British B2B chocolate producer Hames Chocolates is back on track and revealed that its factory in Lincolnshire was closed for only three weeks during the COVID-19 crisis, reopening on April 16 with only essential staff – and even had orders to fulfil.
“We were fully operational again after six weeks and whilst we are still not working to full capacity, we are seeing improvements week on week,” Carol Oldbury, director of Hames Chocolates, told ConfectioneryNews.
“Like many businesses, we have faced numerous challenges as a result of Covid-19. During the early stages of the health crisis, 98% of our customers temporarily closed as they are in the food service and hospitality sectors. As a result of this sudden and dramatic change in our customers’ needs, we needed to be agile in our approach and make changes quickly in order to future-proof our business. It is by being adaptable that we have managed to remain stable in the market.”
Oldbury said one of the first decisions the company made was to temporarily close its factory at the beginning of lockdown and use the time to review its business and invest in the future.
“This included sourcing new equipment to make our business more efficient, increasing the amount we can produce and opening up new revenue streams. We purchased another chocolate spinner to increase our spinning capacity, allowing us to make more hollow products and cake decorations, such as cake domes,” she said.
“We also invested in the equipment needed to produce chocolate shavings, which can be used by bakers, caterers, restaurants and in hospitality to decorate cakes. The shavings can also be used to make real hot chocolate that can be sold in grocery retailers.”
Investments in a new moulding line has increased Hames Chocolate’s volume and allowed it to become more innovative. “For example,” said Oldbury, “we can now produce filled chocolate Neapolitans and filled chocolate bars.”
Oldbury said the key to surviving an unexpected crisis like coronavirus and potentially grow in a challenging market was being strategic and adaptable.
“As things slowly return to some semblance of normality and I look back on what my recent experiences have taught me, I believe it’s important, where possible, to view any situation as an opportunity as much as a challenge,” she said.