Please do not leave this page until complete. This can take a few moments.
Sweet-treat combos have turned into a winning recipe for Bixby Chocolate, a Rockland-based company that took home four sofi awards from the Specialty National Food Association.
Bixby Chocolate won Gold and New Product awards for its Maine Grains Oat Milk Bar; a Gold award for its Allagash 16 Counties Spicy Chili Beer Brittle; and a Gold award for its Organic Haiti 70% Dark Chocolate Bar.
The Maine Grains Oat Milk Bar came out of a collaboration with Maine Grains, of Skowhegan, while the Allagash 16 Counties Spicy Chili Beer Beer Brittle resulted from a team-up with Maine's large brewer.
Nearly 2,000 products from domestic and international makers entered the 2023 edition of the national competition, which honored Gold and New Product winners in 53 food and beverage categories.
The awards put Bixby in the running for the 2023 sofi Gold Product of the Year Award, which will be announced at the Summer Fancy Food Show in New York City next month. The show is North America's largest specialty food-industry event.
"As entrepreneurs, we want to know that we are creating the best possible product for our customers, and this award is one of the ultimate stamps of approval," said Kate McAleer, founder and owner of Bixby Chocolate. "We are so excited our collaborations with other inspiring Maine-based companies are being nationally recognized."
Describing the Haiti Dark Chocolate Bar as an "incredible" single-origin bar, McAleer explained that it's made with cacao sourced from 1,700 small farmers in Haiti, and is certified organic.
"I just love the flavor profile of the Haitian cacao," McAleer said. "We find notes of blueberry and vanilla in this origin."
With the Maine Grains Oat Milk Bar, McAleer told Mainebiz, the aim was to develop more vegan options for Bixby Chocolate's strong vegan customer base.
"In researching the No. 1 alternative dairy, oat milk was the category leader," she explained. "I personally buy Maine Grains produce and have been a huge fan of their brand and reached out to Amber [Lambke] to see if Maine Grains might be interested in a potential collaboration."
With Maine Grains on board, research and development took more than a year to find the right formula.
"Oat milk has a different consistency and fat content than dairy milk, for example, and we decided to make it a dark milk, milk chocolate, which has a higher cocoa percentage than regular milk chocolate," McAleer said.
As for the inspiration behind the winning beer brittle, McAleer said she has fond memories of her dad taking her to baseball games, and noted that peanut brittle is an iconic American candy.
"When thinking about launching a brittle line, brainstorming interesting concepts and inclusions, beer was an incredible match," McAleer said." Allagash is such a leader in the craft beer industry."
Once they joined forces, the product took more than two years to develop.
Jeff Pillet-Shore, marketing director at Portland-based Allagash Brewing Co., gave a shoutout to McAleer and her team for using its beers "in such innovative ways."
Bixby Chocolate, which has 20 employees on the payroll in Rockland and Waterville, has further collaborations up its sleeve that McAleer said remain "top secret" for now.
Asked how business is going, she said that summer is a busier time for Maine retail channels, while the rest of the business is busy year-round.
"We are constantly innovating," she said.
McAleer was honored as a Mainebiz Woman to Watch in 2022.
The Giving Guide helps nonprofits have the opportunity to showcase and differentiate their organizations so that businesses better understand how they can contribute to a nonprofit’s mission and work.Learn More
Few people are adequately prepared for all the tasks involved in planning and providing care for aging family members. SeniorSmart provides an essential road map for navigating the process. This resource guide explores the myriad of care options and offers essential information on topics ranging from self-care to legal and financial preparedness.Learn More
This special publication examines the startup infrastructure in Maine and the resources available to help entrepreneurs at the various stages of the startup journey.Learn more
In order to use this feature, we need some information from you. You can also login or register for a free account.