Last summer, Emma Smith was nursing two broken wrists when she woke up from an afternoon nap in tears: “How am I going to save the animals?” The compassionate, 27-year-old entrepreneur is owner of Zimt Chocolates, a Vancouver-based raw vegan chocolate company whose mandate includes philanthropy and animal welfare. Smith discovered veganism thanks to a fellow patient in an eating disorder program. “He was an incredible baker,” she recalls. “I’d never seen stuff that decadent before—it looked like it should have been full of every single animal product on the planet.” Through self-teaching, she began to see how a plant-based diet is better for her health and for the planet. But it was the animals that became the huge motivator for Smith. “I really do care about them,” she says. “So why not actually show it?”
In 2011, her first year of business, Smith offered a handful of vegan products to 12 retailers. Now, her dozen goods are sold at over 150 stores across North America. Still, she is intent on increasing distribution and sales to allow herself and her six-person team to have their own facility, open a café, and support social ventures such as 1% for the Planet, Wildlife Rescue, and Saints Rescue (an animal shelter based in Mission). “I really want to do this overnight,” says Smith. “I have all these super great ideas that would help so many animals and so many people. I just want to do it right now.” She snaps her fingers for emphasis.
Though it may seem like an oxymoron to have milk-less chocolate, Smith says it is actually a return to the way things used to be. “Traditional chocolate didn’t have any dairy in it,” she explains. “Cadbury added dairy because it was less expensive than cocoa. It’s a filler.” Unlike most chocolate companies, Zimt makes its sweet delights from the cocoa nib. “Making the chocolate is a huge process that lasts over a day: it goes through a grinder for 36 hours before we very slowly and gradually add the coconut sugar,” Smith explains. “If we add too much at a time, the chocolate will seize up due to any moisture in the coconut sugar. We add all the ingredients and then go through the chocolate tempering process. Finally, we pour it into the molds and let it cool.” Zimt’s main ingredient is raw cacao from Ecuador. As a sweetener, Smith chooses coconut sugar, which has a lower glycemic index than conventional versions; she says it adds richness and a subtle caramel undertone. Lastly, there’s the cocoa butter, which smooths it all out and lends that great mouth feel.
Smith’s love for animals is obvious, and through her growing chocolate company she is committed to helping their cause. “It’s cool to bring the non-vegan population a product that tastes just as good, if not better, than traditional dairy chocolate, and have them be like, ‘Oh wow, I can’t believe that’s possible,’” Smith says. “Maybe they’ll start to wonder if there are other vegan things out there that taste just as good. Maybe they’ll try a vegan recipe. They’ll be saving a few animals. I know it doesn’t change the entire world, but it’s the entire world to somebody.”
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