It’s 15 years since Clonakilty chocolatier Allison Roberts, after moving from Canada to Ireland in 2008, first started out in business selling her chocolate at markets and in shops around West Cork. Since then ‘Exploding Tree’ – in a Willy Wonka style magic story – has become a full bean-to-bar chocolate factory in Clonakilty. It’s not magic beans however that have created this fairytale success story but the passion and commitment of the ethically-minded entrepreneur behind this small fair-minded social enterprise who believes that making chocolate “goes hand in hand with delving into issues around sustainability, human rights and the food industry.”
Allison Roberts was just 12-years-old when she first dipped her finger into making and selling chocolate. Today her company – the smallest most alternative chocolate factory in Europe – which sells as much of its products as possible in bulk and unwrapped, aims to be zero-waste with a simple and direct supply chain. Customers can opt to buy ‘Exploding Tree’ bars unwrapped through the website (explodingtree.com) and ‘save the wrap’ on an order allowing the company to re-use postal packaging. Selling her bean-to-bar chocolate with less packaging also saves on cost, making Exploding Tree’s delicious handmade and healthier Fairtrade chocolate made to Allison’s own recipes more accessible.
The only Fair Trade chocolate maker in Ireland and one of only four who work from the bean, Exploding Tree buys all of its cocoa beans and coconut sugar from Fairtrade Organic cooperatives in Ghana and Indonesia. Secondary ingredients are sourced as locally as possible, mostly Irish, but sometimes from other EU countries and organic whenever possible. The Exploding Tree ‘Creamy Oat’ bar for example is made using oat milk from The Merry Mill, an Irish company.
Allison also does a lot of chocolate making workshops so if you’d like to delve deeper into the world of cocoa and learn how to make chocolate from the bean get in touch now. There may still be some slots left before Christmas.
“Consumers are so much more educated now about chocolate than they were 15 years ago,” shares Allison “People want to know where the cocoa is coming from rather than where the chocolate is manufactured. There are so many more people looking for one hundred per cent chocolate.”
While running a small social enterprise in a very competitive market isn’t easy, it’s a lifestyle choice for Allison, who says she loves the freedom that running her own business allows, such as getting a sea swim in before work every day. “I have met so many interesting people and continue to learn so much. It brings me a lot more than a living wage!”
The Exploding Tree chocolate factory in Clonakilty was awarded the Irish Food Writers’ Guild sustainability award in March 2020 and has also received the McKennas guide award every year since 2014.
For the chocolate lover in your life, check out Exploding Tree’s Choco-Lovers survival box and truffle-making kit on explodingtree.com. There are also ethical selection boxes and gift bundles, or why not keep your loved one in chocolate all year round with a choco-lovers subscription.