Hotel Chocolat is targeting the US, the Middle East, Scandinavia and Germany in its international drive, following its attempt to raise £5m of development funds through the launch of ‘chocolate bonds’.
The chocolatier has been testing the Scandinavian and German markets for four months through mailings and wants to launch direct mail and an online offer ahead of store openings. In the US and the Middle East it operates five stores and will seek further locations.
Hotel Chocolat has sent out invitations to members of its Chocolate Tasting Club, asking them if they want to buy ‘chocolate bonds’. Members, who number about 100,000, can invest £2,000 for a gross annual return of 6.72% or £4,000 for a gross annual return of 7.29%. The return is paid in monthly Tasting Club boxes of chocolate. After three years the bonds can be redeemed in full.
Co-founder and chief executive Angus Thirlwell said: “Many of our members asked us whether they could buy shares in the business, so we decided to raise money this way rather than the traditional route.
“We have had encouraging signs from our initial conversations as members admire the spirit of the bonds and that they are supporting a growing British company.”
Thirlwell said he would be “delighted” with less or more than the target £5m as “it is an alternative approach so isn’t very precise”.
The funds will be used to expand Hotel Chocolat’s factory in Cambridgeshire and to increase the number of its UK shops from 40 to about 70 over two or three years. It will also invest in its eco-chocolate factory at its cocoa plantation in the Rabot Estate in St Lucia, where it will open a micro-chocolate factory for rare grades of chocolate.
Thirlwell said like-for-like sales to the end of Easter were up 15%, adding: “We are improving our business to make sure we do all we can to ride out the tough climate.”