Chocolate lovers of all ages will be in heaven over Easter.
And Sandra Foster, owner of Fosters chocolate factory in Portadown, knows more about Ulster’s sweet-toothed tendencies than most.
Speaking to the News Letter in her Portadown factory – where the intoxicating smell of chocolate is something you’d expect to have experienced in Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Mrs Foster said they have almost come to the end of making “tens of thousands of chocolate eggs of various sizes before Easter”.
Mrs Foster, who set up ‘Northern Ireland’s Chocolatier’ with her husband Norman in 1990, said: “Easter is one of our busiest times. We specialise in a range of Easter baskets which are different from the box eggs.”
When asked how she deals with staff who have too sweet a tooth, Mr Foster said: “When staff start here we always say eat what you want. After they’ve eaten too much of it for a week or two they get enough of it.”
At the moment the Co Armagh business is in the process of promoting a milk chocolate recipe suitable for diabetics.
“We are working on producing bars with no added sugar for diabetics at the moment, but we just have to get the recipe right,” she said.
“We are also selling a lot of dark chocolate. It is much better for you as there is less sugar in it and it is very pure.
“I have been reminded a lot recently that people should be eating dark chocolate every day for their health.
“So this attracts people who are dairy free as they can take dark chocolate on its own, with no fillings.
“We are doing a range of a bag of dark chocolates because a lot of people are going for them now.
“Chocolate is something to be enjoyed.”
Mrs Foster said she believed a “big difference” between their chocolate and other brands is “our secret ingredients”.
“The chocolate is bought in in what is called coverture,” she said. “Then we add our various ingredients to that, our secret ingredients if you like. We sometimes also add honeycomb or marshmallows for the different products.
“At the moment I would say the most popular is our honeycomb chocolate bar and the honeycomb product on its own.”
She added that the chocolate in their Easter eggs is “no different” to the chocolate found in their other products.
“Chocolate is all about the percentage of cocoa solids used,” she added. “Cocoa solids are around 22 per cent in everyday brands. But with us cocoa solids are 33 per cent.”
She said chocolate was also a big favourite “at Christmas, Valentines Day, Mother’s Day, Easter and Hallowe’en”.