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Local woman’s chocolate bar offers customers a healthier dessert alternative
IDAHO FALLS – Kelsi Petersen was only 14 when she started baking with raw food. In high school, she invented a chocolate treat out of raw ingredients that became popular among her friends.
Petersen eventually became a licensed raw food chef and today, the 29-year-old Idaho Falls native owns a business called Kelsi’s Kitchen that sells her chocolate treat in many conventional and natural/specialty grocery stores throughout Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Utah and California. It’s a cacao bite that comes in five different flavors — peanut butter, raspberry, double chocolate, mint and orange chia.
Since Kelsi’s Kitchen launched in June 2019, Petersen says it’s become a popular treat for customers with and without diet restrictions.
“They love them, and it’s fun when you find someone who has a friend that can’t eat dairy or a kid who can’t eat gluten and is always looking for a treat,” Petersen says. “Even people who don’t have diet restrictions but who want to eat healthy and feel better get pretty excited about finding our chocolates.”
The way the cacao bites are made is what makes them special, Petersen says. They’re made with only five ingredients: almonds, cacao powder, coconut oil, honey and a pinch of salt.
Petersen has been making cacao bites for years after a long time of eating a raw food diet with her mom.
When she was a kid, her mom was diagnosed with cecal volvulus, a rare form of intestinal obstruction where intestines detach from the abdominal wall and twist on themselves, according to Healthline.com.
Having surgery repaired the issue, but it had a negative effect on her digestion that meant she would be limited in what she could eat. She was restricted to eating raw foods only.
“She’d always been eating healthy, but when her intestines flipped she had to take it to another level,” Petersen recalls.
Making meals for her family became an experiment. Though there was a bit of a learning curve, she eventually figured out which ingredients meshed and which didn’t and she later attended culinary arts school and became a licensed raw food chef, a path her daughter followed years later.
“I went to classes with her. We would take a recipe that was made with conventional food and change it to be made with natural foods with fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds. We came home, and people were very interested in learning how to make these kinds of foods,” says Petersen.
Together, she and her mom started teaching classes. The chocolates Petersen sells today were one of the recipes she taught in class.
Over time, many people who didn’t want to make the chocolates themselves offered to pay Petersen to make them. She started filling orders in her spare time, and it became a frequent side income during her high school and college years.
One day, she realized starting a business would be a natural extension of what she was already doing. After launching a website in 2019, she approached a now-defunct business in Ammon called Green Life Juice about selling her chocolates in-store.
“If you like these chocolates and want to sell them, I need to make them in your commercial kitchen,” Petersen remembers telling the store owners.
They tried the chocolates and agreed to her terms. Everything was going well until she received some devastating news from her mom.
“My mom was diagnosed with ALS around this time,” Petersen says. “She kept pushing me to do this, when I didn’t think I knew what I was doing.”
With her mom’s encouragement and support, she kept selling her chocolates to friends. It wasn’t long before Broulim’s became one of her clients.
Three months after launching her business, her mom passed away.
Cassandra Hume recently quit her job at Elevation Labs and was looking for a business to partner with. She got wind of Petersen’s chocolates, and after giving them a try, became an instant fan.
“When people hear that it’s healthy, they think it’s going to taste like a flax seed cracker or something. I don’t even eat regular chocolate anymore, and I’m somebody who used to love having an entire chocolate bar once a day,” says Hume.
With Hume onboard as a 50/50 partner, the business continued to grow. Cacao bites are now sold to customers throughout the country and at Wealth of Health, Club Apple, Gold’s Gym and other places in eastern Idaho.
They’re not planning to open a physical storefront anytime soon, but the duo hopes to see the company continue to thrive as they work to acquire new customers.
They’re inviting those who’ve never tried their chocolate bites to give them a try.
“Whether it’s a Reese’s peanut butter cup or a more sophisticated chocolate bar, that’s what we hope to replace,” Hume says. “If you can find a healthy alternative that feels indulgent and satisfying but also fuels your body with nutrients, that can be life-changing. We think there’s a lot of potential to do a lot of good with these bars.”