Bixby & Co.'s Kate McAleer combines culture and chocolate
Maine-based entrepreneur draws on love of culture, cooking to make chocolate snack bars.
Kate McAleer isn’t afraid of expanding her horizons.
She spent the last two years of high school studying abroad in France and China, living with host families and immersing herself in their cultures. Traveling abroad opened McAleer’s heart to exotic cuisines and spices, which inspire her creative recipes.
After graduating from New York University with a bachelor’s degree in East Asian studies and completing her graduate work at Parsons/Cooper Hewitt, Kate pursued her passion of combining cultural history with the culinary arts. She earned diplomas in pastry arts and culinary management from the Institute of Culinary Education in Manhattan and certificates from Ecole Chocolate in Vancouver.
In 2011, with the encouragement of her family and friends, Kate founded Bixby & Co. The Rockland, Maine-based company is named for her great-great-grandparents, William K. and Lillian Bixby, who worked to achieve the “American Dream.” Capitalizing on the entrepreneurial spirit in her veins, McAleer set out to create a line of sweets using the highest quality chocolate, sustainably-sourced nuts, dried fruits and an array of unexpected spices.
After hundreds of hours of experimentation and trial and error, Bixby & Co. launched its line of craft candy snack bars that not only are good sources of fiber and protein, but are also free of additives, preservatives and excessive sugars.
McAleer’s hard work, dedication and craft have drawn much attention. She was named the 2014 Gorham Savings Bank LaunchPad Winner, the 2015 Small Business Administration’s Young Entrepreneur of the Year for Maine, a 2016 Good Foods Awards Winner and a 2016 Tory Burch Foundation Fellow. She will also serve as a member of Retail Confectioner International’s 2017-2018 board.
If you were stranded on a deserted island with only one kind of candy, what would it be?
Of course, Bixby Bars — our candy snack bars — they are my favorite kind of candy.
What’s the last cool thing you saw online?
The M La Fleur Bento Box. A personal shopping assistant selects clothing for you and sends it to you in a curated “Bento Box,” where you can then try on the clothes and return any you do not want to purchase. A fabulous service for the busy woman executive — I have received two boxes already and they are amazingly on trend.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I always admired my parents going to work every day as executives, and they always encouraged me to pursue my “passions” so that going to work every day would be stimulating and interesting. I was in graduate school when I had what my friends called a “quarter-life crisis” and decided to pursue starting my own candy business instead of going back to graduate school for art history.
What issues concern you most about the confectionery industry and why?
Federal regulations and the cost for small manufacturers to comply — to me this will create limitations on entrepreneurship and innovation.
What’s the last book you’ve read?
“Bonjour Kale: A Memoir of Paris, Love, and Recipes” by Kristen Beddard. I lived in France during college, so I love to read anything about France.
If given the chance to choose anyone, with whom would you like to collaborate?
Tory Burch, of course! As one of the Tory Burch Fellows, I have seen Tory in action, and her fashion brand and story are so inspiring and beautiful.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Tory has a saying “Negativity is Noise,” and this speaks to me on a daily basis as I pursue the creation of organic, non-GMO and healthier options that are ahead of the curve.
What excites you most about your job?
Creating and manufacturing better-for-you candy options in the great U.S.A.