“You can tell it’s a hare, not a rabbit because its ears are longer,” says company co-founder Karen Keane, explaining that the company, which has exports in mind, has chosen to make an Irish hare rather than a generic bunny.
The goose egg, she adds, goes perfectly with the company name, which was selected because migratory bean geese are found in Wexford during the winter.
Set up two years ago, Bean & Goose specialises in making craft chocolate bars, truffles, and seasonal items using single origin chocolate and, sometimes unusual, mainly Irish ingredients to create innovative flavours.
“Like chefs, we pair sweet and savoury and have made truffles with rosemary, olive oil, and sourdough breadcrumb and also ones with orange, juniper and sage,” says Ms Keane.
The company now has 30 customers — a mix of independent retailers, hotels, and cafés. It also supplies an online gift company and in recent weeks has shipped bars to a US coffee roastery.
Currently employing three people, including Karen and her sister Natalie, who are joint founders, Bean & Goose is now making plans to employ another staff member, build a new larger facility and develop exports.
The founders say they set out to do something different with chocolate.
The idea sparked while Natalie was employed in a chocolate shop in Kinsale and Karen was working in human resources.
They gave up their jobs and went to Kenmare where they learned how to temper chocolate from French chocolatier Benoit Lorge.
Starting a small chocolate operation at Last Tree Farm in Ferns, they began selling their products on Saturday mornings at a market in Glasnevin. “We set up a HSE certified kitchen where we use marble slabs for tempering the chocolate,” says Karen.
Identifying an opportunity to create something new and different in “flavour, branding and creativity”, the sisters tried out various combinations at the market and sought customer opinion on the results.
In 2014, they asked a design company to produce a packaging for chocolate products which by then included a range of truffles and chocolate bars.
By the end of 2014, Bean & Goose was selling to 10 outlets and was accepted for Foodworks, a Bord Bia and Enterprise Ireland backed accelerator programme.
“This was hugely important. It allowed us to exhibit at the food market at Bloom and to secure feasibility funding from Enterprise Ireland,” says Karen.
This year, salary support from the Local Enterprise Office in Wexford allowed Bean & Goose to take on a full-time chocolatier.
“Our top performing bar is a dark chocolate from Ecuador, 70% paired with roasted spiced hazelnuts and Wexford honey, and our most popular truffle is Irish sea salt caramel,” says Natalie.
High-end products retail from €5.50 for an 80g bar. Other products include Winter Bar, a 500g sharing slab which retails from €28.50.
Bean & Goose is planning a number of pop-up events over Easter, including two in Galway and two in Dublin.
Recent successes for the firm include sending its first shipment to the US and receiving an order from Avoca.
The next step for the Keane sisters is to build a new and larger chocolate-making facility at Last Tree Farm.
- Company: Bean and Goose
- Location: Ferns, Co Wexford
- Founders: Karen and Natalie Keane
- Set up: 2013
- Staff: 3
- Website: www.beanandgoose.ie