Mary and Jim Healy
The Chocolate Garden of Ireland
Mary and Jim Healy started out, in 2001, selling waffles at farmers markets under the brand name Wicklow Fine Foods.
By 2008 the company had expanded into chocolate making and fine food hampers, growing turnover to € 1million a year. When the recession hit, and hamper orders fell, they responded by developing a new brand, The Chocolate Garden of Ireland and buying an artisan brand, Tipperary Ice Cream, to counteract against the traditional summer time dip in chocolate sales.
The Chocolate Garden of Ireland brand was designed to help them diversify into “food tourism”, running chocolate making workshops from their production unit in south west Wicklow. Unlike retail sales, for which the couple may have to provide credit, the workshops helped keep cash flow pumping throughout the downturn. The other ingredient in their recipe for success has been a strategic decision not to chase large volume orders, as those are the most likely to leave the producer working off low margins.
Indeed, the couple does not see supermarket orders as worth pursuing at all. ” Much better to go the speciality or fine foods shop route, supplying to stores such as Avoca, where margins are better and production capacity more sustainable.
It’s a strategy that has worked and the couple have been developing its export business. “We’ve just won top prize in a UK competition for one of our ice cream cakes and we are also now exporting to Australia and Poland,” says Mary.