CEO Today - UK Awards 2022

When the very first Hotel Chocolat shop opened its doors to guests in North London in 2004, it was the start of a revolution in British chocolate. Two entrepreneurs, Angus Thirlwell and Peter Harris, were on a mission to make chocolate exciting again. Today, we have 126 stores, as well as cafés, restaurants, outlets, and factory stores. We’ve opened our first three boutiques in Copenhagen, have stores in Japan and the USA, and a luxury eco-hotel on our working cacao farm in the Caribbean. We are on a continual journey of development and growth, yet everything we do is still guided by the three basic values that we started with – and it always will be… How that makes our chocolate different. Originality Right from the start, we’ve never played by the rules of what people said a chocolate company should be. When we first started making our Easter eggs more than a decade ago, we were advised by experts to make them as thin as possible. We did the opposite, opting for ridiculously thick shells that are still satisfyingly snappable. Everybody said a bar of chocolate should be regularly divided into bite-sized pieces – but squares are boring, so we broke the mould and made our now iconic Giant Slabs, inspired by the shape of molten chocolate when you pour it onto the cool marble of a chocolatier’s table. More recently, we reinvented our smaller Slabs for our Rare & Vintage range, inspired by the crisp lines of pleated fabric to create a unique aesthetic that’s both functional and beautiful. But all this only scratches the surface. We’ve also created the world’s first single-côte chocolate, developed our own chocolate genre, Supermilk, created our own vegan milk alternative, nutmilk, innovated with cocoa cuisine from spiced cocoa nib ketchup to white chocolate horseradish and even cocoa gin, and the invention goes on – we’re constantly embracing new technologies and ideas. Authenticity We’re one of the world’s few chocolate makers to actually grow cocoa, on our beautiful Rabot Estate cacao farm in Saint Lucia. Connecting cocoa-growing with luxury chocolate making and retailing makes us unique in the UK and gives us an in-depth understanding of the factors that impact the final flavour of our chocolate, right from the growing tree. Centuries ago, Mayans revered the potent cocoa bean as a gift from the gods, but somewhere along the way its power has been lost in translation. As sugar prices have dropped, British chocolate has focused increasingly on sweetness. Today, sugar is 20 times cheaper than cocoa, and a typical bar of milk chocolate contains more than twice as much sugar as cocoa. Nature supplies all we need. Making our chocolates, our mantra has always been ‘More Cocoa, Less Sugar’. Cocoa will always be our number-one ingredient, even in milk and white chocolate. Most of the world’s ‘chocolate’ is laden with sugar – flip over the next bar you see and check. Our house-grade milk chocolates, meanwhile, are 40% and 50% cocoa, and even our white chocolate is 36% cocoa, well above the average. This balance of cocoa to sugar is crucial: high levels of sugar dull the flavours of the cocoa itself, denying you all those nuanced notes such as citrus, red and yellow fruits, coffee and brownie and masking the quality of the cocoa so that poorer types can be used. We’re also committed to using only real, natural ingredients – nothing artificial, ever. Nature supplies all we need. And it’s not just in our ingredients and the growing of our cocoa that we’re authentic – we also know where our ideas come from. Every month our chocolatiers are hard at work crafting brand new recipes in our Cambridgeshire innovation centre. www. ceotodaymagazine . com CEO Today Un i t ed Ki ngdom Awa rds 202 2 Ret a i l Leade r of t he Yea r Co-Founder and CEO of Hotel Chocolat Angus Thirlwell w w w . h o t e l c h o c o l a t . c o m / u k 33

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