Business Spotlight: Bitzel’s Chocolate

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Suwanee’s new “Glass Chocolate Factory,” Bitzel’s Chocolate, stands as a testament to the belief that chocolate isn’t just a treat; it’s an experience.

By Alicia Carter | Photos by Paul Perdue and Karl Lamb

Cartoonist Charles M. Schulz once said, “All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.” And it’s true. Chocolate is a universal language capable of conveying a number of emotions — from expressing love and tempering sadness to articulating the great complexities of the world. (Because life is, in fact, like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get.) Sadly, many of us have never experienced the true essence of what chocolate can be when it’s crafted with love and care by people who appreciate it not just for what it is, but also for its potential. These “dreamers of dreams,” as author Roald Dahl once called them, elevate chocolate-making to a true art form.

Lucky for us, a team of those dreamers, including chocolatier and entrepreneur Ray Bitzel and his business partner Dave Rose, handpicked Suwanee as the perfect location for Bitzel’s Chocolate, a new state-of-the-art chocolate factory that opened this past January. The facility, which spans 7,000 square feet and is affectionately referred to as “The Glass Chocolate Factory,” stands as a testament to the belief that chocolate isn’t just a treat; it’s an experience. Ray Bitzel’s vision is clear: to provide not only an unparalleled chocolate product but also an educational journey that unveils the magic behind every cacao bean. In short, it’s a whimsical chocolate experience that would give Willy Wonka a run for his money.

A True Chocolate Experience
The factory, with its walls comprising 70% glass, invites visitors to peel back the curtain and witness firsthand the meticulous steps involved in transforming raw cacao into heavenly chocolate confections. This “Journey of Chocolate” includes a literal trail that guides visitors through an artificial cacao forest as they learn about the growing and harvesting of cacao from family farmers in Ecuador and Uganda. As guests follow the trail, they get to witness the cutting-edge, automated production process, from fermentation, drying and sorting to bar molding, panning, spinning, enrobing, and packaging.

“We’re here to create a chocolate experience and to create a chocolate product that doesn’t cost a fortune,” Bitzel says. “That’s unusual these days. For families to be able to come in and see everything — to see all the equipment that you’re never going to see anywhere else. That’s pretty cool.”

This educational aspect of the facility allows visitors to see and taste the nuances of chocolate production. The transparency of the process, from the machinery whirring with activity to the stages of chocolate refinement, offers a multi-sensory experience. “How many times can you do that with science?” Bitzel says. “You can see it a lot of times, but can you smell it? Can you taste it? We’re hitting all the senses.”

Next Level Chocolate
Bitzel’s passion for creating affordable yet exceptional chocolate is evident in Bitzel’s Chocolate’s commitment to quality by using real ingredients, debunking the notion that indulgence must come at the cost of health — or your bank account. Their chocolate stands apart by avoiding unnecessary additives, so they’re not only delicious but also a healthier alternative to the mass-produced chocolates lining grocery store shelves. In an era where ingredients can be a mystery, Bitzel emphasizes using not only the finest cacao from family farmers, but also real fruits like raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, and cherries.

Another factor that sets Bitzel’s Chocolate apart is the team Ray has assembled, each member contributing a wealth of experience and expertise. Pastry Chef & Chocolatier Priscilla Dos Santos boasts an impressive tenure as the former Executive Pastry Chef at Macaron Queen. Ray Bitzel himself, the visionary founder, honed his craft at Le Cordon Bleu alongside the renowned late Jean-Pierre Wybauw, the No. 1 chocolatier in the world. Ray’s wife, Yolanda, adds layers of finesse with her time spent at the prestigious Chicago Chocolate Academy. Together with business partners Dave and Jackie Rose, whose keen business acumen played a pivotal role in bringing Bitzel’s Chocolate to fruition, the team’s combined training and experience form a delightful blend that rivals the prowess of even Willy Wonka’s skilled confectionery artisans.

Chocolate and Beyond
Bitzel’s retail store serves as a tempting showcase of all the magic created behind the glass walls and features an array of treats such as chocolate bark, chocolate-covered fruits and nuts, truffles, and other intricately molded chocolate products. Bitzel’s signature touch lies in its diverse chocolate offerings, spanning milk chocolate, dark chocolate, caramel chocolate, and the exquisite ruby chocolate, a unique confection crafted from ruby cacao, ensuring a taste experience unlike any other. Kids will love the Monster Tails — large marshmallows dipped in milk chocolate and topped with candy like mini-M&Ms. Parents will want to pick up a few Schnappers to take home. These addictive treats are like traditional pralines but better, made with butter-roasted, salted Georgia pecans and caramel, then dipped in Bitzel’s extraordinary chocolate.

Gelato!
While the star of the show is the chocolate, another reason to visit Bitzel’s is their amazing selection of house-made gelato. Home to the only continuously churned gelato machines in the United States, Bitzel’s gelato has a soft, velvety texture that is the closest you can get to the authentic Italian tradition. The menu of rotating flavors includes chocolate, vanilla, salted caramel, coconut, butter pecan, espresso, and strawberry, among others, to which you can add a sauce and crumbles (brownie brittle crunch, coffee crunch, and more), along with other toppings and syrups. Don’t miss the forrest berries topping, which includes blueberries, raspberries, and black currant.

Events & More
Staying true to providing an immersive experience for visitors, Bitzel’s Chocolate also features a “Chocolate Theater” for special events like chocolate-making classes, tastings, and pairings, which are also available for private and corporate events. Soon, they will also host field trips, so local students can get a behind-the-scenes tour (and taste!) of the chocolate-making process.

Bitzel’s Chocolate also sweetens community connections by teaming up with businesses and organizations to create custom corporate gifts as well as branded chocolates for the hospitality industry. These can include chocolates adorned with edible 4K-printed logos, branded packaging, and other personalized customization designed to enhance guest experiences.

A recent example is Bitzel’s partnership with the Gwinnett Gladiators for their Valentine’s- themed Hearts & Hockey event, where attendees received a Gladiators-branded box of Bitzel’s assorted chocolates upon entry, as well as a photo op in the arena’s “Love Lounge.” Through these partnerships, Bitzel’s furthers its commitment to creating moments of connection that linger long after the last bite of their delicious chocolate.

Suwanee’s new chocolate landmark is a tribute to the limitless possibilities of passion, dedication, and the magic that unfolds when dreamers unite. Charles M. Schulz’s words echo through the richness of each chocolate creation — love is indeed the essential ingredient of really, really good chocolate. Bitzel’s Chocolate isn’t just a factory, it’s a testament to the dreams that elevate chocolate- making into an art form and a journey guided by the belief that every chocolate should be an experience.

Bitzel’s Chocolate is located at 453 Northolt Parkway in Suwanee. Learn more online at BitzelsChocolate.com and follow them on Instagram: @bitzels_chocolate and Facebook: @bitzelschocolate

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