Processing Your Payment

Please do not leave this page until complete. This can take a few moments.

Updated: October 16, 2023 Focus on Midcoast & Downeast

Coffee talk with Kate McAleer: Bixby Chocolate branches out into coffee

Close to 12 years after starting Bixby Chocolate in Rockland, Kate McAleer is taking the company in new directions, via “bean-to-bar” chocolate production and the launch of a coffee brand called Bixenta. Mainebiz caught up with the entrepreneur to find out more.

Mainebiz: How is business this year?

Kate McAleer: It has been an exciting year with the opening of the Chocolate Café in Waterville and the reopening of the retail boutique at the Rockland manufacturing facility, after closing the retail shop for three years during the COVID pandemic. Our local customers and returning visitors from ‘away’ have told us how pleased they are to shop in person at the factory. This year, Bixby received seven prestigious national and international awards for our products.

MB: What are your busiest months?

KM: For our manufacturing, we find the last two quarters of the year the busiest time with distributors and wholesale accounts preparing for the holiday season. The Rockland boutique is busiest during the high tourist months of mid-May through October and at the holidays. Since this is the first year for the Waterville café, it is too early to determine seasonal patterns.

MB: To what extent do you see the midcoast growing as a year-round destination, and is that having any impact on your business?

KM: We are seeing a combination of population growth and an extension of the spring and fall shoulder and holiday seasons for tourism. The winter season remains traditionally quiet. Our manufacturing for distribution and wholesale business runs yearlong.

MB: Anything new or coming up at your Rockland facility this year or next?

Photo / David Clough
Kate McAleer

KM: For 2023, we made a strategic decision to make 100% of our chocolate with our bean-to-bar operations. We are sourcing cacao beans from plantations that strive to sustain the rainforest and produce exceptional beans. We are pursuing this strategy for quality enhancement and avoiding the vagaries of supply chain shortfalls, shipping delays and increasing freight costs.

Another exciting initiative for 2023 is roasting our own coffee beans and making a line of coffee offerings. We named our coffee Bixenta, meaning ‘victorious woman’ in Basque. Our roaster is the world’s first internet-connected, zero-emissions commercial coffee roaster. Bellwether’s recirculating roasting technology removes particulates and volatile organic compounds in real-time, reducing the carbon footprint of roasting by an average of 90%.

MB: How do your sales break down in terms of in-store versus online, and do you see any changes in that mix?

KM: Seasons play a big role in this breakdown — summertime we see a major drop in online sales as shipping is more expensive and needs to be expedited due to the warmer temperatures.  Summertime in Rockland is very busy for our retail in-person sales. Online increases as the temperature cools and we head into seasonal products such as our very popular advent calendar.

MB: Would you ever consider another retail location on the Midcoast?

KM: Currently we have no plans for a secondary retail location. We are focusing on new distributor partnerships and growing our current retail locations. 

Sign up for Enews

Related Content


Order a PDF