British chocolate – or is it?
Britain is a nation of chocolate lovers. We munched through £3.6billion worth of it last year. The average Brit eats 17.49llbs of chocolate per year and its popularity looks set to continue with an estimated 17% increase over the next five years.
Our increased appetite for the sweet treat has been fuelled in part by the recession, which has spurred the ‘cheap night in’ – a concept which would not be complete without a generous portion of chocolate indulgence.
Despite a difficult economic climate, it seems chocolate is one thing consumers will not give up. It’s an affordable luxury and many of us are growing more discerning about our choice of chocolate as we look for a premium quality chocolate experience. But as we indulge in our daily fix, how much thought do we give to whether that chocolate was produced at home or overseas?
The UK has a long and distinguished history with chocolate. We are credited with producing and selling the world’s first chocolate bar at the Joseph Fry & Sons factory founded in 1728, and Fry, Rowntree and Cadbury all played a role in the development of British chocolate.
However, in a year when ‘Brand Britain’ has taken on a whole new dimension, a number of ‘chocolate players’ continue to trade on their British roots. But, when you dig deeper, how many of these brands can truly lay claim to being an authentic British brand?
If we are to be literal about this, then being British should only apply if the company remains under British ownership. Anyone reading the financial pages of the nationals will be aware that a large number of British manufacturers are now under Icelandic or American ownership.
There are many chocolate brands whose history is rooted in the UK or who may refer to the fact that they are UK based. Green & Blacks, Terry’s, Elizabeth Shaw, Bendicks, Cadbury’s, Rowntree – these are all popular brand names with an undisputed UK heritage. But to qualify as being a full-blown British brand, surely the relationship with Great Britain should apply throughout the business rather than just relate to the origins of the company?
For me, the criteria which needs to be met to be eligible to join the British chocolate brand elite include:
– The parent company that owns the brand, must be British owned
– the chocolate product must be physically manufactured in the UK (accepting that the liquid chocolate / cocoa mass will need to be imported from cocoa growing countries)
– the chocolate must be made according to an original, British derived recipe
– the packaging which supports the chocolate product should be sourced from the UK
– British transport companies should be used to transfer the product to its various retailers / consumer outlet destinations
– Added kudos can be derived from the formal approval of the product by British taste authorities such as the prestigious Great Taste Awards. The holding of a Royal Warrant and therefore the recognition of the product by the British Royal family will also go some way to asserting bona fide British brand status.
Many brands which are inferring the ‘Buy British’ call to action, are in reality duping consumers. Some have moved their production out of the UK, citing the ability to streamline costs abroad, to locations such as Germany, Poland, Sweden, Slovakia or Belgium as the reason for the relocation.
Let’s not forget the positive impact the true British brands play in the UK. Aside from the obvious benefits such as the creation of jobs in roles ranging from manufacturing to marketing and sales, British brands also play a vital role in protecting our heritage.
With so many UK chocolate companies being acquired by international conglomerates, there is a real risk that the chocolate industry could leave our shores for good. We should be doing everything possible to ensure the chocolate making skills that have been honed and passed down from generation to generation remain an essential ingredient in Britain’s colourful culinary culture.
And, at a time when we are seeing consumers re-embracing ‘artisan’ and choosing the passion and expertise associated with hand-crafted products over those manufactured on a mass production basis, smaller British chocolate brands should be able to enjoy some benefit for their long term investment in UK industry.
House of Dorchester is certainly not the only British chocolatier to abide by the ‘British brand’ code of conduct and we congratulate all our colleagues who remain committed to maintaining the same high standards associated with authentic British chocolate. Our fear is that too many consumers, whilst believing they are supporting a British chocolate brand, are perhaps unwittingly adding to the demise of the UK chocolate making industry
Guest article written by House of Dorchester – www.hodchoc.com