Chocolatey Clare founder Clare Tait says more people will choose to celebrate Valentine’s Day with vegan chocolate, writes Trish Dromey
MORE people are buying vegan chocolate to celebrate Valentine’s Day, says Clare Tait, the founder of Dublin company Chocolatey Clare.
The market has changed dramatically since 2016, when Clare Tait set up a small company to sell high-end chocolate bars to vegans, to the lactose intolerant, and to those who appreciate artisan chocolate, which she describes as being “at the edge of darkness.”
Now, people are buying vegan food out of concern for the environment and this extends to chocolate. Ms Tait says that as a result of concerns about climate change, shops are more willing to stock vegan chocolates.
“Two years ago, when I applied for support, I was told that the vegan chocolate market was too small, but I think this has changed now,” she said, pointing to the fact that most supermarkets now stock vegan chocolate.
Still a one-person operation, Chocolatey Clare has had sales to 50 outlets and also supplies 10cafes, in addition to selling on its own website.
Because of ongoing growth in the demand for vegan products, Ms Tait is considering export opportunities,” she says.
Chocolatey Clare came about after Ms Tait, along with the rest of her family, went vegan in 2015.
But missing the sweetness of milk chocolate, she began experimenting with recipes and found one that she and her family liked.
Renting space in a commercial kitchen, she tried out her vegan chocolate at the farmers’ market in Bray in 2016.
“This went really well, which was a major boost,” says Ms Tait, explaining that her chocolate is produced from ethically sourced, organic Peruvian Criollo beans and that the company name is a pun that many people don’t get until they say it aloud.
While sourcing the chocolate was expensive and difficult, she paid just €30 to have her Chocolatey Clare logo created.
Getting a positive response to her first chocolate bars, she signed up for the Supervalu Food Academy and forged ahead, securing some funding from Dublin City Local Enterprise Office.
“For the outer packaging, I sourced FSC certified cardboard, which is printed with vegetable-based ink,” she says, adding that the eco-friendly company in the North that produces it is also wind-powered.
“The inner wrapper is made from a plant-based, compostable film, so the chocolate is a plastic-free, zero-waste product,” says Ms Tait.
In recent months, she has begun selling to some of Ireland’s new “minimum waste stores,” which have come into being in response to environmental concerns.
The main target market for the chocolate bars, which sell for €3.25 each on the Chocolatey Clare website, is high-end, speciality food stores and health food stores.
“Using ethically sourced ingredients means the chocolate costs more to produce, but it is a premium product; people who are interested in the provenance of their food are often willing to pay extra for those credentials,” says Ms Tait.
In addition to selling into food shops, she also sells her range of six bars to some high-end cafes, including the one at the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin Castle.
Sales were slow to grow in the early days, but she says that she is now getting some approaches from buyers. Until August last year, Ms Tait was doing all the producing and selling herself, but as interest increased, she decided that the best option to scale the business was to outsource production and she has since devoted her energy to increasing sales.
Aiming to grow at a sustainable pace, she is looking at the markets in both Germany and the UK, where the demand for vegan chocolate is high.
Meanwhile in Ireland, she’s expecting the increase in demand for vegan food to lead to a boost in sales for Chocolatey Clare gift boxes on Valentine’s Day and also for Mother’s Day and Easter.