Sweet spot: Clare Tait became a chocolate entrepreneur at 50
Chocolatey Clare is a vegan treat with ethical roots and zero waste packaging
Clare Tait with her vegan chocolate, Chocolatey Clare
Entrepreneurship is about attitude not age and Clare Tait was 50 when she decided on a complete change of career. Having worked as a technical German language translator and then in adult literacy, Tait opted for something completely different when set up her chocolate making business, Chocolatey Clare, in 2016.
The cacao is produced from organic Peruvian Criollo beans
Tait was prompted to begin making chocolate when her family went vegan a number of years ago. “I have to say I missed the chocolatey treats,” she says. “I admire dark chocolate, but I can’t say I love it in the same way as I love its sweeter cousin. This prompted me to devise a dairy-free recipe that would appeal to chocolate lovers seeking an alternative product that balances subtle sweetness with a rich depth of flavour.”
To stick out from the crowd, Tait’s handmade products are organic, vegan, made with ethically-sourced ingredients and generate zero waste packaging. “The cacao is produced from organic Peruvian Criollo beans and sourced through suppliers who work with various humanitarian, environmental and charitable projects,” she says. “The chocolate bars come in compostable packaging and the outer boxes are printed on FSC-certified board with vegetable-based ink using wind-powered printing machines from Priory Press Packaging in Co Down.”
Chocolatey Clare bars come in a range of six flavours and Tait describes their taste profile as “lying on the edge of darkness but without an overarching bitterness. It’s important to say that the chocolate is also dairy-free as well as vegan,” she adds. “This might sound obvious, but it means there is no dairy in the production facility and hence no risk of cross contamination. In other words, the chocolate is suitable for people with a dairy allergy or intolerance as well as those who are coeliac or gluten intolerant. Our chocolate also appeals to those who want a natural product that isn’t heavily loaded with sugar and to environmentally conscious consumers who want to avoid foods containing unregulated palm oil or foods with plastic wrapping.”
Tait is still in the very early stages of business development so her focus is primarily on the Irish market for now. However, she has her sights set on selling further afield as she says her products “stand up admirably against other global brands”.
Start-up food businesses are notoriously hard work and the investment is often more about time than money. This was the case for Tait whose initial costs were around €15,000 including support from Dublin City Local Enterprise Office.
Tait has also faced the problem all small producers eventually come up against – how to scale successfully especially if you’re a lone operator. As interest in her product grew, she found herself constrained by how much product she could physically make, so after much soul searching she decided to outsource production. “I was working as hard as I could and going nowhere,” she says. “Being able to get my products made to my quality and specification has really freed me up to build the business. I used to be terrified of big orders. It’s such a relief that this is no longer an issue.”
Tait’s products are aimed at the luxury end of the chocolate market and are available in Butler’s Pantry outlets, specialist stores and online. She also sells through targeted websites such as soulbia in Northern Ireland and the UK-based Vegan Kind Supermarket. Her marketing has primarily been via Facebook and Instagram.
“I started out not having a clue about the workings of the food industry, but I don’t necessarily consider that a bad thing because it meant I researched everything without the burden of preconceptions,” she says. “I knew exactly what I wanted to end up with, I just didn’t know how to get there. My overall objective has always been to produce richly satisfying confectionery with an exquisite taste and a kind heart.” chocolateyclare.com