Gourmet chocolatier CoCouture is investing almost £160,000 with assistance from Invest Northern Ireland to meet the growing demand for its premium chocolates from customers in Great Britain, the Republic of Ireland and the US.
Invest NI Food Director Maynard Mawhinney announced the assistance package for new equipment, marketing and recruitment during a visit to the company’s new premises at Chichester Street in Belfast.
The company aims to recruit four new employees to enable it to develop sales enquiries for existing and planned products.
The investment follows an extensive market testing of luxury chocolates and chocolate bars carried out by the company since its formation by Deirdre McCanny, a trained chef, in March 2008.
Mr Mawhinney said: “This is an entrepreneurial and award winning business which has proven that a significant market opportunity exists for its initial range of chocolates particularly in markets outside Northern Ireland.
“The products have already been listed by leading retailers in Great Britain and approaches have been received from other customers there, as well as from the Republic of Ireland and the US.
“The quality of the company’s products has also been endorsed by experienced judges in the Academy of Chocolate and the Great Taste Awards. Indeed CoCouture was the first-ever chocolatier from Ireland to gain a gold award from the influential Academy of Chocolate. The project will add to the local skills base through a planned training programme for chocolatiers.
“Our support will also encourage this ambitious SME to push ahead with plans for new product development and is in line with our focus on raising the level of innovation within the food industry,” he added.
Ms McCanny, commenting on the company’s growth plans, said: “Feedback from industry experts and the wider public from events that I’ve attended in Great Britain and the Republic has been very positive and immensely encouraging. This market testing has helped me to establish the CoCouture brand and also to make some subtle changes in the products.
“Winning the gold awards from the Academy of Chocolate and Great Taste Awards for the truffles and chocolate bars also helped raise the company’s profile and led to orders from leading retailers, particularly in London.
“I am currently working at full capacity to meet these orders. The investment will give me additional production capacity and enable me to develop marketing activities and exploit new approaches from specialist outlets in the US interested in listing the chocolates. Feedback from customers has also suggested new products for niche sectors within the premium chocolate market.
“Invest NI’s encouragement and very practical support for my enterprise particularly in terms of marketing activities, including guidance on the development of an e-commerce site, have been extremely important,” she added.