Hotel Chocolat has revealed its first-half profits have more than tripled as it gears up for the crucial Easter trading period.

The retailer’s pre-tax profits rocketed 306% to £6.5m for the six months to December 28 as sales jumped 9.5% to £47.2m.

Hotel Chocolat is on the verge of overtaking its rival Thorntons, which generated pre-tax profits of £6.6m and total sales of £128.2m in the comparable six month period, to January 10.

Hotel Chocolat operates 81 stores against Thorntons’ 247.

Angus Thirlwell, founder of Hotel Chocolat, said shops at railway stations across London had helped boost sales.

The chocolatier has concessions in John Lewis stores, but Thirlwell vowed not to start selling the brand in supermarkets, as rival Thorntons has done.

Changing tastes

Thirlwell told the Evening Standard that the public’s tastes in chocolate had shifted since he launched the retailer 11 years ago.

Thirlwell said: “It’s about quality over quantity. Our big theme is healthy luxury, which is trying to reconcile hedonism and opulence and treating yourself with also being responsible.

“Cocoa is healthy, it’s just the sugar that’s not and we’re seeing less sugar and more cocoa is really starting to resonate with people.”

He added that the retailer still has ambitions to expand in the US but was reassessing its strategy after being forced to pull out of New Jersey and Boston last year.

Thirlwell added: “Last year’s international restructuring and investment in new growth channels has built the foundations for future profitable growth  which shows through in these first-half results.

“Our wholesale business continues to grow strongly and we are pleased with the progress of our international business in Scandinavia where we have opened a further two stores during the period following the success of our shop-cafe concept in Copenhagen.

“As we approach the important Easter period, we look forward to launching a range of new products, including our first-ever ‘Milk-Free Milk’ Easter Eggs aimed at vegans and those who are lactose-intolerant.”