Christmas shoppers cracked out the nuts, says Hotel Chocolat | Food & drink industry

Chocoholics went nuts for nuts this Christmas and avoided novelty chocolates, according to the boss of Hotel Chocolat.

Hazelnuts, pistachios, peanut butter and pecan-based chocolates were hugely popular over the festive period. Shoppers also traded up to bigger boxes of chocolates as they were able to get together with family. In contrast, novelty chocolates such as gingerbread men and Santas were less popular.

A quarter of Hotel Chocolat’s range now includes nuts. Angus Thirlwell, the firm’s CEO and co-founder, said: “It was a slightly unusual phenomenon but nuts had their day in the sun. I think it was a combination of being seen as healthy but also authentic.”

He said shoppers were looking for “real ingredients” and trying to buy foods that would have less impact on the planet.

The company has responded to demand with recipes such as maple and pecan drinking chocolate, a raspberry- and pecan-filled chocolate and a vegan creamy-tasting chocolate made with hazelnuts.

Hazelnut is the bestselling nutty addition to chocolates in the UK, while in Japan it is pistachio.

Hotel Chocolat’s sales surged 37% in the three months to 26 December and 63% on pre-pandemic levels. Thirlwell said families had decided to “go for it” in celebrating, leading to an increase in ordering online gifts and treats for large gatherings.

The company saw strong growth in the US and Japan as well as the UK. Its Velvetiser hot chocolate machine, alongside linked products, was a “star performer”, encouraging shoppers to take out subscription services for supplies.

Thirlwell said Hotel Chocolat had been forced to put up prices on some chocolate products before Christmas but believed it would not have to increase them again this year. He said cost rises on ingredients, shipping and wages could be offset by efficiencies generated by the group’s increase in sales.

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