Puna Chocolate Company was started in 2012 after Ben and Adam purchased a whopping 70 acres of land in a town called Pahoa, the county seat of Puna District. The large amount of land in paradise at such a low cost was an offer that couldn't be refused! In Pahoa, they encountered a fruitstand and discovered weird football-shaped squashes and asked the wonderful shop owner what they were. Not only did she proclaim that the football "pods" were where chocolate came from, but also how to make chocolate by fermenting the cocoa beans inside. They also learned that the cacao trees thrived in existing canopies. Having been raised on chocolate, it was a simple stretch from there that they could conserve the existing landscape in Puna by planting cocoa trees among the existing trees with minimal disturbance.
Benjamin Vanegtern earned his Tropical Plants and Soil Science degree from University of Hawaii then went on to head the farming and planting operations across all cocoa farms.
Adam's sister joined as well from her home in Lake County, Illinois before devoting all production to Hawaii. They purchased chocolate making equipment and studied the craft while conducting R&D and growing eventually from farmer's market stands in the Chicago area to their own local factory and temporary storefront in Wauconda, IL.
In the 2014-2015 Puna Lava Flow, the Puna Chocolate Co orchard in Pahoa was at risk of being destroyed and the wake-up call that Puna was a literal hotbed for volcanic activity was sounded. Having graduated from the University of Hawaii's Tropical Plant and Soil Science, Ben offered cacao services to residents of Big Island and began expanding cacao production on other Puna farms and beyond into Hilo, Hamakua, and Kona properties. In 2016, Puna Chocolate purchased a 30 acre pasture to convert into cacao and in 2022, 20 more acres were added in Holualoa and Kainaliu which also include the 3,000 coffee trees which are the source of their cafe coffee.
As of 2022, Puna Chocolate has planted over 25,000 cacao trees across 55 acres of land while producing true-to-bean chocolate exclusively from Hawaiian-grown cocoa beans in their Hilo, Kona, and Kainaliu SoKo locations.