A new way to cure sweet tooth — and maybe even cancer

When Trish May of Athena Partners wanted to launch a new product to raise money for woman's cancer research that complemented her already successful bottled water, she knew where to begin.

Alexis Taylor

Alexis Taylor

When Trish May of Athena Partners wanted to launch a new product to raise money for women's cancer research that complemented her already successful bottled water, she knew where to begin.

“We knew it was going to be chocolate,” she said.

For five years, the Seattle-based company had been selling its water, raising more than $150,000 toward cancer research. But May said she always planned to expand the brand.

“The idea has always been ... to launch a new item and that's Athena Chocolate,” she said.

May said she selected chocolate for two reasons: It's a growing specialty market and because of the strong appeal to women.

“Chocolate is a product that women are particularly excited about,” she said.

For that, May turned recently to Kent's Dilettante Chocolates and third-generation master chocolatier Dana Davenport.

“We were thrilled and honored to be approached,” said Alexis Taylor, national sales manager for Dilettante's parent company, Seattle Gourmet Foods. “It was just a fantastic thing for us to have our name attached to.”

Together, May worked with the people at Dilettante to develop the new Athena chocolate-covered cherries and chocolate truffles flavored with cherries.

The treats themselves are made from Pacific Northwest, all-natural dried Bing cherries and coated in a special recipe of dark chocolate made specifically for Athena.

May said she knew she wanted dark chocolate because of the cancer-fighting antioxidants found in it. She worked with Dilettante doing taste tests on various products - something she admits with a laugh was a “rough job.”

“This one just stood out,” May said. “As soon as I bit into it I knew we had a winner.”

The product was then packed in some pink and rushed out to the shelves in time for October, which is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Presently, the chocolate-covered cherries are only available through Costco with plans to expand to other outlets in the near future, but sales have been brisk. The truffles are available at Dilettante shops, Safeway stores, Amazon.com, Tully's and several independent grocers.

According to May, Athena has raised more money in one month with the cherries than in the first two years of water sales.

And while profits from the water go to women's cancer research, profits from the cherries go specifically to looking for a cure for breast cancer.

“We decided with the chocolate just to focus in on breast cancer,” she said.

May said she started Athena Partners five years ago after two major events in her life. First, she lost her mother to ovarian cancer and then was diagnosed with breast cancer herself, something she called a “wake-up call” that made her think about how to give back. She founded Athena Partners as a vehicle to raise funds for cancer research and finding a cure.

May founded the company and never looked back. And she herself has been cancer-free for more than a decade.

Taylor said Dilettante was excited to work with May because of both her story and her mission. More than just sales, this product is designed “actually to make a difference,” she said.

“Everybody has a story, everyone is touched by this,” Taylor said. “It's fun for to work with someone who is so passionate.”

For more information visit athenapartners.org.

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