Made in Chicago: World's Finest Chocolate

CHICAGO (WLS) -- How many times have you bought chocolate, or your kids sold chocolate for a fundraiser? Chances are you've seen this brand: World's Finest Chocolate. They pioneered "product fundraising" back in the 1940's.

They have a factory the size of 10 football fields and it's right here in Chicagoland.

Every day, more than a million chocolate bars are produced at the South Side plant - all of it going to help charities raise money around the country.

"It's a little part of the secret sauce," said Eddie Opler, CEO of World's Finest Chocolate. "We make chocolate, help people see their dreams come true. Last year, we raised $120 million, raised for charity."

Opler is now the third generation heading up World's Finest Chocolate, a company founded by his grandfather, who began working at a very young age.

"Age 12, his father died," Opler said. "1908 in NYC, he had seven siblings to support, so he went out and started selling cocoa."

Soon he started making his own chocolate and moved his company to Chicago. But the idea for product fundraising actually came unexpectedly in 1949.

"The band from Zion came asking him to have some bars saying we'll pay you back, it worked out like a charm," Opler said.

Today, World's Finest Chocolate is sold exclusively to help organizations raise funds. While the line has expanded to include mints, caramels and almonds, the chocolate recipe has stayed the same. It is still made from scratch, starting with a premium selection of cocoa beans.

"We've chosen to roast our beans one of about 10 companies in the US that actually do," Opler said.

One of the schools affected by Hurricane Katrina, under 10 feet of water, was able to use the money that they raised from selling this chocolate to help rebuild their school.
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