Great Brands / The Rich, Dark & Delicious Hotel Chocolat
December 21, 2011
Rich, dark and intriguing – 3 words I would use to sum up the ultimate chocolate experience and Hotel Chocolat have built a brand around that sensation. From small pack, to sumptuous gift box, to luxury store environment, and now to a hotel (!), you can experience this brand on so many levels; it is incredible. A quirky tone of voice and beautiful packaging supports a great product and brand.
Hotel Chocolat, founded by Angus Thirlwell and Peter Harris in 1988 (then called MMC), is a British chocolatier and cocoa grower, with 55 stores in the United Kingdom and 5 stores within the U.S.A. and the Middle East. The company went through several incarnations before becoming Hotel Chocolat and Angus and Peter have certainly hit on a winning formula. In 2006, the company officially acquired the Rabot Estate in St. Lucia, West Indies, and are to-date, the only company in the UK to own their own cocoa plantation. In 2011, Hotel Chocolat opened its hotel in Saint Lucia, West Indies – the hotel sits on the Rabot Estate which is perched high up between the Piton mountains.
Hubby and I actually got married in Soufriere, St Lucia, 11 years ago, and did a tour of a cocoa estate and an old plantation, both of which seemed rather depressed tourist tour destinations at the time. It is therefore delightful to hear of brands investing and re-invigorating industries which have been down and out for ages.
Here’s their inspiration behind the acquisitions in St Lucia:
Having grown up in the Caribbean, Angus has always been drawn to this string of little emerald islands. Five years ago, one of his lovely customers sent him an old book from the 1920’s about cocoa growing, which so enthused him that he set off with co-founder Peter Harris to find a cocoa estate to buy. Of all the Caribbean islands they visited, Saint Lucia was the most beautiful, worthy of its name The Helen of the West. In the south west of the island, close by the old French capital Soufriere, they first walked on Rabot Estate! Now Peter is usually quite a cautious person but after only half an hour, he exclaimed ‘This is it, we’ve got to have it!’
Dating back to 1745, the cocoa estate is the oldest on the island and home to some very rare old trees which are of significant scientific and chocolate interest. The first two years were spent rehabilitating the cocoa groves, restoring the original historic estate house and planning how they could open up this captivating experience to Hotel Chocolat customers. That’s when they decided to create an intimate and exclusive place, the real Hotel Chocolat, where nature, well-being, hedonism, style, and of course chocolate, would come together…