behemoths.

Guittard chocolate is a lauded favorite among professional and home pastry chefs alike. Chosen for its high quality, the brand is well respected and the go-to option for anyone wanting to produce a really special chocolate dessert. Despite the French name, Guittard is actually an American company, born and bred in the city of San Francisco, California decades before Toll House arrived and even prior to Hershey's. The founder of Guittard was, in fact, from France and his goal in coming to the U.S. was to strike it rich — but not by chocolate.


When word of the 1849 California Gold Rush spread around the world, people from all corners of the globe grabbed their coats and hats and headed west, so to speak. One of these people was Etienne Guittard from Tournus, France. He knew he'd need equipment and supplies to make his golden dreams come true so he took the most convenient good he could get his hands on in order to trade for mining supplies. That good was chocolate from his uncle's chocolate factory. Upon his arrival in San Francisco, Guittard found that miners -– particularly newly rich miners -– were willing to shell out top dollar for his chocolate which they found delicious.

With this unanticipated twist in his plan, Guittard decided to cash in on this advantage. He returned to France to polish up his chocolate-making skills and to earn enough money to buy chocolate-making supplies. In 1868, he returned to San Francisco and opened his first shop, Guittard Chocolate, on Sansome Street. For 31 years, he ran the factory and shop — and by the time of his death in 1899, it was a well-respected and successful enterprise in the bustling city. After the original location was destroyed in the Great Earthquake of 1906, Etienne's son, Horace, opened a new plant on Commercial Street. That stood until 1955 before it was moved to nearby Burlingame, California where it operates today.

Guittard today

Even with the modern advancements in technology, Guittard still utilizes vintage chocolate-making equipment, a practice they believe helps them stay true to their origins. Run today by the fifth generation of Guittard family members, the company makes chocolate chips, bars, cocoa powders, and specialty products for the home kitchen and large-scale bakeries and restaurants. Its chocolate is used in pastries, candies, coffees, and even ice creams for numerous companies. While white, milk, and dark chocolate make up the bulk of their goods, Guittard also offers flavored chips — like mint and butterscotch — and sugar-free options.

You can find Guittard chocolate products in many large supermarket chains as well as in specialty chocolate shops and from plenty of online purveyors. The products do carry a more hefty price than other large-scale chocolate companies but are still priced much lower than many artisan chocolatier products. Perhaps not an everyday brand for most people, it's certainly appropriate for your most special chocolate desserts, or if you're in need of a superb chocolate fix after a long day.