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Cal Poly Chocolates: A sweet success story

Cal Poly Chocolates bars come in four flavors: milk chocolate, dark chocolate, peanut butter crunch and peppermint crunch.
Cal Poly Chocolates bars come in four flavors: milk chocolate, dark chocolate, peanut butter crunch and peppermint crunch. dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

Cal Poly Chocolates has been manufacturing sweet treats through the university’s food science and nutrition department since professor Tom Neuhaus founded the nonprofit, chocolate-making operation in 2000.

Every Friday, five student employees and pilot plant manager Brandon Coleman produce about 1,000 chocolate bars in four flavors: milk chocolate, dark chocolate, peanut butter crunch and peppermint crunch.

Cal Poly Chocolates also makes peanut butter cups and chocolate-covered hazelnuts. And it’s in the process of developing a coffee crunch bar and spicy cayenne chocolate bar.

Coleman estimates the operation annually sells about 50,000 of the bars — for about $2 each. Peanut butter cups, sold in boxes of eight, sell for $10 to $12 retail, and hazelnuts in a 3-ounce tin go for about $5.

Chocolate lovers can find the candies on campus at the university store, Campus Market and Village Market. They are also sold locally at Spencer’s Fresh Market, New Frontiers and California Fresh Market. Other venues now include gourmet shops at the Madonna Inn, the Crushed Grape, HumanKind Fair Trade, and the Paso Robles General Store.

The operation has grown tremendously since its inception, with sales tripling in the past two to three years, Coleman said. He noted that Cal Poly Chocolates sells all of the units it produces each year, with the proceeds reinvested in the department to upgrade facilities and buy new equipment, so “students have a better opportunity to learn.”

In addition to the student employees, four to six students each quarter enroll in a chocolate-making course. Neuhaus, who recently retired, returns to Cal Poly to help teach the lecture portion of the class.

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