2005 FAST 50 WINNER
John Scharffenberger, 53
CEO and cofounder
Scharffen Berger Chocolate Maker
When you want the best, you go to the source. John Scharffenberger is part of the vanguard of high-end chocolatiers in America who are reeducating palates numbed by eons of cheap milk chocolate. But as a smaller player, he had to buy 80% of his cacao supply through middlemen, and he could never be assured that what he got would be high quality. If you want to be big-time, though, you’ve got to act big-time, so Scharffenberger traipsed through Central America in 2004 to source the world’s best cacao, finding great stashes in Guatemala and the Dominican Republic. Buying direct also gives him some control over price. In 2004, through word (or taste) of mouth, he exceeded $10 million in sales, added a retail boutique in New York, and launched new products such as dark chocolate-covered ginger and espresso beans.