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What is “Bean to Bar”?

Now that Bixby & Co. is Maine’s first Bean to Bar chocolate producer, we’ve been getting a lot of questions. The top two are, “What does “bean to bar” mean?”, and “So… coffee beans?” (Followed by, “When do you sleep?” and “Do you need an official taste-tester?”)

“Bean to Bar” refers to the process of making chocolate from scratch, starting with cacao beans. When we say “bean to bar”, many people think we’re talking about coffee beans. Coffee beans come from shrubs or small trees of the Coffea genus, while cacao beans come from Theobroma cacao trees. While many cacao producing regions do also produce coffee, there’s no coffee in our chocolate. In fact, Bixby & Co.’s Bean to Bar Craft Chocolate has only two ingredients: organic cacao beans and organic cane sugar.

 

Last May, Kate and Donna went to Haiti to meet with some of the cacao farmers who would be growing some of our beans. Cacao beans grow inside pods, which must be hand-harvested from the trees.

The idea of terroir, usually associated with fine wine production, is also applicable to chocolate. The environment in which the cacao beans grow and the stock from which they come influences the final flavor of our chocolate bars. Bixby’s Bean to Bar Chocolate is handcrafted in small batches so that we can make sure that we are treating the beans with the respect they deserve. They’ve traveled a long way to make it to your tastebuds – we’re not going to smother them in artificial flavors, or wrap them up in texture enhancing emulsifiers. When you eat our Bean to Bar Craft Chocolate, we want you to be able to taste the true character of the cacao that has gone into each bar.

In answer to your other questions: we’ll sleep sometime after Christmas, and while we’re not currently hiring an official chocolate taste-tester, you can come sample our three Bean to Bar varieties anytime at One Sea Street Place in Rockland, Maine.

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Bixby & Co. Launches New Bean to Bar Line & Retail Space

Dark chocolate fans, rejoice! Bixby & Co. is now Maine’s first producer of organic bean to bar chocolate, right on Rockland’s working waterfront. We’re excited to officially launch this new product line, which will feature three single-origin 70% dark chocolate bars: Dominican Republic, Haitian, and Guatemalan. New to bean to bar? Prefer to taste before you buy? On September 7, from 1-4 pm, we’re throwing open our doors, and inviting you to come visit our new retail space, take a tour, and sample the bars. You don’t need a Golden Ticket — everyone is welcome!

Kate McAleer with Guatemalan Cacao Beans

 

“Bean to bar” refers to the process of creating chocolate from start to finish. Just as with wines, the place of origin influences the flavor profile of the final product. Bixby & Co.’s new Bean to Bar Craft Chocolate begins with hand-selected, responsibly-sourced organic cocoa beans. We roast the beans, crack them open to reveal the nibs, and blow away the husks. The nibs are then ground until they are silky smooth, at which point we add organic cane sugar (no artificial sweeteners for us!). Finally, this mixture is heated, cooled, and poured into molds, before being wrapped in red foil and sealed in a special red envelope. Since we do every step ourselves in micro-batches, Bixby & Co. can guarantee that this new indulgent chocolate is of the highest quality, as well as being vegan and non-GMO.

Bixby Bean to Bar Chocolate Organic Dominican Republic 70% Dark Chocolate
Bixby Bean to Bar Chocolate Organic Dominican Republic 70% Dark Chocolate

You’ll see these new bars on the shelves in our retail room, alongside our beloved Bixby Bars and Bites. Our facility is a converted ice factory, and boasts a gorgeous view of Rockland Harbor, as well as two large windows looking into the Bean to Bar Kitchen where the magic happens. Don’t fret if you can’t make it to the event on September 7 — the retail room will be open five days a week, and the Bean to Bar Chocolate is now available on our online store with the rest of our products at www.bixbyco.com.

The view from the retail room
The view from the retail room

Experience Maine’s first bean to bar chocolate, and explore Bixby & Co.’s new retail space from September 7 onward. We look forward to sharing our chocolate adventure with you!

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Bangor Daily News Profiles Bixby & Co.’s Kate McAleer

PORTLAND, Maine — One year after moving Bixby & Co. into its own digs near Rockland’s waterfront, Kate McAleer is preparing to take her gourmet candy bar company national.

The 27-year-old plans for Bixby bars to be in 1,000 retail locations by the end of the year, with a staff of eight employees — four are part-time — and 3,000 square feet of space in a former O’Hara Corp. ice plant.

Looking back on 12 months of transition and growth, “2014, in general, was a crazy year,” said McAleer, a New York native.

The company moved out of its space at Coastal Farms and Foods in Belfast, before the manufacturing facility to jump-start small food production businesses folded in April 2014.

The year for Bixby involved improvements to more than double the company’s efficiency, using a $30,000 startup award from Gorham Savings Bank and a loan through Whole Foods’ local producer program to triple efficiency, between systems for melting and pumping chocolate and wrapping candy bars.

“We’d previously been hand-wrapping bars,” McAleer said.

McAleer said those improvements in efficiency mean Bixby won’t need to expand beyond its current employment levels or 3,000-square-foot space in 2015 to meet its growing distributor demand.

She declined to disclose the financial results of that growth, but she said each equipment investment more than doubled efficiency with design help from the Maine Manufacturing Extension Partnership.

Gorham Savings, Whole Foods and the Maine Manufacturing Partnership are just a few of the entities that came up in a recent interview after McAleer’s acceptance of the Maine Small Business Association’s award as the state’s Young Entrepreneur of the Year.

Last year, she also graduated from the Maine Center for Entrepreneurial Development’s Top Gun program, secured a $25,000 seed grant from the Maine Technology Institute and was accepted to another business development program supported by the Blackstone Charitable Foundation.

The entities involved in Bixby’s success in reinventing candy bars for the natural foods market read like a laundry list of economic development and entrepreneurial training programs in the state.

And to that extent, McAleer said she thinks Maine is a prime place for a young entrepreneur to set down roots.

“I think there’s so many resources and tools to attract businesses that it might just be about awareness,” McAleer said. “Networking has been critical to my success and finding all of the resources and utilizing them was key.”

From her perspective, McAleer said there’s a need for awareness, too. That is, looking beyond tech for young entrepreneurs.

“Everyone wants the next Facebook and Twitter, and I think that tendency can really steer away from the potential to growth for other small businesses,” McAleer said.

McAleer said she hopes her company, driven by changing consumer tastes and greater interest in natural ingredients, can play a role in changing that perspective. And she’s taken the accolades this year as a sign that awareness is taking hold.

Link to article.

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Maine Magazine Feature: “Maine Kind of Candy”

We are thrilled to be featured in the March 2015 Food Issue of Maine Magazine: “Maine Kind of Candy: Bixby & Co. Chocolate and its Clever Creator Kate McAleer” Continue reading Maine Magazine Feature: “Maine Kind of Candy”