Fran's Chocolates

Fran's Chocolates, or Fran's, is a chocolate company founded by Fran Bigelow and based in Seattle, Washington. The company is best known for their salted chocolate-covered caramels.[2][3][4] Fran's Chocolates has locations in the Seattle metropolitan area and throughout Japan.[5]

Fran's Chocolates
Founded1982 in Madison Park, Seattle, Washington, United States
FounderFran Bigelow
Seattle, Washington
United States
Number of locations
Productschocolate truffles, caramels, desserts
Number of employees
75-85, season depending[1] (2018)


Fran Bigelow was born and raised in Seattle and trained as an accountant.[6] She graduated from the University of Washington in 1965 with a degree in business administration and travelled to France with her husband about five years later.[7] Her husband was a hospital administrator, and his career required them to move to San Francisco.[6] Bigelow enrolled in professional cooking classes at California Culinary Academy, where she apprenticed with a Swiss pastry chef.[6][8][9] In 1980, they returned to Seattle, and in 1982 she began selling chocolate truffles and desserts from a small shop in Seattle’s Madison Park neighborhood.[8][9] There were two employees at the original shop and the truffles were originally priced at 35 cents each.[7] Eventually, she developed the store's signature Gold Bars because she wanted a candy that was not as perishable as the truffles. The Gold Bars quickly became a customer favorite, and by 1996 she was selling nearly 500,000 Gold Bars a year.[6] In 1986, Bigelow began making caramels.[7]

In 2001, she began adding gray salt to the caramels.[3][10][11] By 2006, the caramels made up seventy-five percent of the company's sales, and by 2008 the caramels were the bestseller, partly due to publicity from former President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama.[3][12] In 2006, Fran's was featured in O, The Oprah Magazine and the company consequently reached a record $4.5 million sales for the year.[4][7] By 2007, Fran's had forty employees, and Bigelow's daughter, Andrina, joined the company.[7][13] In 2008, Fran's opened a location in Downtown Seattle in the Four Seasons hotel.[14] The Downtown location would take over as the flagship store.[14]

In 2014, the company moved its headquarters from the Capitol Hill neighborhood to the historic Rainier Brewing Company building in the Georgetown neighborhood.[15] At the time, the company had 67 employees and was making 30,000 pieces of chocolate per day and shipping regularly across the United States and to Japan.[15] In 2018, she was inducted into the Specialty Food Association Hall of Fame for "sparking the artisan chocolate renaissance in the United States".[16] In 2021, Food & Wine named Fran's one of the top 50 chocolate shops in the United States.[17]


In 2004, Bigelow published a book, Pure Chocolate: Divine Desserts and Sweets from the Creator of Fran’s Chocolates, which she co-authored with Helene Siegel.[18][19] The book contains chocolate recipes that are not "too difficult" to make.[20] It was nominated for 2005 James Beard Foundation Award in the Baking and Desserts category.[21]


  • 2003 Confection of the Year, National Association for the Specialty Food Trade, gray salt caramels[20][12]
  • 2005 NASFT Award, Smoked Salt Caramels
  • 2007 Sofi Award Finalist: Outstanding Chocolate, Hazelnut Diamonds[22]
  • 2007 Sofi Award: Outstanding Hot Beverage, Fran’s Premium Hot Chocolate[23]
  • 2012 Lifetime Achievement Award, Northwest Chocolate Festival
  • 2014 Sofi Award, Gray Salt Caramel
  • 2016 Mott Green Sustainability Award
  • 2017 Sofi Award, Almond Gold Bar
  • 2017 Good Food Award, Almond Gold Bar
  • 2017 Northwest Chocolate Festival Award Winner, Fran's Park Bar
  • 2018 Good Food Award, Dark Chocolate Sauce[24]
  • 2018 Good Food Award, Caramel Sauce[24]
  • "The country's best overall chocolatier in the United States" by The Book of Chocolate[14]

In popular cultureEdit

Fran's was featured in Season 1, Episode 22 of Food Finds, which aired on the Food Network in May 2002.[25] The company was also featured on Food Network's The Best Thing I Ever Ate: Season's Eatings.[26]

Former President Obama and Michelle Obama occasionally had the chocolates shipped to the White House.[12][27][28][29] Bigelow donated to Obama's campaign and was able to meet Michelle Obama.[29] Michelle Obama sent Fran's caramels to Barbara Walters and the cast of The View as a thank you for her recent appearance.[29]


  1. ^ Levesque, John (June 2018). "Made in Washington: Fran's Chocolates". Seattle Business Magazine. Retrieved 8 May 2021.
  2. ^ "Chocolate Champions". Food & Wine. March 31, 2015. Retrieved 8 May 2021.
  3. ^ a b c Muhlke, Christine (October 8, 2006). "The Way We Eat: Salt With a Deadly Weapon". The New York Times. Retrieved 8 May 2021.
  4. ^ a b Denn, Rebekah (February 5, 2008). "Seattle's chocolate is golden these days". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Retrieved 8 May 2021.
  5. ^ Hasegawa, Aya (February 3, 2021). "A gem only for now, made by a chocolate specialty store". Vogue Japan. Retrieved 8 May 2021.
  6. ^ a b c d Fabricant, Florence (August 14, 1996). "Building a Business With Bars of Gold". The New York Times. Retrieved 8 May 2021.
  7. ^ a b c d e Harris, Craig (March 20, 2011). "Chocolate lovers nationwide are discovering Fran's, a Seattle favorite". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Retrieved 8 May 2021.
  8. ^ a b "Interview with Fran's Chocolates". Ecole Chocolat. Retrieved 8 May 2021.
  9. ^ a b "Profile: Fran Fare". Seattle Magazine. April 2009. Retrieved 8 May 2021.
  10. ^ "A Rich Selection". Forbes. December 2, 2006. Retrieved 8 May 2021.
  11. ^ Slatalla, Michelle (December 7, 2006). "How to Ensure a Sincere Thank You". The New York Times. Retrieved 8 May 2021.
  12. ^ a b c Severson, Kim (December 30, 2008). "How Caramel Developed a Taste for Salt". New York Times. Retrieved 8 May 2021.
  13. ^ Buxton, Elizabeth (May 10, 2018). "These Mother-Daughter Duos Are Food Industry Power Players". Refinery29. Retrieved 8 May 2021.
  14. ^ a b c "Fran's Chocolates to open in Four Seasons". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. February 8, 2008. Retrieved 8 May 2021.
  15. ^ a b Payne, Patti (September 22, 2014). "Fran's Chocolates moves into historic Georgetown building". Puget Sound Business Journal. Retrieved 8 May 2021.
  16. ^ "2018 Hall of Fame Recipients". Specialty Food Association. Retrieved 8 May 2021.
  17. ^ Landsel, David (April 2, 2021). "The Best Chocolate in America". Food & Wine. Retrieved 8 May 2021.
  18. ^ "Picks and Pans Review: Dessert". People. November 22, 2004. Retrieved 8 May 2021.
  19. ^ Heddings, Kate (March 31, 2015). "The Very Best Cookbooks of 2004". Food & Wine. Retrieved 8 May 2021.
  20. ^ a b Chou, Hsiao-Ching (March 14, 2015). "A Moment With Confectioner Fran Bigelow". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Retrieved 8 May 2021.
  21. ^ "Fran Bigelow". James Beard Foundation. Retrieved 8 May 2021.
  22. ^ "sofi awards: outstanding chocolate 2007". Specialty Food Association. Retrieved 8 May 2021.
  23. ^ "sofi awards: outstanding hot beverage 2007". Specialty Food Association. Retrieved 8 May 2021.
  24. ^ a b "2018 Winners". Good Food Awards. Retrieved 8 May 2021.
  25. ^ "Seattle". Food Network. Retrieved 8 May 2021.
  26. ^ Ausley, Christina (December 11, 2020). "Calling all chocoholics: Seattle's 15 best shops for holiday confections". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Retrieved 8 May 2021.
  27. ^ "Obama's Likes and Dislikes: Hold the Mayo". New York Times. May 27, 2008. Retrieved 8 May 2021.
  28. ^ Leson, Nancy; Spencer, Aaron (May 27, 2008). "Obama loves Fran's". Seattle Times. Retrieved 8 May 2021.
  29. ^ a b c Guzman, Monica (July 18, 2008). "How the Obamas fell for Seattle's Fran's Chocolates". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Retrieved 8 May 2021.