Ireland is home to a number of brilliant artisan food producers. Clo Chocolates, an award winning luxury artisan chocolate company, is based in the heart of Sligo. Handcrafted with the touch of French chocolatier, Clotilde Rambaud, these little bites of joy are made with love, and a passion for high quality chocolate. You’ll find a range of chocolates available on their site, from plain milk chocolate all the way to boozy truffles.
In the last few years, they’ve won an abundance of Blas na hÉireann awards, both for their individual products (Boozy Truffles, 2020; Whiskey Experience Truffles, 2021) as well as winning Best Overall in Sligo in both 2020 and 2021. We spoke to Clotilde about her journey starting up Clo Chocolates in Ireland.
Have you always had a great love of food?
Yes, from the age of 8 I had already decided to become a pastry chef/chocolatier. At first I wanted to be a chef but my aunty told me I would have to work weekends so I changed to chocolates. I still work weekends!
Can you tell me about your own background in the food industry?
When I was 15 I went to a pastry boarding school, Les Sorbets in Noirmoutier en l’Ile. I graduated at 19 in patisserie, chocolaterie, confectionary and ice cream making. I then worked in various patisseries and restaurants in France including La Table de Joel Robuchon in Paris. In 2005 I came to Sligo and started working in Coach Lane restaurant, I met my partner Thomasz and we decided to open Le Fournil bakery in Sligo. I made chocolates for the bakery and the feedback from customers drove my passion further, so in 2020 I decided to take the plunge and create a separate business for my chocolates and Clo was born.
What inspired you to set up your business? Did you notice a gap in the market?
I fell in love with Sligo, but there was no chocolatier. It was a great opportunity to start a handmade chocolates business.
How did you set up the business and how has it been growing over time?
It started with Le Fournil bakery 10 years ago, I slowly introduced Clo Chocolates into the shop, I produced the chocolates in the bakery and we started stocking our chocolates in local cafes. 2 years ago we completely rebranded Clo Chocolates, we launched our website www.clochocolates.ie and moved production to a new premises just for chocolate production. We now supply several cafes and various wholesalers in Ireland and are expanding weekly.
Where do you source the ingredients used to make your chocolates?
We use high quality, fair trade and sustainably sourced chocolate as our main ingredient and we use local ingredients to make our chocolate flavours unique to our brand. We use Knocknarea honey for our signature Atlantic bars; Athrú Whiskey, a Sligo whiskey distiller, for our gold medal winning whiskey experience truffles; Bean West Coffee based in Westport for our coffee crunch bar, plus we use Connacht Gold for all milk and cream.
Can you tell me about some of the benefits associated with your products?
There are many benefits to eating good quality chocolate. Chemicals in good quality chocolate release endorphins and make us happy. Our chocolate has not been artificially sweetened and is free from preservatives so they are great for your body and mind.
How important has social media been for you in spreading the word?
Social media is key for our brand. Without it we would not be able to get our name out there. We use it for new product launches, bringing people to our website and connecting with potential suppliers and stockists.
What makes your product unique?
We are luxury Irish chocolates with a French twist.
Where can people get your chocolates?
Our website has all our products available and we deliver all over Ireland. We are also available in different shops and cafes around Ireland. In Sligo – Le Fournil bakery, Kate’s Kitchen, Shells Cafe; in Mayo – Café Rua, Savoir Fare; in Athlone – FINE; and in Dublin – The Jam Art Factory, April and The Bear and Black Sheep Bakery in Co. Dublin. We are expanding our stockists weekly so keep an eye on our website for updates on new stockists.
Are there any other small Irish food producers you admire?
I admire all the girls at Kate’s Kitchen for all their hard work, always grateful to them for supporting us from day one. I also admire the guys at Lough Gill Distillery for the incredible Athrú Whiskey they produce. It is a big favourite amongst our staff.
What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced since going into business?
A big challenge is time, running 2 businesses and being a mum of two young boys. Managing my time to ensure all the work gets done to a high standard can be a challenge but when you love what you do it makes it easier.
What do you feel is your biggest achievement to date with Clo Chocolates?
We were so delighted to receive Gold for our Athrú Whiskey Truffles and gold for our Boozy Truffles at Blas na hÉireann 2021 and 2020, after taking the risk to rebrand and move into our chocolate factory. We were so happy to receive the recognition for our products.
Could you ever have imagined doing anything else with your life?
No, doing what I love, in a place I chose to live in is great!
What does the future hold for your business?
We are new to the market and want to expand and grow. Every month we are learning and refocusing on different areas of the business and evolving. We are so proud of the products we produce and everyone who has tasted it has been amazed at the flavours, so we want to share that with everyone.