Dr Coy’s allows diabetics and healthy eaters to enjoy chocolate guilt-free, writes
FIVE years after setting up a company to sell chocolate bars with patented health benefits, Alison Stroh is ready to go international with Dr Coy’s “nutritional chocolate”.
Backed by €400,000 which came from David Howell Evans — otherwise known as The Edge from U2 — and activist and businesswoman Ali Hewson, Bono’s wife, as well as Enterprise Ireland, the Wicklow-based company plans to start by targeting health-conscious consumers and diabetics in the UK.
The company’s offering, which now sells in around 500 stores around Ireland, is “nutritional chocolate” which has been developed and patented by a German oncologist.
“It uses a low-glycemic sugar known as galactose, which offers sustained energy without a rise in blood sugar, without a release of insulin and without the sugar crash you can get from sugar,” said Ms Stroh, pointing out that managing blood-sugar levels is now widely recognised as being the key to weight control and long-term health.
Since launching on the market in 2015, she said the biggest challenge for Dr Coy’s has been in getting the message about the chocolate’s health benefits across to consumers.
This has been difficult, she explained, because it involves educating people about issues concerning blood sugar levels and because the EU puts restrictions on the health claims which can be used on products.
“It was also difficult because there is a limited amount of space for a message on a 35g bar.”
We won best Food and Drink StartUp!!! Can I get a Woohoooo 🙌🏻🙌🏻🙌🏻 European StartUp Awards here we come!!#StartUpAwards #SUA19 #YourStartUpJourney @StartupsIreland pic.twitter.com/g3xUQr757v— Dr.Coys Health Foods (@DrCoys) October 27, 2019
Ms Stroh had a marketing background and an interest in nutrition, when she heard, while working in Germany, about Dr Johannes Coy and the chocolate he had created for cancer patients.
“I went to see him in 2014 and told him I thought there might be a good opportunity to take this to the mainstream.”
When he responded favourably to the idea, she began researching the confectionery market and working on creating a brand for the concept and developing a product range.
“It took a year to get it off the ground and over six months to get the packaging right — finding the right wording was difficult. I had to consult the European Food Safety Authority and the FSAI guidelines to find out what I could say about the health benefits of low glycemic sugar,” she said.
In 2015, she launched on the market with a range of four bars, made for Dr Coy’s under contract by a specialist chocolatier in Belgium.
Starting out by contacting health food stores around the country Ms Stroh gradually began to develop sales, taking on both Avoca and Brown Thomas as early customers.
Persuading her brother, Aaron
O’Donoghue, to join her in Dr Coy’s, she participated in the SuperValu Food Academy programme and got a listing with Musgrave in 2015.
Since then the company has built up a customer base in Ireland and now has sales to some Dunnes, Tesco and SuperValu stores as well as Fresh supermarkets and health food shops. Dr Coy’s has already commenced sales to the UK where customers include Ocado and Revital health stores.
In 2019, Ms Stroh secured a global licence for the chocolate from Dr Coy, who invested in the company and became a shareholder in October when the company finalised its €400,000 fundraising round.
“This is half the money we need to develop the company,” said Ms Stroh, who has plans to launch a further fundraising round this year.
“This funding will be used to invest in marketing to build brand awareness, grow the team and to export into new markets such as Germany, Nordics, UK and the Middle East.”
Currently employing three full time and three part time staff, Dr Coy’s plans to recruit additional sales and marketing staff and to launch two new products this year.
In the run up to both Mother’s Day and Easter, Ms Stroh said that Dr Coy’s — like every other chocolate company — is expecting a sales bounce.