A surge in subscribers during the Covid crisis boosted demand for “regular happy treats”, the company said, as well as gifts for family and friends.
The company has three million customers on its database, up 66% since the end of 2019, compared with 15% to 20% before the pandemic.
Revenues rose 24% to £165m in the year to end of June compared with 2019 figures, and the company said it expects to beat forecasts for pretax profit.
Chief Executive Angus Thirlwell, who co-founded the business in 2004, said: “We’re probably in the best shape we’ve been in in our history - it’s been a tough 18 months but we’re through that.
“Our online business has grown exponentially. The evidence is that it’s here to stay; it’s not pandemic only.”
Hotel Chocolat said it is recruiting 250 more staff in the UK, including designers, engineers and data experts, taking its workforce to 2,000. It has 126 stores in the UK and Ireland, 26 in Japan and four in the US, with plans to open more shops.
The company’s Unbelievably Vegan range has recorded triple-digit growth, and it is building a separate facility to increase vegan chocolate production at its factory in Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire. Expansion plans also include a fourth truffle-making line and a second Velvetiser line to make products for its popular home drinks subscriptions.
“Our goal of becoming the most tech-activated chocolate brand is moving forward in leaps and bounds and is already helping to power our major achievements and future growth. Indeed, this year we expect more than 50% of our sales to come from digital, partners, and subscription-continuity models, reflecting how Hotel Chocolat is growing and evolving. Our brand-building stores will continue to play a pivotal role in our digital-led business, with an unrivalled ability to introduce new customers to our brand,” said Thirlwell.
“I am particularly excited by what we have achieved so far in the USA and Japan, two of the three largest economies in the world. We have great growth opportunities there for Hotel Chocolat and strong teams in place to drive and support it.”
The company said it would repay the entire £3.1m funds it has received from the UK government under the furlough scheme this year.