It’s easy to believe local chocolate pioneer Brent Davis as he discusses his sleep habits.
“I never really say I sleep, because I dream through my sleep, too. I dream and think all the time,” said Davis, the owner and one-man research department behind Mishawaka-based Davis Chocolate.
Since beginning his bean-to-bar chocolate business in 2011, Davis, 43, has made it his mission to devise radically different ways to serve the needs of clients and consumers.
Some of his creations include a high-alkaline, sugar-free bar created with cancer patients in mind, and a chocolate made with low-glycemic coconut sugar to delight diabetics.
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While these new products fly under the Davis Chocolate flag, most of the Davis’ output is for other brands in the chocolate business. Chances are, most people who have tasted his creations don’t even realize it.
Located at 3502 Home St., Davis’ facility specializes in private label production and is capable of processing upward of 120,000 bars of chocolate each week on two shifts with around 12 employees.
His varieties contain anywhere from 15 percent to 90 percent cacao bean sourced from places like Madagascar, Peru, Ghana, Ecuador, the Dominican Republic and Venezuela, among others. The company is certified under Fair Trade, USDA organic standards and the Rainforest Alliance.
“I got into the chocolate business and I learned all about it through the Internet,” said Davis. “I didn’t know anything about food, about chocolate, besides cooking.”
Indeed, Davis’ occupation and shaggy curls evoke a certain ’70s eccentric played by Gene Wilder. However, Davis does more than pander to morally flawed children.
Not long ago, Davis connected with Culver’s Richard Dugger, an expert on amaranth. The amaranth plant contains high levels of gluten-free protein, something Dugger wanted to incorporate into a nutritious treat for impoverished children in Ghana. Consuming 20 grams of amaranth each day for just a few months can provide a healthy level of sustenance to malnourished bodies.
Together, the two combined Davis’ squeezable product, ChocoLava, with the plant protein to create ChocoAmaranth.
Their African associate was a politician named, ironically, Davis.
“We sent those over there so that the politician Davis would be able to hand that out to people and generate awareness with amaranth, because it’s so strong,” he said.
Others around the United States have benefited from Davis’ dedication to innovation.
World-famous speed sculptor and Food Network Challenge winner Paul Joachim was commissioned by Busch Gardens to create edible art for the theme park. The problem? Where to find chocolate that could withstand the oppressive heat of the Florida sun. Standard chocolate typically has a melting point between 86 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
Leave it to Davis to deviate from the norm and solve the problem. Through a secretive process, he manipulated the melting point of his chocolate to remain firm under increased temperatures.
“One day,” he said succinctly. That was all the time needed to tweak his formula. Since then, major players in the confectionery world have hounded the Houdini of chocolate.
Similar to magicians, chocolate manufacturers appear reluctant to share their knowledge.
“That would be something to talk about over a drink,” said Davis, an amusing response repeated after each question regarding trade secrets.
It’s evident he’s had to skirt these topics before.
Davis was more than willing to open up about one of his newest creations marketed under his own name: an organic peanut butter chip, also available in bar form. To his knowledge, he said, no other manufacturer in the world offers a purely organic peanut butter chip or bar.
Additionally, the Davis brand packages powdered cocoa nibs. The powder, which was featured on Food Network’s “Sweet Genius,” can substitute for baking chocolate and also be sprinkled on food or blended in smoothies for a healthy boost high in antioxidants.
With a new mystery customer preparing to work with Davis, the company is bracing for an eightfold increase in production by July 2015. The decision to expand the facility or relocate has yet to be made.
When that happens, Davis might talk about it — but probably only over a drink.