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  • brucemckinnon

The values of chocolate

The other day I passed our local Hotel Chocolat store, and three words under the logo caught my eye – “British Cocoa Grower”.

What’s that all about I thought? And so, I did some digging.

Whilst the brand is now familiar and much loved, it was only a few years ago that the British high street was not the place for us chocolate lovers.

We had to choose between cheap chocolate bars sold in general stores, a specialist chain with a rich heritage but an unexciting range (any guesses?!), or super expensive providers that were out of reach for all but the most avid connoisseur.

And this is a big problem for a country where every one of us chomps through an average of 180 chocolate bars a year! [i]

Thankfully that all changed in 2004 when Angus Thirlwell and Peter Harris launched Hotel Chocolat on the values of authenticity, originality, and ethics.[ii]

I always say values are very dull until they are used, and it’s fair to say, those values have been used to great effect over the course of the brand’s 18 year history.


The entrepreneurs started by making sure the amount of sugar in their chocolate decreased and the amount of cocoa increased – sugar is cheaper than cocoa and many milk chocolate bars have as much as twice the amount of sugar to cocoa.

Two years later the pair became cocoa growers when they bought a cocoa plantation in Saint Lucia allowing them to become authentic experts in every part of cocoa cultivation and production – I must have missed that addition to the sign!


What makes Hotel Chocolat so successful is aligning that authenticity to its originality. For example, instead of producing the traditional chocolate bar with its ‘break off’ squares, the brand offers customers a single slab of chocolate with all kinds of exotic combinations like pistachio and honey or banoffee pie.

Even calling itself a hotel is original, although ironically, as well as over 130 stores, it does own a hotel, cafes, restaurants, and a school of chocolate.


At the same time, Hotel Chocolat ensures the cocoa, the prized ingredient the brand is built on, is ethically sourced by creating its own program to engage with the cocoa farmers across a range of subjects like fair pay, women’s empowerment, education, and stable trading[iii].

And all the chocolate that cocoa creates is kept fresh in packaging that is either recycled or re-usable (currently 96% and well on the way to their target of 100%). And talking of targets, the brand aims to be net carbon zero by 2030[iv].

And that’s what I learnt in my digging.

The brand’s roots and operations are lived out through the values of authenticity, originality, and ethics. This has marked Hotel Chocolat out as very different from what the high street offers, much to the delight of us chocolate lovers!

For more brand adventures and useful insights into brand strategy follow my Instagram account @thebrandarrow_

Bruce regularly speaks at conferences, business schools and facilitates workshops on the subject of brand strategy and is the author of the award-winning bookWhat’s Your Point? which can be purchased from Amazon.


[i] “Blake I. “Do YOU eat this much? Average British shopper enjoys 187 chocolate bars every YEAR”. Mail Online. 2017. Available at: (Accessed: 16 July 2019)” [ii] “Our Story”. Hotel Chocolat. Available at: (Accessed: 14 April 2019) [iii] Our Story”. Hotel Chocolat. Available at: (Accessed: 14 April 2019)” [iv] “Engaged Ethics”. Hotel Chocolat. Available at: (Accessed: 15 Novmeb23 2022)

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