Chocolatay Confections co-owner Danielle de la Rosa-White is leading the sustainable food movement with sugary treats
By Amber Watson | Photography by John Michael Simpson
When Dominican Republic-raised Danielle de la Rosa-White met her husband, Matthew White, 20 years ago in New York City, chocolate and desserts quickly became part of their love language. Danielle, who graduated with a psychology degree from Lehman College, and Matthew, would seek out the best bakeries in the city and anywhere they traveled. The Town of Chapel Hill was another thing they fell in love with during a visit as they were considering relocating. In 2012, they took the leap and moved here after the birth of their second child, Logan.
A year later, they launched Chocolatay Confections inspired by their older son, Mateus, and his severe peanut allergies. Danielle wanted to make sure Mateus (whose nickname, Tay, inspired the company name) was able to enjoy chocolates that were safe for him to eat. Since most commercially made ones contain traces of allergens due to the shared equipment they use, cross-contamination is nearly unavoidable.
Danielle’s independent streak and desire to one day own her own business propelled her idea for Chocolatay forward. “I believed in my husband’s natural talent for creating recipes and tasting experiences and in my tenacity to figure out how to make it all work,” she explains. Chocolatay has dedicated chocolate and equipment for anything they make with tree nuts, intense ingredient vetting, specific production days and best practices to ensure there is no cross-contamination with their nut-free products.
In 2018, they received their first Good Food Award for their Sunflower Crunch Cup, a confection that was originally created for Tay in an attempt to make him something that tasted “nutty” but was still safe for him to eat. “To receive one of the highest honors in the sustainable food movement for that confection gave us the validation we needed to believe we were truly on the right path and should keep going.” They have since received two more of the national awards for their other bestsellers: Coconut Bliss Bar and Coffee Caramel Bar (made in collaboration with Carrboro Coffee Roasters).
Chocolatay remains a fully family-run small-scale operation. Every item is made and packaged by the couple out of their home kitchen near Southern Village. “Matthew and I take turns playing music we like; we work side by side and bounce ideas off each other while our kids are in school,” Danielle shares. “Fortunately, the chocolate production space is separate from our main kitchen, which helps maintain order and a consistent schedule when it comes to chocolate production and family meal preparations.” Over the years, they have established a good balance between working efficiently and spending time with their children, who turn 15 and 10 this summer.
Unlike many businesses that experienced a decrease in business during COVID-19, Chocolatay’s customer base grew thanks to local support and word-of-mouth marketing. “As we went into lockdown, we immediately started offering delivery service in Chapel Hill and Durham in an effort to keep our business afloat,” Danielle says. “Carrie Brogren, founder of local Facebook group Chapel Hill Carrboro Foodies, reached out to support our business and share it with her members, and we started receiving orders from all over town. Today, we can be found at both the Chapel Hill and Durham farmers markets on Saturday mornings, and we ship nationwide.”
And there’s no sign of slowing down. In the future, they hope to be able to acquire the funding to purchase the commercial equipment needed to increase production and find a commercial retail space so they can expand into offering wholesale, classes and tasting experiences.