Dumfries vegan chocolatier scoops funds to sweeten artisan range

An artisan vegan chocolatier is looking to expand its range and meet growing demand for plant-based products after securing a start-up loan.

The Freedom Chocolate range, made in Dumfries, is free from dairy, gluten, nuts and soy. Picture: Contributed
The Freedom Chocolate range, made in Dumfries, is free from dairy, gluten, nuts and soy. Picture: Contributed

Dumfries-based Freedom Chocolate, which hand crafts chocolate bars free from dairy, gluten, nuts and soy, is developing a wider range of flavours to capitalise on the rising trend for meat and allergen-free sweet treats.

The family-run start-up, which began trading out of the founders’ kitchen, has landed a loan from alternative finance provider Transmit Startups and recently moved to its own business premises to accommodate demand.

It comes as a report released last week showed that four in ten consumers are reducing how much meat they eat, while more than a quarter of new food product launches in the UK are now vegan.

Husband-and-wife team Simon and Sarah Wood established the firm as they and their children suffer from multiple food intolerances. Picture: Contributed

Freedom was established by husband-and-wife team Simon and Sarah Wood, as the couple and their four children suffer from multiple food intolerances and struggled to find suitable treats.

'Suiting unique needs'

The Scottish firm was recently named in a UK-wide taste test as one of the best 11 vegan chocolate bars. It now sells to buyers across the UK via its website and is also a regular at food markets and festivals.

Sarah said: “We are carers for our children, who have additional needs, and because we are in receipt of benefits, we were not eligible for a bank loan. So, we were really happy to find out there was an alternative route for people in our position – especially as self-employment offered a way of earning a living that suited the unique needs of our family.”

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She added that Simon, who has Asperger syndrome, had encountered barriers to employment but “being his own boss would mean Simon could overcome these issues by being able to control the sensory aspect of his working environment such as sound, light and heat and his level of contact with people”.

In addition to securing financial backing from Transmit, Freedom is also receiving support from the lender’s start-up mentor Tony Couch.

Damian Baetens, Transmit’s business support director, said: “There are some real big hitters out there in the vegan chocolate arena so for a small company like Freedom Chocolate to be included [in the top 11] is incredible, and it’s testament to the hard work of Simon and Sarah.

“This was an especially satisfying start-up loan to approve because it has made such a difference to family life for the Woods. ”