Neary Nogs in talks with top London store Fortnam and Mason
A small-batch chocolate firm which started life as a fundraiser for charity work has invested almost £100,000 in new equipment.
Newry-based chocolatier Neary Nogs boasts Ireland's only stone-ground chocolate. The firm was never intended to become a business but it's understood it's now in talks to supply Fortnam and Mason.
Shane and Dorothy Neary began making chocolate because they wanted to do something different to help their daughter raise money to volunteer in India.
Dorothy got the recipe from her family in Seattle, USA. The fundraiser thrived with the first few batches selling out quickly; people kept asking if they could buy more and before the pair knew it they were off to weddings, craft fayres and markets.
But it was only when the couple's ninth child, August, became ill that they decided to use the chocolate to earn a living working from home. Her rare condition meant the family frequently had to fly to London for surgeries at Great Ormond Street Hospital.
Shane Neary said: "We bought our first few machines on credit card and used hair dryers to take the cocoa out of the shells but now we've been able to invest in a tempering machine from Milan and three stone grinders. It's been incredible."
The couple are among 40 producers to feature next week at Finnebrogue Artisan Hans Sloane Chocolate and Fine Food Festival.
The event, which runs from September 23-25, celebrates Hans Sloane, the Killyleagh-man who invented milk chocolate more than 350 years ago and will see top Northern Ireland chefs whip up chocolate-themed dishes.