Christmas Shoppers Cracked Nuts, Says Hotel Chocolat | Food industry

Chocolate addicts went nuts for nuts this Christmas and shunned fancy chocolates, according to the boss of Hotel Chocolat.

Hazelnuts, pistachios, peanut butter and chocolates made with pecans have been very popular during the holiday season. Buyers also swapped larger boxes of chocolates as they were able to reunite as families. In contrast, novelty chocolates such as gingerbread men and Santas were less popular.

A quarter of the Hotel Chocolat range now includes nuts. Angus Thirlwell, CEO and co-founder of the company, said: “It was a bit of an unusual phenomenon, but the nuts have had their day in the sun. I think it was a combination of being seen as wholesome but also being authentic.

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

The company has responded to demand with recipes such as Maple Pecan Drinking Chocolate, Raspberry Pecan Filled Chocolate, and Creamy Hazelnut-Based Vegan Chocolate.

Hazelnut is the top-selling hazelnut addition to chocolates in the UK, while in Japan it is pistachio.

Hotel Chocolat sales jumped 37% in the three months to Dec. 26 and 63% from pre-pandemic levels. Thirlwell said families have decided to “go there” to celebrate, which has led to an increase in orders for gifts and treats online for large gatherings.

The company experienced strong growth in the United States and Japan as well as in the United Kingdom. Its Velvetiser hot chocolate machine, alongside related products, has been a “headliner”, encouraging shoppers to sign up for subscription services to stock up.

Thirlwell said Hotel Chocolat was forced to raise the prices of some chocolate products before Christmas, but believed it would not have to raise them again this year. He said rising ingredient, shipping and wage costs could be offset by efficiencies generated by increased group sales.

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