What is the history of Ghirardelli Chocolate Company?

American manufacturer, The Ghirardelli Chocolate Company is owned entirely by Swiss confectioner Lindt & Sprüngli. Domenico Ghirardelli, an Italian chocolatier who later settled in California after working in South America, created the business and the corporation carries his name. After Baker’s Chocolate and Whitman’s, the Ghirardelli Chocolate Company is the third-oldest chocolate manufacturer in the US. It was founded in 1852.



Domenico Ghirardelli was born in 1817 to a “strange foods importer” and his wife in Rapallo, Italy. When Domenico was a young apprentice to a nearby candy maker, he first learned about the chocolate industry. When he was 20 years old, Ghirardelli and his wife had taken a ship to Uruguay to work in the chocolate and coffee industry. Ghirardelli relocated to Lima, Peru, a year later, where he founded a candy shop. James Lick, Ghirardelli’s neighbor, relocated to San Francisco, California, carrying 600 lb (270 kg) of Ghirardelli’s chocolate in 1847, nine years later. Ghirardelli remained in Peru and carried on running his business there.

The move to California

Ghirardelli learned about the Sutter’s Mill gold strike in 1849 and sailed to California. Ghirardelli founded a basic store in Stockton, California, supplying groceries and sweets to fellow miners after engaging in some prospecting. One of the first stores to open in the neighborhood was Ghirardelli’s tent-based establishment.

A few months later, Ghirardelli launched a second store in San Francisco on the corner of Broadway and Battery, which turned into his first business there in 1850.

Between 1856 and 1859, amid a gold rush in Hornitos, California, Ghirardelli operated a general store where he honed his chocolate recipes. Still visible throughout town are the store’s remnants.

Early history in San Francisco

Ghirardelli’s San Francisco company was destroyed by fire on May 3, 1851, and his Stockton store followed a few days later. However, Ghirardelli utilized his remaining assets to launch the Cairo Coffee House in San Francisco in September of the same year. Due to the failure of this commercial endeavor, Ghirardelli subsequently opened Ghirardelli & Girard on the intersection of Washington and Kearny Streets in San Francisco. Ghirardelli quickly reached the point where he could transfer money to his family in Peru, who were still living there. He gave the business a new name, D. 200 lb (91 kg) of cocoa beans were imported by Ghirardelli & Co. in 1852. Since its incorporation in 1852, the business has been running continuously.

The company moved the following year, in 1853, to the intersection of Jackson and Mason Streets. When a bigger manufacturing facility was required by 1855, the factory was relocated to the intersection of Powell and Greenwich Streets, although the office remained in its original site. The company sold booze during this time but discontinued its range of alcoholic goods after 1871. The business was bringing in 1,000 lb (450 kg) of cocoa seeds annually by 1866. At that point, the corporation marketed spices, coffee, and chocolate to Mexico, China, Japan, and the United States in addition to chocolate. The business brought in 450,000 lb (200,000 kg) of cocoa seeds in 1885.

Ghirardelli stepped down as business president in 1892 to be succeeded by his three sons. Ghirardelli passed away in Rapallo, Italy, on January 17, 1894, two years later at the age of 77.


By 1900, Ghirardelli’s company had sold its coffee and spice operations and was solely selling chocolate and mustard. The company’s continued growth throughout the years into various structures enabled it to enter new markets and increase its financial standing. Ghirardelli Square, where many of the Ghirardelli buildings were built, was designated a city landmark in San Francisco in 1965. Two years later, the production facilities were relocated to San Leandro, California (37.711°N 122.145°W).

Since the 1960s, Ghirardelli has shifted its attention to the restaurant industry and started offering ice cream sundaes that come with their famous hot fudge chocolate sauce. As of 2019, they offered more than 15 different sundaes. In one of their earliest menus from the 1960s, they offered five “Nob Hill Sundaes” that were each named after a different San Francisco landmark, interesting fact, or local person (Twin Peaks, Golden Gate Banana Split, Strike it Rich, The Rock, and the Emperor Norton).

The Golden Grain Macaroni Company, the company that produces Rice-A-Roni, acquired the Ghirardelli Chocolate Company in 1963. Later, in 1986, Quaker Oats acquired Golden Grain and subsequently Ghirardelli[10]. The following year, in 1992, Quaker Oats sold the Ghirardelli Chocolate division to a private investment firm. From among them, John J. Anton was chosen to lead the newly independent Ghirardelli Chocolate Company as president and CEO. In 1998, the Ghirardelli Chocolate Business was purchased by the Swiss company Lindt and Sprüngli as a completely owned subsidiary of its holding company.


On their website, Ghirardelli claims to be one of the few chocolate manufacturers in the US to have complete control over every step of production, rejecting up to 40% of the cocoa seeds that are sent toorder to choose only the “best quality” seeds. The cocoa seeds are then internally roasted by the business by removing the seed’s outer shell and toasting the beans inside. After that, the chocolate is refined and ground to a final size of 19 micrometers (0.00075 in).


There are numerous chocolate flavors made by Ghirardelli. The chocolate is offered for sale as bars or as little squares.

Additionally, Ghirardelli provides other merchants with food service products including chocolate drinks and flavored sauces.

Issues found

In 2015, an independent laboratory tested more than 120 chocolate goods for lead and cadmium. Of the 127 products tested, 96 had lead and/or cadmium levels exceeding the California’s Proposition 65 safety limit.

Based on these findings, As You Sow sent letters to over 20 businesses, including Ghirardelli and Trader Joe’s, accusing them of neglecting to inform customers that their chocolate products contain cadmium, lead, or both as required by law. The lawsuit was resolved in 2018.


It was all about the Ghirardelli Chocolate Company. It is important to know where the chocolates that we eat come from and other details so that we can know if they are safe for us or not.