Retail Insider Dinner with Angus Thirlwell, co-founder & CEO of Hotel Chocolat

Retail Insider held its latest evening event with Angus Thirlwell, co-founder & CEO of Hotel Chocolat, who hosted a Cocoa Cuisine dinner with matching drinks while also running guests through the story of his multi-faceted chocolate business.

Senior executives from Fortnum & Mason, John Lewis, Tesco, Berry Bros & Rudd, Sainsbury’s, Cook, and Budgens were among those who gathered at the Hotel Chocolat restaurant Rabot 1745 in London’s Borough Market to experience the five-course Tasting Menu.

Dishes included Cocoa gin cured salmon with gin jelly matched with Hotel Chocolat Cocoa gin & tonic, and Pork bonbon with apple gel and crackling paired with the Hotel Chocolat house White Wine.

The finale was a replica of the dessert the restaurant had created a few days earlier for The BAFTA awards evening – chocolate mousse with salted caramel ganache and crispy sesame and Nigella seed fascinator, accompanied by Dessert Red Wine.

Between courses Angus recalled the story of Hotel Chocolat began as an online gift business but then broadened out to become a site for more frequent non-gifting chocolate purchases following the development of the brand and the creation of the Chocolate Tasting Club.

Armed with the data insight from the Club a portfolio of shops then followed as well as the decisive early move to take the vertically integrated approach. When using third-party producers Angus always felt the company was susceptible to its unique products being copied by competitors.

Taking control of production eradicated this issue and also enabled more flexibility and faster speed to market. The purchase of a cocoa plantation in St Lucia – with a boutique hotel added – further enhanced the company’s control over its supply chain and brought a hospitality aspect to Hotel Chocolat.

Since then restaurants and cafes have been added to the business as well as further store openings. New units are planned – as evidenced in the company’s interim results announcement today.

Retail Insider would very much like to thank Angus and the team at Rabot 1745 for a very memorable evening. Also, it is a massive thank-you to the sponsors K3 Retail and Womble Bond Dickinson Without their much appreciated support this event would not have been possible.

Glynn Davis, editor of Retail Insider