JACEK Chocolate Couture

Joyful Confections

By Amanda Philipow

Published February 2023

Starting a business during the busiest time of year might sound like a crazy idea, but that’s exactly what Jacqueline Jacek successfully did in December of 2009.  

Driven by creativity right from childhood, Jacqueline’s first endeavor into the working world started at the age of 11 when she created “Jax Hats”, a small luxury hat business that catered to ski hills and the like. Fast forward into adulthood, Jacqueline found herself pursuing a corporate career in marketing but still yearning to find a way to bring more creativity into her life and line of work.  

“I really thought hard about “what is joy  to me?” — and joy is fashion and chocolate,” she says confidently, reflecting on the notions that have remained at the core of her business since day one.  

JACEK’s production began on a small scale in a commercial kitchen built by her husband and father in the basement of Jacqueline’s home. Working her marketing job during the day and pursuing her passion at night, JACEK eventually grew to become Jacqueline’s full-time position. Today this includes leading a talented team of 25 based at their production facility and impeccably decorated retail boutique in Sherwood Park.

In a way that only Jacqueline can, she explains the chocolate world to us non-confectionary folk using a fashion analogy. There are two types of producers in the field: the chocolate maker who works as a fabric/textile maker would, and the chocolatier who works as a dressmaker would. JACEK began as the dressmaker type, purchasing premium quality chocolate from a world-renowned, B Corp certified producer and transforming it into the artistic bonbons they’re so well known for. Then, about seven years ago, the company also expanded into the chocolate maker role and began developing what has become their bean-to-bar line of products. In order to make each of these bars, the dried and fermented cacao beans arrive at JACEK where they are sorted, roasted and refined in an over 32 hour-long process — right inside their facility! 

Like many industries that source ingredients overseas, the world of chocolate can unfortunately be flooded with ill-practices when it comes to growing. To combat this, Jacqueline and her team are committed to buying from only the best sources and developing relationships through a third-party intermediary with the cacao farmers they work with. This includes travelling to each country and visiting the farms in person! JACEK currently sources beans from the Dominican Republic, Peru, Colombia and Costa Rica where they receive full transparency on the source of the beans and can be certain that the farmers are being treated and compensated fairly. When visiting Colombia, Jacqueline got to see firsthand the impact their business has on local civilians.

“The more chocolate makers buy beans at more than fair trade prices, the better off these communities are, and families are able to move into making chocolate their primary farming product,” she explains. 

This not only has a positive impact on the wellbeing of everyone involved, but on the taste of the end product, too! When producers are given the time, money and resources to grow the best beans without cutting corners, that commitment comes through in every delicious bite of chocolate. Similar to wine and coffee, the flavour of the cacao beans is also impacted by factors like type of tree, country of origin and fermentation process — so we obviously had to try them all. 

JACEK’s community involvement doesn’t stop at origin, either. The company donates a minimum of 1% of their annual sales to local and global charities every year, all of which coincide with their ultimate mission of spreading joy. 

“The more we do it, the more it just cascades throughout the world,” Jacqueline smiles. 

In addition to their bean-to-bar program, the JACEK static collection consists of creamy meltaways, baking chocolate and of course their other bestselling chocolate bars. Initially inspired by celebrities with signature styles (think Ms. Hepburn’s iconic pearl necklace for the decadent dark cherry and pistachio Audrey bar), the bars have now grown to possess their very own unique identities. 

“They all have character, and they all have personality, so why not give them a name?” Jacqueline says proudly. As an example, she tells us about the inspiration behind their peppermint flavoured offering.  

“Pierre is a very sophisticated name and has a bit of French flair. Think of going out to a fine dining experience and finishing that off with a dark chocolate and a peppermint — we just thought Pierre was the perfect persona for this bar and had the right style.”  

With a different experience packed into each bar, we encourage you to visit our chocolate aisle to meet Audrey, Pierre, Frank, James and a few others or add them to your shopping cart on our website. Take a moment to savour everything from the elegant packaging to the wave of flavour upon that first bite.  

Beyond their bars, JACEK’s Instagram-worthy bonbons are a sight to behold. Launched in seasonal collections just like fashion, the inspiration for their flavours is always changing. Each collection has its own distinctive theme that plays into the taste, shape and colour of each chocolate.  

“We’ve done everything from Marie Antoinette to the galaxy. We’re always reinventing, and I think that’s what makes us different. We’re always offering something new,” Jacqueline proudly remarks. 

And if launching four unique collections each year isn’t impressive enough, every bonbon is hand painted. The two-day process begins at 4 a.m. when the moulds are painted with beautiful and intricate designs. The moulds are then cast in tempered chocolate and prepared for fillings. Finally, the shells are filled with delectable flavours like vanilla bean crème brûlée or apricot amaretto, two mouthwatering varieties from this season’s Old Hollywood collection. The chocolates are then set overnight before being capped off with a final layer of tempered chocolate and placed into their signature brown and blue packaging in the morning. 

From community impact and ethical sourcing through their bean-to-bar collection to the time and care put into every fashionable bonbon, JACEK is a true local success story. We’re proud to work with this special Alberta-based business who share our values and undeniable passion for food. Whether you gift a box of chocolates to a loved one for a special occasion or make the Pierre bar a new pantry staple, there’s no denying that their hard work is bringing smiles to the faces of many.

“Joy is the northern star in everything we do,” Jacqueline beams. “I truly believe that what we do in chocolate has massive power for transformation.” 

Shop JACEK’s artisan chocolate bars, bean-to-bar line and meltaways at your nearest Sunterra Market and keep an eye out for a limited-time, heart-shaped bonbon box and cinnamon heart bar on our shelves, just in time for Valentine’ Day.  

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