Chocolate dividend scheme proves lucrative for UK firm

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Chocolate, Retailing, Cocoa solids, Uk

An innovative scheme involving the return of dividends to investors in batches of premium chocolate has raised £3.7m for UK company Hotel Chocolat’s facility and retail outlet expansion plans.

The chocolate marker and retailer offered a three year, FSA-approved ‘chocolate bond’ to its members ‘tasting club’ in May in an bid to raise £5m, with its customers asked to invest £2,000 for a gross annual return of 6.72pc, or £4,000 for returns of 7.29pc, with the dividends returned in twice monthly chocolate deliveries.

Bondholders can redeem their initial investment in full after three years, said Hotel Chocolat. The first return to investors will be delivered in the form of a ‘chocolate tasting box’ next month, said the company, with each box containing 18 chocolates derived from new recipes.

The company said the funds generated will be used to develop the chocolate maker’s UK production facility, opening new retail outlets and building a ‘sustainable’ factory at its existing cocoa plantation in Saint Lucia.

ConfectioneryNews.com asked for details on how the company plans to deliver added value for producers in that cocoa sourcing region but this was not forthcoming in time for publication.

Hotel Chocolat chief executive, Angus Thirlwell, said that fundraising through the use of chocolate bonds was triggered by its membership enquiring as to how they could get more involved with the company, and he expressed himself delighted with the response from its customers.

“We found a way of inviting them to invest in our development plans in exchange for a return paid in chocolate. We are now in a strong position to grow the business further using funds provided directly from our customers.”

And he claims providing complete transparency on what the generated funds will be used for bolstered the membership’s involvement in the development project.

The Chocolate Tasting Club was launched 12 years ago by the UK premium chocolate maker, which owns the Rabot Estate cocoa plantation in Saint Lucia. The company said the club now has approximately 100,000 members in the UK but saw expansion into Germany last year, followed by launches in Sweden and Norway this year.

It said plans are underway to grow the club’s membership in Denmark and the US while last year saw the opening of two retail outlets in Boston. The company ventured into the Middle East with stores opening in Bahrain, Dubai and Kuwait during the first quarter of 2010.

Related topics: Manufacturers, Chocolate

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