ROCKLAND—The industrial side of Rockland just got sweeter. Bixby & Co., Maine’s first “bean-to-bar” chocolate factory, just had their Grand Opening and ribbon cutting on Sea Street, Thursday, September 7, 2017.
“Bean to Bar” refers to the process of making chocolate in-house from start to finish. Inside the retail space of Bixby & Co.’s new chocolate factory, multiple tables were set up with displays and samples of Bixby & Co.’s chocolate bars made with nuts, dried fruit and spices, as well as cacoa beans and “nibs” the extracted, dried and fermented bits of cacao beans—essentially chocolate in its purest form.
Bixby & Co.’s 70% dark chocolate starts with beans from the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Guatemala, and contains just two ingredients: organic single origin cocoa beans and organic cane sugar.
Standing outside the glass-enclosed factory room that roasts and processes the “nibs” of the cacoa beans into chocolate, Kate McAleer, Bixby & Co.’s co-founder and owner, gave the public a presentation of how sustainably resourced chocolate is made, from a pod picked off a cacoa fruit tree in a rain forest to the finished product of a chocolate bar in less than a week.
McAleer and her mother, Donna McAleer, traveled to Haiti to see the growing bean process for themselves. “The difference between buying a bar of mass produced chocolate and what we do is that most cocoa beans come from Africa under questionable labor and environmental practices,” said Kate McAleer. “What we seek to do is work with farmers who are paid fair prices above the commodity market price and make the best chocolate that you’ve ever tasted. Each bar is single origin, so all of the bars in one batch come from beans from only one origin.”
McAleer continued, “I’m passionate about chocolate and where it comes from and each bar is certified organic by MOFGA, which means, no preservatives, additives or herbicides, and we are now the first certified organic ‘bean to bar’ chocolate maker in Maine.”
“Where Bixby is located now is the former ice house of the F.J. O’Hara and Sons Inc., which served the seafood and marine industries,” said Gordon Page, executive director of Rockland Main Street Inc. “Bixby & Co. is a different kind of manufacturing in Rockland, but, it’s in line with the type of food processing that Tillson Wharf was known for. Now, with this retail side that encourages visitors, Kate and her family are providing this area with an experiential side to the chocolate manufacturing.”
Along with her mother, Kate McAleer founded Bixby & Co. in 2011, moving the company to Maine two years later. She has been the recipient of multiple notable grants due to her entrepreneurial vision. Bixby & Co.’s retail room will be open five days a week, and visitors can call ahead to schedule tours, or simply drop by. The new Bean to Bar factory was funded in part by a grant from the Maine Technology Institute (MTI).
Kay Stephens can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org