AFTER growing up in a family where business included cakes and ice cream, it’s perhaps not surprising that when Angus Thirlwell started his own enterprise, he chose something tasty.
The fact he grew up in the Caribbean, home to some of the world’s best quality cocoa, certainly helped in his recipe for success.
As co-founder of Hotel Chocolat, he has encouraged the nation to indulge in its passion for luxury chocolates, and in the process created a company that has seen growth of 800% in the last eight years.
He and his business partner’s single goal was to offer high-quality chocolate to British consumers as an alternative to the high sugar, low cocoa solids of typical products.
From an exclusive mail order business which developed into online sales via an award-winning website, three years ago Hotel Chocolat moved into stylish high street stores, including a branch in the MetroCentre, and at York.
Angus founded the company 15 years ago with Peter Harris as ChocExpress – as time went on the name became “like an uncomfortable coat that didn’t fit any more” and the company was rebranded as the more alluring Hotel Chocolat in 2003.
It had the desired effect with the business growing by 40% in the first half of 2004. Since then Hotel Chocolat has grown into the UK’s leading premium chocolate brand with sales hitting £40m, success that was recognised by Retail Week last year when it awarded the company its Emerging Retailer of the Year title.
It was followed by Hotel Chocolat’s nomination as one of the UK’s prestigious CoolBrands. Together, Angus and Peter are also former winners of the South region Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award and the ‘Business to Consumer’ Award in which they were commended for their innovation and strong branding and described as being “outstanding entrepreneurs” and the “embodiment of entrepreneurialism”.