For those who have ever wondered about the magic behind...

For those who have ever wondered about the magic behind...

For those who have ever wondered about the magic behind...

For those who have ever wondered about the magic behind...

Living in Love with Emica Penklis | Founder of Loco Love

For those who have ever wondered about the magic behind Loco Love, here’s a little insight into our passionate pursuit of creating chocolate that’s good for you and the planet. It’s a love revolution that’s...

Living in Love with Emica Penklis | Founder of Loco Love

Loco Love Founders Story

bronte and emicalisa jesse emicaloco love in NYCloco love at the market

So you’ve always loved chocolate – but when did you realise that what’s most readily available in terms of chocolate isn’t actually so good for your health?


I always knew that commercial chocolate wasn't great, but it wasn't until I became unwell in my early 20s that I took any notice. 

It’s not that it's only bad for human health, it's also not helping the planet either. The commercial chocolate industry has some really dark secrets. While studying as a naturopath and nutritionist, I learnt about the detrimental effects of sugar and hydrogenated vegetable fats on the body. Also some of the added preservatives, flavours and emulsifiers can be harmful in large amounts.

Then when I became a chocolate maker I learnt about the dirty side of the chocolate industry.

To be honest, I will be forever learning and keeping an open mind.


What’s the difference between most ‘normal’ chocolates, and what you produce at Loco Love?

The quality of ingredients we use is vital to the alchemy of our high-vibe products. We only use the finest organic, plant-based and whole food ingredients. The true sorcery is in our unique blends of superfoods, tonic herbs, probiotics and healing spices; it’s chocolate with benefits. We use healing ingredients like Schisandra berry, Tremella mushroom, Turmeric, Camu Camu and were the first chocolate company in Australia to make functional chocolate, and to use adaptogens and medicinal mushrooms in chocolate. We recently had to remove medicinal mushrooms such as Lions mane, resihi and chaga as they are not approved by the NSW food Authority for use in food and must have a TGA permit to be sold as a medicine. 

We do not support any cacao that is grown in Africa as the farmers there are underpaid and slave labour is common. So we buy our cacao from small farms in Peru where the farmers are paid fairly. Our cacao supplier is a socially responsible company that proves public-private alliances can generate a positive impact for the population and the environment.

Our chocolates are sweetened with natural wholefood sweeteners such as coconut sugar, dates, brown rice syrup and maple syrup. We feel these are healthier options as they haven’t been stripped of minerals and are less refined than white cane sugar. 

Our chocolates are vegan and do not contain gluten or GMO’s, so they are better for the body and the planet. Science has shown a plant based diet can impact the environment in a positive way.

Loco Love’s company  mission is a lot different to other chocolate companies, it really genuinely is to spread love and raise vibrations through chocolate. It’s a personal belief of mine that the world needs more love and if everyone embodied ‘Love’ we would feel more connected and have compassion for each other and the planet. Yes, in the words of John Lennon, ‘I am a dreamer but I am not the only one’. Cacao as a plant medicine is heart opening and contains bliss chemicals such as PEA chemicals and anandamide to achieve our goal of spreading love.

Normal chocolates (depending on the brand) are full of inflammatory vegetable fats (as they’re cheaper than cacao butter), packed with refined white sugar which spikes the blood sugar and can cause diabetes. They also contain a lot of dairy powder, which again, can cause allergies and be inflammatory. The cocoa itself is sourced from Ghana where the farmers are underpaid and the soil is so depleted, so the use of hazardous herbicides and pesticides is rife. Also “slash-and-burn” approach to farming in West Africa has helped increase production fourfold since the 1960s, but the practice has decimated more than 90 percent of the original forests!!! It's a really huge issue that needs to be fixed. But the problem now is an oversupply, so the farmers are getting paid even less, causing huge issues, as you can imagine!

We have also recently introduced home compostable packaging; an  inner wrapping that is made from sustainably grown cellulose that breaks down back to earth the same as an orange or an apple would. This is found in our twin packs and Nutters box. The nutters box is also made from post agricultural nut waste, which is pretty cool as far as reuse of waste goes.


What was the catalyst for you to create Loco Love?

To be honest, Loco Love found me. I was working as a naturopath and feeling a little overwhelmed with one on one consultations. The lack of personal responsibility from clients was really hard. I had studied fashion design when I left high school and was missing the creative aspects of it. I chose not to pursue fashion due to the environmental impacts of this industry, although I love it. It’s a luxury and something we do not ‘need’ in excess. Through my own personal healing journey I had gotten to the point where it was beyond what I ate and the supplements I took. I didn’t feel healthy or healed, until I started meditating and weirdly started using my hands to make chocolate. I realise this sounds pretty out there and woo woo, but as I continued to make chocolate and meditate, life became easier. My previous depression lifted and never came back; it's been over 10 years now. My purpose revealed itself and that was to spread love through chocolate. I am not sure I am always going to feel this way and I realise I sound crazy to people who don't relate to what I am talking about. Though I know a lot of people who have had this similar experience in different ways. Anyway, this was the catalyst to share this inner experience of liberation from the ego, with the world. We all have some sort of subconscious programming that is impacting our reality and I don't believe we can make real personal changes in our lives until we change our beliefs. This is just my personal experience. Also I wanted to create a chocolate that could be enjoyed by everyone, especially those with dietary requirements and people on healing paths. 


How did your background in naturopathy and herbalism inform the business?

It impacted it in a massive way!! My knowledge of nutrition made it easy to formulate recipes that were suitable for people with allergies. Also as a herbalist I wanted to make food that was healing and contained functional foods, such as schisandra, ashwaghanda, probiotics, mushrooms ect. Food as medicine was my intention in 2012, it's becoming more common these days that's for sure. Also my knowledge of the foods that were not conducive to health allowed me to create a chocolate that was. Organic was important to me personally, not just for health reasons, but also for the planet as the health of our soil impacts us in so many ways! Our microbiome and organs are impacted by toxic poisons that are sprayed on conventional foods. 


What do you think people would be surprised to learn about Loco Love?

The reason why we say ‘live in love’ all over our packaging, is about finding that space inside ourselves where we are connected to everything else and living in this vibration. I don't have a better word for it than love. Also that it's really a lot of work to make chocolate, it's not a walk in the park and isn't glamorous all of the time! It's intense, full of long days, heavy lifting and so much dedication from our team is needed to create Loco Love for the world, it really is a labor of love!! Trust me we have wanted to give it up at times, though we can't because we do believe what we are doing is helping people and we get messages daily to support this. That keeps us going! We’ve had several young women with eating disorders contact us to say that Loco Love has played a major part in their healing and was the first food they felt comfortable eating! Which is such a good reason to continue. 

We do our best to live by the heart virtues of compassion, humility, gratitude, forgiveness, love, appreciation and service. We arent perfect and don't claim to be, we are doing our best like everyone else. 


There’s so much more of a trend now towards healthy alternatives. Why do you think that’s changing?

It's changing because it has to! The world is changing. We are moving away from huge corporations controlling our food supply. There is an uprising of small food businesses which in turn use superior ingredients because it's not all about the bottom line profit. Also people are becoming much more educated due to the internet and people want to feel good, so they are searching for ways to help themselves. I actually think social media has had a huge impact because it has allowed so many more people (nutritionists ect ) to have a voice. People are exposed to new information and not just what's advertised with a huge budget on TV. There is soooo much conflicting information though, so it is really tough to discern what is best! That's where people need to use their own intuition and try different ways and see which works best for them. Listening to our bodies is key, the body knows always! 


Obviously Byron Bay is a bit ahead of the curve, and a hub in terms of healthy living. Does being based there make a difference in terms of how you think you’ve approached creating the brand? Are people there more receptive to it?

Actually I started the brand in Bondi in 2013! Though I did grow up and am lucky to be 5th generation from this area. Perhaps the free thinking and love messaging has been impacted from this area influencing me from a young age. Though I definitely tried to rebel against ‘love and rainbows’ and was hugely sceptical of anyone who made claims about anything alternate. I had to do a full circle to find myself back surrounded by love and rainbows, I needed to experience it first hand in a grounded and real way to actually understand it at all. 


The conversation about what you’re feeding your kids is also so much more prevalent now – if you think about the school canteens of our childhoods, it’s a completely different matter now. Why do you think it took as long as it did, and how much better do you think things are now/how far is there still to go?

My son isn't in school yet, so I am not sure of the canteen offerings. Though I know they used to sell Coca-cola to children, which is just insane! The rate of childhood illness, learning difficulties and behavioural issues has skyrocketed in the past decade and the food the kids are eating has a huge impact on this. More and more evidence has been presented to support this. I think it could be alot better, organic would be a good start and no white sugar, vegetable oils, fried foods or processed white flours. Kids need wholefoods and nutrient rich diets, with good fats for proper brain and body development. I also think it's not just the food, it could also be the increased electromagnetic pollution that is affecting the children. 


Why do you think more people in Australia are realizing that healthy alternatives can be delicious, and so much better for so many reasons?

I’d say it’s due to the refining of recipes and more widely available options. A lot more information is available and there are more voices amplifying the importance of wholefoods making it far more accessible for the population. Also I believe once you start eating a more health-conscious diet you can no longer eat foods that are packed full of sugar/preservatives/fake foods. Your taste buds change and become more refined to bitter and sour foods, instead of only craving salt and sugar. Health is the real wealth.


You talk about how Loco Love is actually about indulging, not denying yourself – could you elaborate? Why do you think we equate indulgence with unhealthy choices?

I believe pleasure in balance is healing and our souls crave it, so being able to really taste and savour our chocolates reminds us of the good in the world. To become super mindful when eating provides more enjoyment and connects us to what we are consuming. Being mindful and present is a HUGE part of the Loco Love experience. So indulging in a way, with no guilt, knowing the ingredients are full of nutrition and won't impact your weight, is really pleasurable. We have been programmed to equate pleasure with guilt, which simply isn't true, it's our human birth right to experience healthy pleasures! This pleasure-equals-guilt response runs deep in our unconscious programming. But it is all about balance, too much of a good thing isn't a good thing anymore! It’s also proven that consuming food/drink while feeling guilty or stressed can impact the way our body absorbs and metabolises it. To be present and grateful, focusing on the nourishment we are consuming can truly benefit us in a physical sense.