It’s created avocados, fried eggs and cheeseboards – all made from chocolate – but now Bath-based chocolatier Choc on Choc is branching out into a healthier range.
That’s not to say it’s leaving the fun designs behind. The next set of NPD set to hit shelves includes ranges that revolve around knitting, fishing and yoga, along with a set of medals.
“Some of the new stuff is giving people activities to do. We always do a gingerbread house at Christmas, but we also have chocolate castle that comes with a colouring mat and a knight and princess that children can play with, and you can decorate the house and then eat it,” co-founder Flo Broughton tells Food Spark.
“We’ve got a giant pumpkin coming out very shortly that’s over 2kg of chocolate and hollow. It’s going into John Lewis and it can be used at Halloween as the centrepiece by putting sweets inside it. We have got a really cute set of Christmas jumper and mini jumpers.”
Since Choc on Choc launched in 2003, the brand has created more than 1,000 chocolate designs – the equivalent to 10m pieces of chocolate – with 90,000 products sold over the 2019 Easter period alone. It is projected to grow sales to £2m within the next 12 months.
“Nowadays, more shopping is based on what someone will like, and gifting nowadays is buying something that suits their personality,” says Broughton. “So chocolate trainers or a knitting set. Rather than buying a box of chocolate reindeers, you buy specifically for a person.”
With its creations sold in Harvey Nichols, Harrods, Lakeland, Liberty London, Fortnum & Mason and Booths, Broughton says the supermarket chains are often inspired by their designs too.
“We are definitely an influence on some of the supermarkets. I think people are watching what we do, but we keep coming up with ideas and move on,” she comments. “There is really good stuff coming out of Lidl and Aldi – they always ask us to pitch and quote and I’ve stopped doing it now as I don’t know if they really want us to make it or if they want our concepts. We haven’t got the facilities to make it en masse anyway. Asda has a great range as well. They do have really good ranges and are innovating – they are watching the smaller people but can’t get it to market as quick.”
When it comes to inspiration, Broughton shuns looking at other chocolate makers – instead turning to everything from fashion to fabric patterns.
From Willy Wonka to added health benefits
While design is the name of the game, Broughton reveals that Choc on Choc is moving into new categories.
“We are working closely with a company that do flavours, and we are trying to do a bar that you can eat your way through three different flavours,” she explains. “So we don’t just want to do what everyone else is doing, like chocolate orange. We want a bar where you go from orange through to strawberry and finish on blueberry, so it’s whole sensation; it’s more fun and unique rather than a bar with orange flavour.”
There’s also a healthy-living range, which will bust the company out of the gifting category where it has cemented its position.
“We did originally look at the vegan chocolate and did find a tasty one, and I wonder if we will add that to the healthy-living range,” she says. “But we are working with protein at the moment for the smaller chocolate. And putting caffeine into chocolate.”
Also on the cards is NPD involving cannabis-derived CBD, which has been popping up in mints, G&Ts and more, thanks to claims that it has all the relaxing properties, but none of the psychoactive effects, of marijuana.
Broughton flags Brexit as a concern, saying there is the possibility that the price of chocolate could go up by as much as 25%, prompting her to look into British-made ingredients. But it’s not stopping Choc on Choc expanding: this year, the company is launching into the USA with a 33-store listing with department store chain VonMaur.
Choc on Choc uses a patented production method that layers chocolate on top of chocolate, allowing its master chocolatiers to produce any design imaginable, most recently reflected in its summer range.
Star of the show is the summer holiday chocolate selection box, containing a pair of white and milk chocolate flip flops, sunglasses, a slice of watermelon, cocktail lolly and passport.
It also released a trip down memory lane with a collection of retro-inspired ice lollies, featuring lifelike Belgian chocolate versions of childhood favourites: a Fab, a Rocket Lolly, a Twister and a Strawberry Split, along with its own version of a Mr Whippy.
For those looking for a picnic hamper with a difference, Choc on Choc has summer favourites in chocolate form, from a punnet of strawberries, to lifelike biscuits, cheese and crackers. And to wash it all down – a white chocolate bottle of prosecco.
The chocolate cheeseboard was pivotal to the brand’s explosion onto the scene, explains Broughton, driving interest in what it could do. It prompted her to create mini sets as well to capture both price points in the market – a full set is £30, but the miniatures cost £12.
“The chocolate dumbbells have been a huge hit,” she adds. “People like the concept as it’s about fitness and it’s chocolate weights. There are lots of gym addicts who are a bit precious but they all eat a bit of chocolate. The trend for avocado doesn’t seem to be dwindling so it’s still popular, while the coconut egg and rugby ball egg were a different kind of Easter egg.”
Another big trend among corporate clients is a box that can be smashed open to reveal a new brand identity or seasonal products.
The most unusual thing she’s had to make? A chocolate bomb for the Bomb Disposal Society, which was a centrepiece at a table and won by one lucky attendee.
“I’m probably on watchlist now,” she jokes.