Luxury chocolate firm Bean and Goose has raised €200,000 to help drive online sales, writes Trish Dromey.
For Easter, Wexford company Bean and Goose has crafted a few thousand chocolate hares and geese eggs, in addition to a new digital marketing strategy geared towards developing online sales.
“It is difficult and expensive to compete with the big chocolate brands, following the traditional export route. Our plan is to connect to customers in Ireland and internationally, using our social media channels and a world-class website,” says company co-founder, Natalie Keane.
Specialising in luxury chocolate, selling to specialty food stores, gift and design shops, cafes and tourist outlets, the company grew its online sales, from just 2% of its total to 20% in 2018.
This followed the launch of an upgraded website and a new digital marketing strategy at the end of the year.
Bean and Goose has now raised €200,000 for expansion and is planning to find a larger facility and launch a more-improved version of its website in the autumn, in time for Christmas, which accounts for two-thirds of its sales.
Half of this funding came from Enterprise Ireland, which identified Bean and Goose as a high potential start-up, or HPSU, in 2018.
Chocolate companies are quite rare to the HPSU programme, which is available to companies that have an international focus, are capable of creating 10 jobs, and of generating sales of €1m within three years.
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Not sure whether to hurry for the Hare, or catch the Goose on the loose? Our Easter bundles are a good excuse to try both. Choose from a milk or dark chocolate hare, and a milk or dark chocolate egg. Or try our most elegantly indulgent Easter bundle... The Riot of Spring! With 4 of our favourite 80g bars, including Smoked Irish Sea Salt with single origin Java milk chocolate or Spiced Hazelnut in 70% Ecuador ➡
Ms Keane and her sister, Karen Keane, set up the company in mid-2014, at the Last Tree Farm, in Ferns, Co Wexford. “Our aim was to create a luxury, craft chocolate brand that blends the best of Irish inspiration and ingredients with the world’s best single-origin chocolate,” says Natalie Keane
Best-selling products include an 80g dark chocolate bar, a 500g sharing slab of chocolate with a winter spice mix, and, at this time of the year, an Irish chocolate hare, a little different from generic Easter bunnies, and chocolate geese eggs filled with sea-salted caramel.
“We now sell to 120 stores around Ireland. These include Brown Thomas, Avoca, Fallon and Byrne, as well as gift and design shops, Dublin Airport, and cafes,” says Ms Keane.
Because it is luxury chocolate with a high price point, Bean and Goose does not sell to supermarkets.
The company has a small percentage of sales to the UK, where customers include Daylesford, a specialty food chain, as well as some independent stores.
Plans to develop sales in the UK have been put on hold because of Brexit, but Bean and Goose has identified France as a market with good potential.
“We have worked with a consultant in France, who has been meeting with suppliers, and we have sent samples of our chocolate. We plan to develop some sales there by the end of the year.”
The key focus is on developing a digital marketing campaign.
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For us, Easter is about ringing in Spring with family and friends 🌱 Our Chocolate Easter Collection is designed to look as good on the outside as it tastes on the inside 😍 Thanks again to illustrator @mrstevemccarthy and to our brilliant team and partners here at Bean and Goose! -- We're also available in store with our wonderful stockists across the country. Pop in over the weekend before they're gone ! @industryandco @FallonandByrne @kateskitchen Kitchen @__Shellscafe__ @watersandwild @sonashealthfoods @myles.doyle Myles Doyle, Gorey @woolleymills @avocaireland Stores @brownhoundbakery @ruacaferua @lottsandco @McCambridges38 @mccambridgesgalway @kaigalway @SweetBeatSligo @indigoandcloth @Dvaboutiquebake The Gallery Café, Gort @mulberry_onmain Mulberry on Main, Kells @scoutessexst @scoutdesignstore @ohkcafe OHK, Kinsale @cavistons @LilliputStores @theoldyard.ie The Old Yard, Kildare, The Garden, @ShopPowerscourt @wearemaven_
“Our aim is to grow online sales by connecting the brand directly to customers,” says Ms Keane.
Improving the functionality of the website is a key part of the plan to connect with international customers.
She says Easter has been a test case for the new marketing strategy.
The small facility at Last Tree Farm has now outgrown the needs of Bean and Goose and the Keane sisters are trying to find a suitable, 5,000sq ft facility in the Wexford area.
“We need to move in by September, in order to start producing for Christmas,” says Ms Keane, adding the company currently employs six part-time staff, as well as herself and her sister.
This year, Bean and Goose plans to hire new employees for both digital marketing and sales roles.
“Online is the home for our brand and where we shall focus our resources over the coming 24 months. We have ambitious goals and are planning to grow online sales to 30% this year and to 50% in 2020.”