Whole Story

The Official Whole Foods Market® Blog

Fran's Chocolates

By Denise Breyley, May 3, 2012  |  Meet the Blogger  |  More Posts by Denise Breyley

As the Pacific Northwest’s Local Forager, discovering new products and producers is certainly fun and a huge part of my job. But sometimes it’s even more fun to “re-discover” an old favorite. Fran’s Chocolates isn’t just a classic local product. It’s a local – and national – treasure, too.

Fran Bigelow opened her original Seattle store, Fran’s Patisserie & Chocolate Specialties, in 1982, focusing on freshly baked pastries and cakes. Her move toward confections began gradually; if you were lucky enough to be one of the early customers, you were often treated to a free chocolate truffle while waiting in line to purchase baked goods. Yum!

Today, Fran’s Chocolates are known and loved far beyond the Pacific Northwest. She’s been featured on the Food Network and in newspapers around the country.

When President Barack Obama was on the campaign trail four years ago, he discovered her legendary Smoked Salt Caramels and went bonkers for them. Now, special visitors to the White House receive a box of the salted caramels stamped with the Presidential Seal as a parting gift – half in milk chocolate (The President’s favorite) and half in dark chocolate (First Lady Michelle’s preference).

And of course, you can find Fran’s Chocolates in Whole Foods Market stores throughout the US. Since Fran’s marks 30 years of producing one-of-a-kind sweets on June 1 of this year, I took a tour of their production kitchens with CEO Andrina Bigelow, Fran’s daughter, to learn just what makes them so special.

  1. They make between 18,000-20,000 caramels each day.
  2. Each caramel is coated twice with a special blend of chocolate made exclusively for Fran’s by Valrhona.
  3. They make four to six kettles of caramel every day. Each batch of caramel takes 45 minutes to cook.
  4. The signature sprinkle of salt is hand applied to each caramel. Once the caramels are set, each one is placed in a paper cup and then placed in a box.
  5. The distinctive ribbons on each box are hand-tied and the packaging is changed to reflect the season.

Hue (shown here) has been part of Fran’s for 19 years, and in the early years it was just Fran and Hue tying the ribbons on each box. Today Hue is the supervisor of packing and is still giving each box of chocolates that special touch.

The quality of the product on the inside is matched by the presentation. I found the secret to Fran’s success can be boiled down to using the highest quality ingredients; unwavering attention to detail with a focus on taste; and hiring and nurturing a talented team. 

I could see these principles demonstrated everywhere I looked on my tour, and it’s no surprise to me that they’ve been going strong for as long as they have. Here’s to 30 more years!

Category: Local

 

22 Comments

Comments

Linda says ...
I had my first Fran's Gold Bar in 1989. Oh. My. God.
05/03/2012 4:43:18 PM CDT
Stev says ...
Sounds delicious, I don't think I've seen them in Madison.
05/03/2012 12:09:40 PM CDT
nik says ...
ohgoodgolly...so many superdelicious choices! Chocolate Caramel Truffles, Double Chocolate Figs and Tas de Noix, which is described as "a decadent combination of organic roasted macadamia nuts and soft buttery caramel dipped in dark chocolate and milk chocolate." Sounds like pure bon bon bliss to me!
05/03/2012 11:42:49 AM CDT
Diane says ...
are these sold in all the stores nationwide? esp PA?
05/03/2012 6:48:35 AM CDT
Joanne Schoenbaum says ...
I just bought Ina Garten's new cookbook, Foolproof and I want to make her salted caramel brownies for a Hanukkah party next Saturday, Dec. 8th. Could you tell me where to buy the "Fran's Caramel Sauce". Thank you, Joanne S.
11/29/2012 4:14:41 PM CST
Nikki - Community Moderator says ...
@JOANNE - Thanks for your comment. Since our products vary between store locations I cannot tell you exactly which store carries the caramel sauce. I would encourage you to reach out to your local store to see what they have in stock. If they do not carry this, I was able to find an option to buy online directly from Fran's Chocolates at https://www.franschocolates.com/store/home.php?cat=35&xid=d5a1a3a9337977a8b8ec59ab3ebce89d. Hope this helps!
11/29/2012 5:43:38 PM CST
Daniel Almaguer says ...
I called the Orlando and Winter Park Florida Whole Foods and I was told they told me they don't carry Fran's Chocolates. I watched the Food Network this morning that featured Coconut " Gold Bars which Bobby Flay really likes. Both stores had no idea what department to send my phone call on Fran's Chocolates sold in Wholefoods Stores. Do they currently sell now in WholeFoods.
12/01/2012 2:46:45 PM CST
bernice Victor-smith says ...
are Fran's chocolates sold at all whole food stores or just in the Washington area?
12/01/2012 2:54:23 PM CST
Nikki - Community Moderator says ...
@DANIEL & @BERNICE - As our products vary between regions and store locations, I do not have a way of looking up which locations carry Fran's. This post was written by the Pacific Northwest Regional Forager so I'm not sure if they are only carried in that region. Have no fear as you can buy directly from them online at https://www.franschocolates.com/store/home.php?cat=35&xid=d5a1a3a9337977a8b8ec59ab3ebce89d. Good luck!
12/03/2012 2:55:26 PM CST
Elaine Gunderson says ...
Does the Scottsdale, AZ store carry Fran's 11 0z carmel sauce?
12/26/2012 10:53:09 AM CST
Nikki - Community Moderator says ...
@ELAINE - Since our products vary between locations, I would suggest reaching out to the store directly at 480.368.1279 to see what options they have in stock!
12/27/2012 5:41:58 PM CST
Bernadette Leonard says ...
Love these chocolates! I was given two boxes of them as a gift! Salted Carmel's and Truffles. Those went fast!!!! My husband Sugar Ray Leonard loves them too. I am so excited to know I can go purchase at Whole Foods. Heading over tomorrow. Hopefully they'll have for Mother's Day! Thank you for created such delicious chocolates! Bernadette Leonard
05/11/2013 1:43:51 AM CDT
Diane New says ...
I've only just experienced your wonderful Smoked Salt Caramels, I was in caramel heaven!!! Now I learn there are so many heavenly more heavenly experiences to have. I am a very happy person.
09/05/2013 9:32:38 AM CDT
Nona says ...
Cannot wait for the cooler weather here, in Florida, so you will shlp to me. I seem to remember those gold bars at Williams-Sonoma years ago.
09/08/2013 11:25:24 AM CDT
auristela rivera says ...
I live in Miami Florida do you have any store where I can buy your chocolates
12/04/2013 5:55:31 PM CST
Nikki - Community Moderator says ...
@AURISTELA - You can always check with your local store to see if they have this in stock. Otherwise, you can reach out to Fran's directly or they might sell their chocolates online!
12/06/2013 1:11:10 PM CST
Damaris Carroll says ...
When I lived in Seattle i found Fran's and was hooked. When I moved to Washington DC I could buy some Fran's at Sur La Table, but now at Whole Foods. But best of all on your web site...Hooray!!!
02/11/2014 9:44:53 AM CST
Stephanie Lincoln says ...
Are these available at the Whole Foods in Ardmore or Wayne, PA?
02/27/2014 5:57:22 PM CST
Nikki - Community Moderator says ...
@STEPHANIE - Our exact options differ between locations. Check with your local store to see what they have in stock!
02/28/2014 6:24:26 PM CST
Jane Elvrum says ...
Where may I find your product in Sequim, or Port Angeles, WA? And where can I order chocolate covered bacon I just watched you making on TV?
07/18/2014 4:35:25 PM CDT
Nikki - Community Moderator says ...
@JANE - I would suggest reaching out to the vendor directly. You can find contact info on their site at https://www.franschocolates.com/.
07/21/2014 10:27:31 AM CDT
Nancye-Ruth Haworth says ...
fabulous what can I say!! This was my first taste of Fran's Chocolates! I am going to Whole Foods tomorrow and buy some!!
07/22/2014 9:21:25 PM CDT