Specialty Food Magazine


Specialty Food Magazine is the leading publication for retailers, manufacturers and foodservice professionals in the specialty food trade. It provides news, trends and business-building insights that help readers keep their businesses competitive.

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Page 60 of 139

gourmet snack crackers excellent for pairing with butter, cheese, or soup visit partners at wff booth #4007 www.partnerscrackers.com Her signature caramel squares, topped with Belgian milk chocolate or dark chocolate, are sold year-round. So are her short- bread squares, Flapjacks (caramelized oat bars drizzled with Belgian dark chocolate), and Caramelized Oat Bars (oversized, crunchy, bit- tersweet chocolate bars). For those who don't want to learn the hard way how to make caramel, she sells it by the pound. Keane has held to an Irish theme for all of the products she has developed, including pre-made Irish shortbread pie crust and Brandy Butter, a holiday favorite traditionally spooned over plum pudding. More sweet treats are in the works. She sends her family back in Ireland on missions to try different varieties of Irish special- ties and mail her samples. "They love being part of it," she says. They also love when Keane comes home over the Christmas holidays. Though Ireland has no shortage of shortbread, her fam- ily will ask eagerly whether she's bringing her creations home. The reaction she gets justifies the cost. "They say my products are even better than what they have in Ireland." To spark creativity, Keane says she'll sit down with a good cup of tea, a pad of paper, and a pen, avoiding email and internet distrac- tions. "Taking the time to think is so important," she explains. "It's undervalued. I let my mind wander. I have to process my ideas. Is this opportunity going to work? I look at it from all angles." Finding Success and Giving Back Keane remains the sole owner of Clairesquares and manages three part-time employees. Her sister continues to be her biggest support- er and comes in to help during trade shows and busy holiday periods. Her products are carried in 60 stores, primarily in California, as well as several retail outlets in Oregon and Washington. She is looking to expand to the East Coast and everywhere in between. In the past 18 months, business has grown 35 percent, but it has been a long path to profitability. Mindful of the journey and her beginnings, Keane has stayed involved in La Cocina, mentoring others at the small business incubator. She is far from making the money she used to as an envi- ronmental consultant but, she says, "My quality of life now is worth more than any money you could throw at me." Julie Besonen is food editor for Paper magazine and a restaurant columnist for nycgo.com. Winter Fancy Food Show Booth 4007 58 ❘ SPECIALTY FOOD MAGAZINE specialtyfood.com

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