Q&A: Mary Healy of The Chocolate Garden of Ireland
Guaranteed Irish member The Chocolate Garden of Ireland is an award-winning family business making handmade chocolates, premium ice creams and a wide range of other delicious treats. We sat down with Mary Healy, one of the business’s co-founders, to learn more about the company and its values.
What is the story of The Chocolate Garden of Ireland?
Jim and I had both been involved in helping other businesses before we decided to start our own. Having met so many enthusiastic entrepreneurs, we wanted to create a business together. An opportunity arose to buy idle waffle-making plant locally in 2001 and we went for it. Since we both came from a farming background, making a food product was just one step removed. We first started out making Dutch-style ‘Stroop’ waffles in 2001, but always planned to diversify into other confectionery. In 2003 we achieved this goal and began making our own handmade chocolates and, soon after, luxury chocolate spreads. Gift confectionery is highly seasonal, busy from October to Easter. Having joked about it, Jim and I agreed that all we needed to be busy all year round was to make ice cream! The opportunity arose in 2008 when we acquired the Tipperary Ice Cream business, then in Clonmel. Finally, in 2009 we moved all of our production activities from three separate premises to just one on the Carlow-Wicklow border near Tullow, where we now employ 20 local staff and host regular chocolate-making workshops.
What is the chocolate making process like?
First of all, it smells amazing! But, in all seriousness, the production process here at The Chocolate Garden of Ireland focuses on maintaining the artisan-level quality and exceptional taste of all our products. That means making the chocolate in small batches to ensure that each piece is given the proper amount of attention. We are always innovating as well, working to improve its production process and to yield the highest quality products possible. And yes – it’s a lot more fun than making spanners!
Why did you choose to become a member of Guaranteed Irish?
We joined Guaranteed Irish because we believe strongly in the values that the organisation promotes. We admire that Guaranteed Irish provides support for the sustainable growth of indigenous businesses, and we are proud to be part of the organisation.
Why is this important to you that your products are made here in Ireland?
Having that distinction of Irish provenance gives a food business like ours an important point of difference in an increasingly competitive marketplace. The Guaranteed Irish symbol carries with it a reputation of integrity and quality that is becoming more and more important to a highly-educated population of Irish consumers that want to make good choices for the long term sustainability of the economy here in Ireland.
How does The Chocolate Garden of Ireland contribute to its local community?
We regularly engage with transition year programmes, and are deeply involved in local enterprise awards – both as a participant and, occasionally, as a judge. If we have short-dated stock, we make sure to donate it to St. Clare’s Kitchen locally, or to Simon and the Food Cloud in Dublin to benefit others. We also supply spot prizes for the fundraising efforts of local charities and community organisations.
What is your company’s USP in a crowded chocolate market?
Firstly, the quality of our products here at The Chocolate Garden of Ireland is excellent and they all taste great – they are guaranteed to delight the senses. Additionally, we display strong values and integrity in all aspects of our business, making sure that all of our ingredients are ethically sourced. We engage with customers right here in our premises through our café and regular chocolate workshops, educating the consumer on the characteristics of quality chocolate. We also work closely with our loyal team of staff and treat them like part of the family, working with them to make the business the best that it can be. As a testament to these values, our business was recently awarded the 2018 Outstanding Small Business Award by the Carlow Chamber.
Visit The Chocolate Garden of Ireland’s website here and follow The Chocolate Garden of Ireland on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
When you purchase a gift from a Guaranteed Irish company, you are supporting a business which is committed to Irish jobs, local communities and Irish provenance. So, remember to #BuyGI this Christmas!